Episode 14: Oxen of the Sun, ~pp. 377-421

Important Themes of Episode 14

  • Life’s balance tips- Birth after Death, Unity over Betrayal, Good above Evil, Science conquers Ignorance: “Our’s the white death and the ruddy birth.” Death is first on stage as Mulligan catalogs the causes of infant mortality. He blames death too soon on Dublin’s sights and sounds, like the carcasses hanging in Dlugacz’ butchery and posted notices everywhere for prize fights, etc. Yet humanity rises relentlessly. During the episode comes a clap of viconian thunder. The balance shifts. A frightened Stephen is comforted by Bloom and is reborn through compassion (“Ruth red him, love led on with will to wander, loth to leave.”) just as Baby Purefoy emerges. Tindall tells us the ensuing rain and Bloom’s bond with Son Stephen “assure(ing) fertility to the wasteland after long drought.” Bloom is a father again.
  • Historical Writing Styles: The parodied styles in this episode include Roman religion; Roman history; medieval Latin chronicles; Anglo-Saxon; Middle English; Morality Play; Medieval travel log; Fifteenth Century Romance: Elizabethan prose; Latinate revivalist English in the moralizing style of John Milton: English essayists of the 17th-18th centuries; the travel logs of Laurence Sterne; political philosophy; 18th Century drama; the polemical history of Gibbon; gothic novels: light essays; ontology; 18th Century romantic novels; imaginary conversations between historical figures and characters from literature; scientific skepticism; Dickensian books; 19th Century theology; childhood remembrance; cultural and art criticism; Carlyle’s essays (Gifford and Seidman). The progression illuminates the growth of human understanding from superstition through midwifery to clinical medical science. It also mirrors the embryonic development of the English language. Hugh Kenner credits a second sardonic narrator with shaping “the whole of English literature from earliest times until now.” Tindall maps the nine section transitions of the episode to the nine months of gestation.
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