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

Important Symbols & Phrases of Episode 14

  • Childermas 28 December, Holy Innocents’ Day:  The Old Testament’s Yahweh wields all power, religious and secular. Herod represents the shift from the age of the gods to heroes. This transition brings increased uncertainty, capriciousness, and callousness. Bloom’s visit to the maternity hospital honors the birth of Baby Purefoy but also recalls infant Rudy’s death. Bloom’s ascent signals the viconian shift to the Age of Man and the birth of hope. Joyce’s poem “Ecce Puer” was written at a time of joy and sorrow. The boy of the title is the newly born grandson Stephen, but the poem is bittersweet, connecting the birth with the death of John A. Joyce, the father with whom James had lately reconciled.
  • “This meanwhile this good….”: This parody of Thomas Malory’s Mort d’Arthur mingles the pure with the foul. Arthur’s legend contains the greatest evil, as well as high nobility. Illegitimacy, incest, dark arts, betrayal by queen, son, and champion. Arthur is a man and a king of the purest aspirations, making his failures and flaws resound all the louder. Bloom is also a human composition of great good and legendary weakness, subject to woe as he wanders across the world. 
  • “First saved from water….”: and groomed to be the champion of a cause. Like Moses, Stephen is about to be rescued from Mulligan’s influence at the forty-foot hole. Both Stephen and Moses are adopted, groomed especially for roles in saving a race and art.
  • “Morte aux vaches”: The mass destruction of traditional Celtic cattle and, by extension, the Celtic culture, is again threatened with continental flair. Mackintosh sips Bovril, Death taking the animals to make his beef tea. “Once a prosperous citizen,” Mackintosh is now called “Bartle the Bread,” the vagrant who eats only stale, desiccated bread. 
  • Birth Control: The medical students boast of manly prowess, but their conversation pivot on images and language suggesting birth control and fear of accidental pregnancy [marchand de capotes, “killchild,” umbrellas, “pot of four,” Childe’s murder (mentioned by Tindall), enceinte, Miss Callan’s condition]. Stephen, for philosophical rather than religious reasons, rejects birth control “those Godpossibilized souls that we nightly impossibilize.” 
  • The Land of Milk and Honey, Bee Stings in Agendath and the Bous Stephanoumenos, Bullockbefriending bard: Bloom’s bee sting is a punishment for infecundity. This changes with the clap of thunder. Sicily, the triangular island is marked for fertility. It’s the home of Apollo’s cattle. Sicily’s triangular shape appears on the head of Stephan when he appears as the Minotaur. It’s also on the Bass bottles strewn everywhere. Ceremonies to the feminine moon diety on Sicily included summoning the bull (Stephen) and bees (Bloom’s sting). Astrologically, Taurus (Stephen) is ascending. The planets’ alignment will correct the loneliness for which Sicily in Greek is named (Gilbert). Cattle and bees also reflect Bloom’s Promised Land. Budgen shares that in “Oxen,” the nurse serves as the ovum, Bloom as spermatozoa, Stephen is an embryo, and the lying-in hospital the womb.
  • A Catalog of Misinformation: found here about conception, gestation, gender selection, ontology, theological definitions of the beginning of life (quickening).
  • “obstropolos”: Now improved Lady Morgan’s “Dear, Dirty [, Deafening] Dublin.”
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