(U) Episode 16: “Eumaeus,” ~pp 596-649.

Important Themes of Episode 16

  • “gone the way of all buttons”: An embarrassment of popped, forgotten, undone, mistaken and misbehaving buttons plague Bloom. “Nausicaa” and “Circe” are just two of the episodes where he feels the shame of a “lost pin” and struggles “to keep…up” a face for the world. The new Odysseus is now again near friendly ground. He finds that a lost button, like mortality, is inevitable and borne without shame. Here are some of the novel’s relevant references so you can button up the idea:
  1. “Then he girded up his trousers, braced and buttoned himself.”
  2. “Were those two buttons of my waistcoat open all the time?”
  3. “Got fellows to stick them up or stick them up himself for that matter on the q. t. running in to loosen a button. Flybynight.”
  4. “Are you not happy in your home you poor little naughty boy? Wants to sew on buttons for me.”
  5. “All that the hand says when you touch. Loved to count my waistcoat buttons. Her (Milly)first stays I remember.” (This reflects the incest theme.)
  6. “THE HONOURABLE MRS MERVYN TALBOYS: (Unbuttoning her gauntlet violently.)”
  7. “VIRAG: (Cynically, his weasel teeth bared yellow, draws down his left eye with a finger and barks hoarsely.) Hoax! Beware of the flapper and bogus mournful. Lily of the alley. All possess bachelor’s button discovered by Rualdus Columbus. Tumble her.” (Recalls the shameful, floral deception of Henry Flower)
  8. “ZOE: There was a priest down here two nights ago to do his bit of business with his coat buttoned up. You needn’t try to hide, I says to him. I know you’ve a Roman collar.”
  9. “BLOOM: (Murmurs lovingly.) To be a shoefitter in Manfield’s was my love’s young dream, the darling joys of sweet buttonhooking,”
  10. “BELLO: (With bobbed hair, purple gills, fat moustache rings round his shaven mouth, in mountaineer’s puttees, green silverbuttoned coat, sport skirt and alpine hat with moorcock’s feather, his hands stuck deep in his breeches pockets, places his heel on her neck and grinds it in.)”
  11. “BELLO: You will make the beds, get my tub ready, empty the pisspots in the different rooms, including old Mrs Keogh’s the cook’s, a sandy one. Ay, and rinse the seven of them well, mind, or lap it up like champagne. Drink me piping hot. Hop! You will dance attendance or I’ll lecture you on your misdeeds, Miss Ruby, and spank your bare bot right well, miss, with the hairbrush. You’ll be taught the error of your ways. At night your wellcreamed braceletted hands will wear fortythreebutton gloves newpowdered with talc and having delicately scented fingertips.”
  12. “BLOOM: Poetry. Well educated. Pity. (He bends again and undoes the buttons of Stephen’s waistcoat.) To breathe. (He brushes the woodshavings from Stephen’s clothes with light hand and fingers.) One pound seven. Not hurt anyhow. (He listens.) What?”
  13. “So, bevelling around by Mullett’s and the Signal House which they shortly reached, they proceeded perforce in the direction of Amiens street railway terminus, Mr Bloom being handicapped by the circumstance that one of the back buttons of his trousers had, to vary the timehonoured adage, gone the way of all buttons though, entering thoroughly into the spirit of the thing, he heroically made light of the mischance.”
  14. “Ladies who like distinctive underclothing should, and every welltailored man must, trying to make the gap wider between them by innuendo and give more of a genuine filip to acts of impropriety between the two, she unbuttoned his and then he untied her, mind the pin, whereas savages in the cannibal islands, say, at ninety degrees in the shade not caring a continental.”
  • L. Boom: In Finnegans Wake, Joyce spaces ten claps of thunder to signal epochal changes. Joyce uses a similar effect in Ulysses when Mr. Bloom stands finally against the ignorance and abuse of The Citizen and again when Stephen takes his ashplant to the cathouse chandelier. The earth’s tectonic plates have shifted, sending Bloom and Stephen off on new quests. The funeral notice serves Poldy one final snub from the good fellows of Dublin. Stephen is cited as a mourner at the Dignam dig, although he did not attend. M’Coy attends only thanks to Bloom’s proxy. Yet Hynes, though indebted to Bloom, has to ask his “Christian” name (in yet another insult) and fails to correctly spell his last name. With this “Boom”, the traveler is freed from obligation to a society that excludes and abuses him.


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