Episode 17: “Ithaca” ~pp 650-722

Important Symbols & Phrases of Episode 17

  • “The golden number”: …is the formula for the new and old testament celebrations of Passover and Easter. The formula is partially inclusive and partially exclusionary. Like the relationship between Bloom and Dedalus, which is not a faction but a coalition in compromise, sharing some (not all) beliefs and interests. Stephen accepts Poldy’s views on art and the older man’s rejection of doctrinaire thinking about religious, political, and ethical matters. Stephen, however, rejects the older man’s thinking on diet and public works projects. Cooperative and mutually beneficial arrangements spring from the pact. While Stephen rejects Bloom’s offer for lodging, he accepts the proposal to tutor Molly and continue his dialog with Papli Poldy. Respect for differences (not their elimination) is the essence of Humanism. The same is true of the religious celebrations of Passover and Easter. The complex calculations employed to assign dates for Easter show respect for the Jewish holy days while maintaining the distinctive Christian celebration. 
  • Miscalculations: There are mathematical errors in the episode, one as simple as the representation of roman numerals. Joyce intended these errors to indicate fatigue brought on by the hour, exertion, and fasting.
  • Plumtree’s potted meat: Symbolically, the tin is empty. Finished by rapacious Boylan in Molly’s bed. 
  • Epp’s soluble cocoa: Tindall points out that to botanists, cocoa
  • is theobroma, Greek for “god-food,” Certainly it is one species of the communion given by Bloom to Stephen after the failed ritual at the cabman’s shelter.
  • Bloom’s stratagem and 7 Eccles Street: Lynch’s address, honored by its selection as Bloom’s residence, did not have the short wall at street level from which Bloom dropped to enter the home. So the famous, honored door now at Dublin’s James Joyce Centre is only historically accurate in one sense.
  • The lighting of a fire: Stephen’s recollections include memories of times when benefactors built fires for him. These fires offered both illumination and comfort, intellectual and spiritual, as well as physical. Kindlings of kindness include Brother’s Michael’s fire representing Stephen’s education. Other fire starters represent other kinds of comfort too. Simon Dedalus provided material comfort during the critical early years of Stephen’s development. May Goulding Dedalus’ fire is a mother’s love, the sisters Morkin, his love of music. Father Butt, an English convert to Catholicism, represents an openness to racial and doctrinal differences (Stephen’s bond with anti-doctrinaire Bloom occurs on Butt Bridge). Stephen’s sister Dily symbolizes the importance of small kindnesses.
  • “two onions, one, the larger, Spanish, entire, the other, smaller, Irish, bisected with augmented surface and more redolent,”: Homey comforts at 7 Eccles include these symbolize Molly and Bloom.
  • Three circles of illumination: As Bloom enters the bed-chamber, three rough-edged concentric circles of light in different colors are projected by the lamp’s shade on the ceiling. The reader might attribute these to the three who have occupied the bed— Molly, Bloom, and Boylan. Campbell believes these are a recreation of Dante’s description of the Trinity in “Paradiso.” We might even think of Bloom, Stephen, and Molly as father, son, and life spirit in their own trinity.
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