Episode 9: Scylla and Charybdis, ~pp 182-215

Important Symbols & Phrases of Episode 9

  • “I am the fire…sacrificial butter”: In Hindi’s disused rite of sati, a widow might burn on her husband’s funeral pyre. The fire is ignited with ghee, clarified butter made from buffalo milk. After a few pages pass, Stephen again becomes the “beuria” punned against the French “beurre” (butter).
  • “The Myth of Er”: Odysseus is asked in Plato’s fable what life he might choose to live. He doesn’t choose the hero’s life, the adventurer’s, or the king’s. He picks a common, workaday life. Mr. Bloom’s life is the granting of Odysseus’ wish. Unfortunately, the capacity for sorrow in a small life is the same as the capacity for sorrow in a grand life.
  • “The Saxon Smile and Yankee Yawp”: A Saxon smile, we have been told, is one of the three things the Irish must fear. Yankee Yawp from Walt Whitman’s verse is a rude, savage howl. The Irish are pinned between the aloof, refined imperial master and the millions of expatriated Irish in America, living roughly still in slums although rising, still persecuted but now without the small comfort of familiar ways, foods and family.
  • The sheeted mirror:…reflects on “the cracked looking glass of a servant,” the death of May Joyce, and the Jewish rite of Shiva incorporating Bloom’s protracted mourning for Rudolph and Rudy. 
  • Shakespeare and Christfox: Superficially, Christfox refers to the Society of Friends founder George Fox, and it is he who is compared with Shakespeare. However, Joyce is the fox who buries his (grand)mother under the holly bush: the other Fox concealed himself in a blighted tree. Joyce and Fox each embrace “silence, cunning and exile.” Neither marries before middle age. Joyce may also be the fox compared to Shakespeare.
  • “Primrose vested he (Mulligan) greeted gaily with his doffed Panama as with a bauble.”: Scornful foes of Stephen and Leopold dressed for courting, each accoutered with a hat for gesturing, not protection.
  • “The son consubstantial with the father,” The Twelfth Night’s Epiphany:… the son will not find the father but that the father’s essence will absorb the son. Like Father and Christ, Bloom-Stephen will emerge as one.
  • “The sentimentalist is he who would enjoy without incurring the immense debtorship for a thing done.”: Stephen Dedalus, at last, makes his rejection of Mulligan explicit. Not Church, not State, not advancement (if only second-hand pants and brogans) will interfere with the pursuit of art. Of course, the author’s ego and enmity play roles in all three rejections.
  • “Swiftly rectly creaking rectly rectly he was rectly gone.”: If you would like further evidence of the density of the Joycecraft, here is a gem. Suggesting Church of Ireland’s Dean Swift, these nine words, four being “rectly,” also sweep up “rector,” “directly” and the antithesis of directly with painful delay. The Quaker librarian might also be a rectum.
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