Episode 5, The Lotus Eaters, ~pp 70-85

Episode 5

Important Themes of Episode 5

  • Paradise and peri: Gifford and Seidman provide a rather long entry in their Notes about stream of consciousness in its context. They interpret the expression to mean “So near and yet so far away.” There is also a broader context, more than mere anticipation of an attractive woman lifting her skirts to climb aboard a carriage. Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh, an Oriental Romance’s episode “Paradise and the Peri,” inspired Robert Schumann’s Opus 50 also called “Das Paradise und die Peri.” This pan-musical piece for soloists, choir, and orchestra was under-appreciated by the music-loving public of the 20th Century due to the oriental mythology that inspired it (during Schumann’s life in the 19th Century it was better accepted). Peter Oswald reported in his biography of Schumann that the composer while writing the piece was whispered to by voices urging him on and assuring him that ultimately there was merit in what he was doing. So the snippet from the text suggests a distaste for sources from the Middle East, the ancestral fountain of Bloom’s lineage, and stream of consciousness as possible mental illness. Finally, the original mythology tells of a defiled imp denied salvation but finally saved by delivering the perfect gift to Paradise— a penitent tear. Bloom is not only considered unpleasant but is at least compromised (just one incident is the voyeurism that is the catalyst for his “paradise and the peri” fragment). Ultimately his salvation is dependent on the transformation he shares with Stephen. A redemption only possible through shared humanity is a cornerstone of the novel just as it was for the peri.
  • Intoxicants and Scents: Heroditus and Polybius tell us the lotus tree bears fruit— dates, figs, or mangos (Gilbert). In Ulysses, the emphasis is on the lotus as “scented flower and an opiate.” Scents in “Lotus Eaters” include Cochrane’s Ginger Ale (aromatic),” Martha’s appropriately scentless blossom, freshly printed rag paper, the inquiry about Molly’s perfume, Bloom’s hair-oil, Sweny’s “Sandy shriveled smell….” and lemon-scented soap. Numbing agents include opiates like tobacco and alcohol, the gelding of horses and eunuchs, holy communion, hypnotized soldiers on recruiting posters, the bath, and the theatre, 
  • Suicide: Episode 5 is strewn with the bodies of those who despair. The causes of desperation vary: For Hamlet, revenge; Ophelia, love; Leah, honor; for Bloom’s father Virag, alienation. Every individual adapts or perishes. When the pain is extreme the peril is from within. Ulysses lays out a new more adaptable strain of humanity creating new sources of meaning in a world that has disappointed. Love and honor are redefined, alienation is avoided by creating new bonds and the shedding of old social bondage. A new spiritual “family” is forged. It’s probable that Joyce the author never exorcised his own desire for revenge, however. The book itself is an altar where he bled Gogarty and others.
%d bloggers like this: