(U) Episode 18: “Penelope,” ~pp 723-783.

Important Themes of Episode 18

  • Small Praise Is Enough: Molly starts her soliloquy as a song of praise to her lovers, but every appreciation for lovers or husband-bashing turns back to qualified admiration for Poldy. He wipes his feet. She knows his voice in a crowded room. Mr. Bloom never climbs into bed in muddy shoes. He isn’t unlucky like Henny Doyle. Perhaps because Bloom removes his hat when coming into the house. He is a man of spunk. He’ll never abandon hot soup. For his fine habits, she will defend his dignity even when he will not: “they’re not going to get my husband again into their clutches if I can help it making fun of him then behind his back I know well when he goes on with his idiotics because he has sense enough….” Familiarity does not just breed contempt: “something its all very well a husband (can be fooled) but you cant fool a lover….” Budgen tells us Molly’s “measure of value for all males is Leopold.” In her words, he is “a poor thing but my own.” As for a lover, she doesn’t need to fool a lover. Her lover isn’t central to her life.
  • The Bed’s Secret: Only Odysseus and Penelope knew that their marriage bed was carved from an olive tree in place. This secret was how Odysseus Psuedoangelos proved his true identity to his wife. Molly’s jingling bed has a secret too, but not the one readers might expect. She doesn’t go to great length to hide her infidelity. She doesn’t change the bedsheets, for example. Nor does she flaunt it (though says she would like Bloom to watch and would take him to see the locations of her early sexual encounters). The secret that Molly holds from her husband is that the bed was purchased second-hand from old Mr. Cohen and is not a treasure from a grand estate as Poldy believes. The Bloom marriage allows little secrets to keep things interesting, but the partners know all the important corners of the other’s heart. 
  • Final Flight of the Celestial Theme: Poldy “orders” a duo of huevos estralladas for his breakfast. Translated as “starry eggs,” these may represent Poldy and Molly but more likely the sunny-sided-u.p. masculine pair Stephen and Bloom. Celestial Molly is the Moon and sometimes the Milky Way. “(T)he Sun (a star, after all) shines for you…” Bloom told her on Howth.
  • Twenty-Five: Adams discusses the lovers of Molly Bloom at some length. He eliminates a few but never offers a complete list. He snorts at D’Arcy as her lover. I agree, based on his character. He, however, thinks three father figures are contenders, namely Val Dillon, Simon Dedalus, and Professor Goodwin. I wonder how old Adams was when writing this. Adams also allowed his shameful parenthetical comment to remain unedited: “if one, why not all?” I would not expect monogamy from a fertility goddess, but Mrs. Bloom has standards in every other aspect of her life. I haven’t yet been able to equivocate my way around Boylan. Hugh Kenner thinks, and Brenda Maddox quotes him in her biography of Nora Barnacle Joyce that, besides Boylan, Molly’s lovers number between zero and one. I’d vote “one,” that one being Mulvey, the fictionalization of Nora’s teenaged love Mulvagh. This is not to deny Molly’s appetite. The stuttering theme punctuated with yeses if you’ll allow plays out that most unfertile of gratifications.
  • Hail, Marion : Molly is an ironic but human image of the Immaculate Conception, Miraculous Medal, Mary of the Pieta, and now as the protector of the youthful Messiah. Stepping in for departed May Dedalus, she volunteers to save Stephen: “…hes running wild now out at night away from his books and studies and not living at home on account of the usual rowy house I suppose well its a poor case that those that have a fine son like that theyre not satisfied and I none was he not able to make one it wasnt my fault….” She is “the hand that rocks the cradle.” Among the titles cited in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin are the following and many more:
  1. Mother of good counsel
  2. Virgin most powerful
  3. Seat of wisdom
  4. Mystical rose
  5. Tower of David
  6. Tower of ivory
  7. Queen of Angels
  8. Queen of Patriarchs
  9. Queen of Prophets
  10. Queen of Martyrs
  11. Queen of Families

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