Bill G. returns to the four contrasts in these notes that draw partly on issues discussed at our third meeting, held this past Saturday afternoon at Rob H.'s house.
Decay versus Growth
When Bloom buys the kidney from the Jewish butcher, we get introduced to Agendath Netiam, the Jewish dream of growing fruits on plots of desert, blooming the sand of Palestine. In Bloom's name we have indications of Joyce's notion of his hero. When Bloom is not fruitful he is at his most impotent. In his non-sexual relationship with Molly, his epistolary romance with Martha, and his spilling of his seed on the sands of Sandymount Strand, Bloom is not blooming. At these moments Bloom is more a character of decay (decadent) than a chacter of growth. Stephen shares this decadence when he is at his most arid. Stephen's monologue in Chapter 3 occurs while Stephen walks alons the sands from Sandy Cove, the site of the tower to Sandymount. Sand becomes an image of the intellectual aridity that demonstrates Stephen's brilliance and his isolation and lack of blooming.
The Oxen of the Sun develops this topic because it takes place at the maternity hospital and because Joyce uses the chapter to demonstrate the growth (and decay?) of the English language by narrating in developing English.
Romance versus Reality
How can Bloom be a hero like Odysseus?
He can't because he is real, not a mythic romantic hero like Odysseus. Bloom defecates, masturbates, farts. His reality makes him more the hero than any imaginary romance figure. In his best moments—when Bloom defends himself and all outcasts—he earns our admiration as a real hero.
Awareness versus Blindness
When he fantasizes about Gerty, he shows he wishes he were a romantic hero whom someone like Gerty would find interesting. His blindness is a flaw that is all too real, for which of us does not allow ourselves such moments? Bloom, however, elevates himself above the others in the pub whose blindness is less pitiful. Doran's drunkenness, the Citizen's patriotism, Conmee's smugness, the anti-Semitism of almost all the characters blind them in a way that that Joyce mocks rather than pities.
Community vs Isolation
The potential good of the pub dwellers' community decays into an exclusivity that excludes Bloom.
The isolation of Stephen comes from what? His brilliance? His arrogance? Stephen is capable of empathy with the struggling student in his classroom at Deasy's school and some empathy for Dilly in Chapter Five of Portrait. His brilliance is something that the disciples in the library give to him freely.