Sunday, August 21, 2005

Marion, Milly, Martha, Molly and Meaning

As of 11 am on this fine Dublin day, these are the women in Leopold Bloom’s life: Marion his wife. Milly his daughter. Martha his lover and perhaps a prostitute. And Molly, whose first mention puzzled me. Yet another M? Took me a while to figure out this is another name for Marion. I think.

Which brings me to meaning. Joyce pretty much lets you sink or swim. Bloom’s thoughts ramble along in random association. To understand requires much mental effort. I am pleased when I do. What isn’t understandable I put aside hoping some clarification will come later. The trouble is, I never know whether I don’t understand because I’m not trying hard enough (or have forgotten something, which leads to much re-reading) or because, in fact, it is not understandable (either yet or forever). This vexes.

Clearly Joyce isn’t writing for the reader. He’s more interested in residing within a character’s head and presenting that character’s thoughts. There’s a paradox here, though. Because Joyce, in gazing at Bloom’s passing stream of thought, must also create that stream in order to gaze upon it, and he can only create it by gazing at *his* own stream of consciousness, which he must in turn create for the character Bloom.

It’s nothing I don’t do myself when I create a character, I guess; still, I get dizzy thinking about it.


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