Episode Twelve: “Cyclops”
—A nation? says Bloom. A nation is the same people living in the same place.
An unnamed, first-person narrator describes the events of his afternoon. In addition to the first-person narration, the episode contains over thirty passages in prose that parody—through hyperbole—Irish mythology, legal jargon, journalism, and the Bible, among other things.
The narrator meets Joe Hynes on the street, and agrees to get a drink at Barney Kiernan’s pub so Hynes can tell the citizen about the foot-and-mouth disease cattle meeting. A passage in the style of old Celtic sagas describes the marketplace they walk past as a land of plenty. Arriving at the pub, they greet the citizen and his dog, Garryowen. The citizen is described at length, mock-heroically.
Alf Bergan enters, laughing at Denis Breen, who is walking by outside with his wife. Bergan tells the story of Breen’s “U.p: up” postcard and orders a Guinness from the bartender. The beverage is lovingly described. The citizen notices Bloom pacing outside and wonders with hostility what he is doing—he refers to Bloom as a freemason.
Talk switches to Paddy Dignam. A seance at which Dignam’s soul appears is described. Bob Doran (a character from Dubliners) rails loudly at the cruelty of God to take Dignam away. The narrator disgustedly notes that Doran is on his annual drinking binge.
Bloom enters—he is supposed to meet Martin Cunningham. Hynes tries to buy Bloom a drink, but Bloom politely refuses. The subject of hangings is raised, and Bloom speaks pedantically about capital punishment. The citizen dominates the conversation, recalling hanged Irish nationalists. The narrator watches Bloom and thinks scornfully of Molly—the narrator knows a fair amount about the Blooms, thanks to Pisser Burke, who has a connection to them. Bloom is trying to make a fine point about hangings, but the citizen interrupts him with narrow-minded nationalistic sentiments. A passage of journalistic prose describes the public spectacle of a martyr’s hanging.
Hynes orders another round. The narrator is bitter that Bloom will not drink nor buy rounds. Bloom explains he is meeting Cunningham to visit Mrs. Dignam. Bloom launches into an explanation of the insurance complexities.
The men briefly discuss Nannetti, who is running for mayor, and the citizen denounces Nanetti’s Italian origins. The conversation switches to sports: Hynes alludes to the citizen’s role as a founder of the Gaelic sports revival. Bergan mentions a recent boxing match from which Boylan profited. Bloom talks about lawn tennis while everyone else discusses Boylan. A sports journalese passage describes an Irish-English boxing match. Bergan brings up Boylan’s and Molly’s upcoming concert tour. Bloom is distant, and the narrator guesses that Boylan is sleeping with Molly.
J.J. O’Molloy and Ned Lambert enter. Conversation switches to Denis Breen’s madness—Bloom ponders Mrs. Breen’s suffering, but no one else is sympathetic. The citizen, involved in a conversation about Ireland’s troubles, begins making anti-Semitic and xenophobic remarks while looking at Bloom. Bloom ignores him.
John Wyse Nolan and Lenehan enter. Lenehan tells the narrator about the Gold Cup race. Throwaway, an outside horse won—Lenehan, Boylan, and Boylan’s “lady friend” lost money on Sceptre. The cit-izen continues declaring the exploitation of Ireland—he longs for the day when Ireland can respond to the wrongs England has committed against it with force.
Bloom contends that persecution perpetuates nationalistic hatred. Nolan and the citizen quiz Bloom about his own nationality. Bloom claims Irish nationality by birth and Jewish allegiance. Nolan suggests that the Jews have not properly stood up for themselves. Bloom responds that love and life are better options than force and hatred. Bloom leaves to go find Cunningham. The citizen ridicules Bloom’s call for love.
Lenehan tells everyone Bloom probably went to cash in on his Throwaway bet (see Episode Five for this misunderstanding). The narrator visits the outhouse, thinking disparagingly about Bloom’s stinginess. He returns inside to find everyone gossiping about Bloom.
Cunningham, Power, and Crofton arrive. A Renaissance-style passage describes the greetings. Cunningham asks for Bloom, and the new arrivals quickly become involved in the Bloom-gossiping. Cunningham reveals Bloom’s Hungarian origins and original family name, Virag. The citizen sarcastically suggests that Bloom is the new Messiah for Ireland. He jokingly suggests that Bloom’s children are not his own, then alludes to Bloom’s femininity. Cunningham calls for charity toward Bloom and toasts a blessing to all present. A passage describing the blessing ceremony follows.
Bloom re-enters the pub breathlessly to find that Cunningham has arrived. Cunningham, sensing that the room is turning belligerent, escorts Bloom, Power, and Crofton out to their car. The citizen follows, yelling jibes about Bloom’s Jewishness. The narrator is disgusted with the citizen for making a scene. Bloom, held back by Power, lists off famous Jews, including, finally, Christ. The citizen grabs a biscuit tin and throws it after the car. A long passage provides an exaggerated description of the impact of the tin. A biblical passage describes Bloom as Elijah in a chariot ascending into heaven.
Episode Twelve corresponds to the adventure in which Odysseus and his men become trapped in the cave of Cyclops, a one-eyed monster. Cyclops seems to be represented by both the narrator and the citizen. The narrator’s biased first-person (“I”) viewpoint renders him Cyclops-like. But it is the citizen who is the most clear representation of the belligerent, one-eyed monster. The citizen’s one-eyed quality is his particularly uncompromising, narrow-minded, and xenophobic brand of Irish nationalism. In contrast to the citizen’s one-eyed presence, Bloom remains distinctly two-eyed—able to consider more than one side of an issue and to reconcile two viewpoints by compromise.
Bloom’s ability to be moderate in the face of the citizen’s excessiveness is part of what makes him a target for the men in this episode. Bloom stands out in several ways. He does not drink, and thus refuses the friendly economy of standing drinks and having drinks bought for him. He repeatedly turns the easy-going bar conversation serious with his intellectual superiority. Yet Bloom seems to have been targeted before even entering the bar. As the episode continues, Bloom alone stands up to the citizen’s excessive viewpoints, and Bloom’s eccentricities (and rumors about his personal affairs) become synonymous with his Jewishness to the other men, as the atmosphere becomes increasingly anti-Semitic.
Episode Twelve, “Cyclops,” represents the climax of all the public chapters of Ulysses—all the tensions that have been building around Bloom in the other social episodes come to a head. Here, also, for the first time, we do not get any interior monologue from either Stephen or Bloom. Instead of our usual third-person narrator, a first-person, unnamed narrator gives a biased view of events at Barney Kiernan’s with his own satiric commentary. In addition to the narrator’s first-per-son commentaries, thirty-two interspersed passages of inflated prose recall a variety of styles. These interpolations are unique so far in Ulysses because they seem to change the setting of the episode—they depart from Barney Kiernan’s to describe scenes as diverse as a court trial, a parliamentary session, and a public hanging. They give us a sense of what is to come in the novel, specifically the dream-like sequence of Episode Fifteen. Though the styles and settings of the thirty-two passages differ, they are similar in their hyperbolic quality. None of the scenes are realistic—all are exaggerated to hilarious degree, some containing lists that span more than half a page. They render their subjects laughable, and in their affiliation with the citizen’s own inflated, excessive, unstoppable rhetoric, they render him laughable as well.
The citizen here represents a particular kind of Irish nationalism that bases itself on an idea of racial purity. The citizen’s “us-versus-them” logic allows him to sustain his single-minded, one-eyed personal and national mission. The citizen is able to recognize the brutality and moral bankruptcy underlying the British Empire, yet he cannot recognize these same qualities in Irish society. Here, the hyperbolic passages step in to reinforce the satire, as when prose resembling that of a newspaper’s society page describes a Dublin crowd’s glee and sentimentality at a public hanging. Similarly, the citizen’s blindness will not allow him to see that just as Bloom does not buy drinks for the crowd, neither does the citizen himself. But Bloom’s refusal to stand drinks is codified as a Jewish trait and used to mark him as different and inferior. Against this one-eyed perspective stands the fluid symbolism of Ulysses itself, in which Bloom figures as an Irishman, a Jew, and a Greek (Odysseus).
The symbolism of Episode Twelve increasingly uses Christian imagery to depict Bloom as a Christ-figure or an Elijah-figure, as others seek to crucify Bloom or sacrifice him as a scapegoat. These analogies further suggest an underdog figure victorious in the end. This representation connects with the symbolism of the Gold Cup horserace in which Throwaway, the underdog horse that Bloom supposedly tipped Bantam Lyons to, comes from behind to win the race against Sceptre, the horse on which Lenehan and Boylan have bet. Because Bloom is distanced from Sceptre, the phallic and violent connotations of the horse’s name reinforce his position as a non-violent, effeminate, self-sacrificing outsider.
by mdd07c, September 16, 2012
This book needs a No Fear for it! But if there were a No Fear made, it should be made in a different way from the others; some lines just need to be put into context. For example, I can't tell if one character is thinking or talking.
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