so he could feel my breasts all perfume
yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.
See Important Quotations Explained
The first of Molly’s eight giant “sentences” that comprise
her interior monologue begins with her annoyance and surprise that
Bloom has asked her to serve him breakfast in bed. Molly intuits
that Bloom has had an orgasm today, and she thinks of his past dalliances
with other women. She thinks of her afternoon of sex with the aggressive
and well-endowed Boylan—a refreshing change after Bloom’s strange
lovemaking techniques. On the other hand, Molly guesses Bloom is
more virile than Boylan and remembers how handsome Bloom was when
they were courting. Thinking of Josie and Denis Breen’s marriage,
Molly feels that she and Bloom are perhaps mutually lucky.
In Molly’s second sentence, she considers her various
admirers: Boylan, who likes her feet; the tenor Bartell D’Arcy,
who kissed her in church; Lt. Gardner, who died of fever in the
Boer War. Molly ponders Bloom’s underwear fetish. Aroused, Molly
anticipates seeing Boylan on Monday and their upcoming trip to Belfast
alone. Molly’s thoughts turn briefly to the world of concert singing,
annoyingly girlish Dublin singers, and Bloom’s help with her career.
Molly remembers Boylan’s anger over Lenehan’s lousy Gold Cup race
tip. Molly thinks Lenehan is creepy. Considering future meetings
with Boylan, Molly resolves to lose some weight and wishes she had
more money to dress stylishly. Bloom should quit the Freeman and
get lucrative work in an office. Molly remembers going to Mr. Cuffe
to plead for Bloom’s job back after he was fired—Cuffe stared at
her breasts and politely refused.
In her third sentence, Molly ponders beautiful female
breasts and silly male genitalia. She thinks of the time Bloom suggested
she pose naked for a photographer to make money. She associates
pornographic pictures with the nymph picture that Bloom used to
ineptly explain metempsychosis this morning. Back to breasts, she
remembers how Bloom once suggested they milk her excess breast milk into
tea. Molly imagines gathering all of Bloom’s outrageous ideas into
a book, before her thoughts return to Boylan and the powerful release
of her orgasm this afternoon.
Molly’s fourth sentence begins with a train whistle.
Thoughts of the hot engine car lead her to thoughts about her Gibraltar
childhood, her friendship there with Hester Stanhope and Hester’s
husband “Wogger,” and how boring her life was after they left—she had
resorted to writing herself letters. Molly thinks of how Milly sent
her only a card this morning and Bloom a whole letter. Molly wonders
if Boylan will send her a love letter.
Molly’s fifth sentence begins with her recollection of
her first love letter—from Lieutenant Mulvey, whom she kissed under
the Moorish wall in Gibraltar. She wonders what he is like now.
Another train whistles, reminding Molly of Love’s Old Sweet
Song and her upcoming performance. She is again dismissive
of silly girl singers—Molly views herself as much more worldly.
Considering her dark, Spanish looks which she inherited from her
mother, Molly guesses that she could have been a stage star if she
had not married Bloom. Molly shifts in bed to quietly release built-up
gas, chiming with another train’s whistle.
In her sixth sentence, Molly’s mind wanders from her
Gibraltar girlhood to Milly. Molly does not like being alone in
the house at night now—it was Bloom’s idea to send Milly to Mullingar
to learn photography, because he sensed Molly and Boylan’s impending affair.
Molly ponders her close but tense relationship with Milly, who has
become wild and good-looking like Molly used to be. Molly realizes
with frustration that her period is starting and gets up to use
the chamberpot. She realizes that Boylan did not make her pregnant.
Scenes from the afternoon run through her mind.
In her seventh sentence, Molly climbs quietly back into
bed and thinks back over their frequent moves, a result of Bloom’s
shaky financial history. Molly worries that he has spent money on
a woman today, as well as the Dignam family. Molly thinks of the
men at Dignam’s funeral—they are nice, but Molly resents their condescension
to Bloom. Molly recalls Simon Dedalus’s vocal talent and wonders
about Simon’s son. Molly remembers meeting Stephen as a child and
fantasizes that Stephen is probably not stuck-up, just young enough,
and appealingly clean. Molly plans to read and study before he comes
again so he will not think her stupid.
In her eighth sentence, Molly thinks of how Bloom never embraces
her, weirdly kissing her bottom instead. Molly reflects on how much
better a place the world would be if it was governed by women. Considering
the importance of mothers, she thinks again of Stephen, whose mother
has just died, and of Rudy’s death, then stops this line of thought,
for fear of becoming depressed. Molly imagines arousing Bloom tomorrow
morning, then coldly telling him about her affair with Boylan to
make him realize his culpability. Molly makes plans to buy flowers
tomorrow, in case Stephen comes. Meditating on flowers and nature,
the products of God, she thinks lovingly of the day she and Bloom
spent outdoors on Howth, his marriage proposal, and her resoundingly
In Episode Seventeen, we saw Bloom-Odysseus return home
and slay his opponents with magnaminity. Episode Eighteen, as the
final third of the “Nostos,” both calls this triumphant ending into
question and ultimately ratifies it. If we read Bloom’s final request
for breakfast in bed as his reassertion of control of his household,
then Molly’s indignant reaction to his request unsettles this patriarchal closure.
Yet Episode Eighteen also depicts Molly going through the same trial
of meeting the suitors-opponents that Bloom enacted in Episode Seventeen.
And Molly seems to discard them one by one for Bloom, confirming
the triumph of Bloom-Odysseus with her final affirmative “yes.”
Early readers of Ulysses—preoccupied
by the supposed obscenity of Molly’s monologue—viewed Molly as the
archetypical whore. However, recent focus on the realistic quality
of the monologue shows that Molly’s character comes across as believably
contradictory and nuanced. Her thoughts reveal her to be extremely
self-centered, yet she is also shown to be charitable and potentially sympathetic
toward others, such as Josie Breen and Stephen. She comes across
as uneducated but clever, opinionated, and refreshingly frank. She
is hypocritical and self-contradictory but also highly perceptive—she
ratifies our negative judgments of some characters, such as Lenehan.
Finally, Molly’s monologue is highly entertaining—she has a sense
of humor and a gift for mimicking the speech of others.
Molly’s monologue contains facts and emotions that force
us to revise our previous perspective of her and her marriage. For
example, Bloom’s mental list of Molly’s infidelities in Episode
Seventeen is here shown to be wildly incorrect—Boylan is Molly’s
first sexual infidelity, and it has occurred only after more than
ten sexless years (and perceived lack of affection) with Bloom.
Molly’s thoughts offer a new perspective: it is Bloom who has been
compromising her, and his own infidelities call his easy judgment
of Molly as unfaithful into question.
However, though Molly gets the final say, her perspective
is also dramatized as fallible, specifically through her meditations
on Stephen, which are misinformed and idealized. Molly fantasizes about
Stephen’s humility, friendliness, and cleanliness—three characteristics
that do not apply to Stephen as we have seen him. This technique
does not demonstrate Molly’s individual misperception, as much as
the lesson of perspective in Ulysses: no single
character’s perspective will be sufficient to pass judgment. Though
Molly’s feelings toward Bloom oscillate wildly throughout her monologue,
as the episode comes to a close, her thoughts center more on Bloom and
Stephen-Rudy and less on Boylan and other suitors. The sexual desire
prevalent through her monologue becomes more evidently underwritten
with a compatible desire for the intimacy of the family structure.
Molly’s mental return to the scene on Howth that Bloom has also
thought of several times today shows the power of memory to provide
a source of continued intimacy between them, even if her final yes
may be in reference to Mulvey or Bloom. This uncertainty is characteristic
of Joyce’s endings, and it serves to remind us that we have witnessed
only a single day in the lives of the Blooms—progress may have been
made in their estranged marriage, but there certainly was not a
complete turnaround. On the other hand, the unrestrained affirmation
and joy of the final lines cannot be denied.