by James Joyce
Ulysses Mortality Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph), except for the "Circe" episode, which is (Chapter.Line) and the "Penelope" episode, which is (Chapter.Page). We used the Vintage International edition published in 1990.
"As we, or mother Dana, weave and unweave our bodies," Stephen said, "from day to day, their molecules shuttled to and fro, so does the artist weave and unweave his image. And as the mole on my right breast is where it was when I was born, though all my body has been woven of the new stuff time after time, so through the ghost of the unquiet father the image of the unloving son looks forth." (9.145)
This is a part of Stephen's Hamlet argument in "Scylla and Charybdis." Does it seem that the idea of the body being woven and unwoven time after time could change one's notion of what it means to be mortal? If the body has been remade of entirely new stuff over and again, could that mean, in a way, that the body has already died many times? Since that old material of the body is presumably somewhere else in nature, does that make life seem less confined to individual people? Does it soften one's idea of mortality?
"For sirs, he said, our lust is brief. We are means to those small creatures within us and nature has other ends than we." (14.19)
Stephen is drunkenly pontificating in "Oxen of the Sun." What he's getting at here is that we always think of ourselves as somehow distinguished and set off from nature, but what if we are simply means to an end. Here's an analogy. Some people cultivate bacteria just in order to give cheese a certain taste. What if we're just the bacteria and there's some bigger cheese that we can't see? How does it change our view of mortality if we think of our whole lives as just some means to another of nature's ends?
Stephen's mother, emaciated, rises stark through the floor in leper gray with a wreath of faded orange blossoms and a torn bridal veil, her face worn and noseless, green with grave mould. Her hair is scant and lank. She fixes her bluecircled hollow eyesockets on Stephen and opens her toothless mouth uttering a silent word. (15.894)
Here, drunk on absinthe and dancing in Bella Cohen's brothel, Stephen has a vision of his dead mother urging him to repent. Why is it that in imagining death all we can imagine is a corpse or a skeleton? What else might death look like? What does it say about Stephen's guilt over his mother's death that she appears to him as a disgusting corpse instead of as she looked before she died?