Study Guide

Ulysses Love

By James Joyce

Love

Ugly and futile: lean neck and tangled hair and a stain of ink, a snail's bed. Yet someone had loved him, borne him in her arms and in her heart. But for her the race of the world would have trampled him under foot, a squashed boneless snail. She had loved this weak watery blood draining from her own. Was that then real? The only true thing in life? (2.69).

Here, in "Nestor," Stephen observes his student, Cyril Sargent. Stephen initially resents Sargent, but then begins to sympathize with the student when he thinks of how Sargent's mother must have loved him. Is Stephen starting to understand the nature of love or does the fact that his thoughts quickly turn to his own mother suggest that he still is far too self-absorbed to understand love?

"- The sentimentalist is he who would enjoy without incurring the immense debtorship for a thing done." Signed: Dedalus. (9.207)

How does Stephen's telegram to Mulligan in "Scylla and Charybdis" indirectly explain his own trouble with loving? Does he think that he has to justify his love? Is it possible to rationally justify love? Does the telegram explain how Stephen distinguishes himself from the constant-mocker Mulligan? Is the distinction justified?

"- Force, hatred, history, all that. That's not life for men and women, insult and hatred. And everybody knows that it's the very opposite of that that is really life."

- "What?" says Alf.

- "Love," says Bloom. I mean the opposite of hatred. I must go now, says he to John Wyse." (12.423 – 425)

How much courage must it take for Bloom to preach the importance of love to intoxicated and indifferent Irishman in Burke's pub? Does the message sound to these men? Is it affective, or does he just sound like a sentimentalist?

Love loves to love love. Nurse loves the new chemist. Constable 14A loves Mary Kelly. Gerty MacDowell loves the boy that has the bicycle. M.B. loves a fair genteman. Li Chi Han lovey up kissy Cha Pu Chow. Jumbo, the elephant, loves Alive, the elephant. Old Mr. Verschoyle with the ear trumpet loves old Mrs. Verschoyle with the turnedin eye. The man in the brown macintosh loves a lady who is dead. His Majesty the King loves her Majesty the Queen. Mrs. Norman W. Tupper loves officer Taylor. You love a certain person. And this person loves that other person because everybody loves somebody but God loves everybody. (12.430)

Here, some voice or another (either the narrator or the author or something in between – it gets complicated in Ulysses) makes fun of Bloom's preaching love by imitating childish love talk and sentimentality. What ideas of love are we taught as children? What truth is there in it? How can we (or the characters in the book) talk about love without falling into sentimentality?

She had loved him better than he knew. Light-hearted deceiver and fickle like all his sex he would never understand what he had meant to her and for an instant there was in the blue eyes a quick stinging of tears. (13.66)

Gerty is thinks longingly of Reggie Wylie, except that her voice is a parody of the sentimental style of young girls novels. Is it fair for the narrator to parody Gerty's inner voice? Is it misogynistic? What do infatuated young girls know about love, if anything? What's the difference between infatuation and love?

"Man and woman, love, what is it? A cork and bottle." (15.402)

These are Bloom's dejected words in Bella Cohen's brothel, as Zoe flirts with him and kids him for being so glum. Why might this seem particularly true for Bloom today? Do you think that Bloom believes this simplistic definition of love? How does this comment fit in with Bloom's other thoughts about love in the novel?

"Never about the runaway wife coming back, however much devoted to the absentee. The face at the window!" (16.79)

Here, in "Eumaeus," W.B. Murphy's tales of his time at sea get Bloom thinking about classic myths and stories of seagoing men (e.g. from the Odyssey). He observes that the stories all focus on the man's adventure, but never give us a sense of what it's like from the wife's point of view. What is the view of love promoted by a book like the Odyssey? Is it sexist? How does adding the image of a "waiting" woman give us a fuller and more complete picture of love? What are the particular challenges of the lost traveler in love? What about those of the sedentary wife, not knowing about her husband's whereabouts?

What instances of deficient mental development in his wife inclined him in favour of the lastmentioned (ninth) solution?

In disoccupied moments she had more than once covered a sheet of paper with signs and hieroglyphics which she stated were Greek and Irish and Hebrew characters. She had interrogated constantly at varying intervals as to the correct method of writing the capital initial of the name of a city of Canada, Quebec. She understood little of political complications, internal, or balance of power, external… (17.92)

In "Ithaca," the narrator lists a number of ways in which Bloom disapproves of his wife's intelligence. Are these things incompatible with love? How far have they come from the passion of their early years that Molly remembers in "Penelope?" How would you describe the love that can accommodate all these complaints against one's love within it? Are husbands and wives more like lovers or friends?

It must be real love if a man gives up his life for her that way for nothing I suppose there are few men like that left its hard to believe in it though unless it really happened to me the majority of them with not a particle of love in their natures to find two people like that nowadays full up of each other that would feel the same way as you do theyre usually a bit foolish in the head. (18.767)

These are Molly's thoughts on love after reflecting on a boy that her daughter Milly was bringing home on a regular basis. What does it say about Molly that she thinks most men don't have "a particle of love in their natures?" Could this attitude grow out of her experience with Bloom or is it just a realistic observation?

I thought well as well him as another. (18.783)

This is Molly Bloom's last remembered thought before she agrees to marry Leopold Bloom. Is this a coldly cynical thought or is it just realistic? Does it undermine her professed love for her husband? Is it possible to love someone and also to sometimes think of them in the most ordinary of terms? Was this a big warning sign that they never should have gotten married?

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