I began Ulysses on Bloomsday, June 16th, and now I have turned the last page. This final chapter, episode 18, Penelope, is about as stream-of-conciousness as you can get. It is composed of eight “sentences” and has absolutely no punctuation. The only reason you know a “sentence” has ended is because there is a paragraph break. Even though there is no punctuation, the wonderful English language has a definite rhythm to it and separating out complete thoughts was not so very hard. The hard part was that there being no punctuation, it was difficult to tell at reading speed whether the word was “well” or “we’ll,” “were” or “we’re”? It’s surprising how something so small can catch a person up while a lack of commas and periods was no problem.
This final chapter is Molly’s thoughts as she lays in bed next to Bloom who has just come upstairs at 2 in the morning. I didn’t know what to expect from Molly since the whole book I have only seen her from other people’s point of view. That she is pretty, has a large bosom, a beautiful voice with which she has performed professionally, is from Gibraltar, the mother of two, a living daughter and a dead son, and is having an affair with another character in the book is what we know of her. A good deal, but these things don’t tell us about who she is, how she feels, what sorts of things she thinks about.
I ended up liking Molly quite a lot. She is funny. She likes men and sex. She thinks about seducing Stephen Dedalus. But she also is not pleased with a woman’s lot being that she has to take care of men. In fact, men frequently come off as big whiney, needy children.
We get some interesting insight into Bloom too. Apparently Bloom has a thing for women’s underwear, which explains why Gerty allowing him to see her underwear at the beach was such a turn on for our Leopold.
I thought you might like a little snip from the chapter to get some flavor:
I dont care what anybody says itd be much better for the world to be governed by the women in it you woudnt see women going and killing one another and slaughtering when do you ever see women rolling around drunk like they do or gambling every penny they have and losing it on horses yes because a woman whatever she does she knows where to stop sure they wouldnt be in the world at al only for us they dont know what it is to be a woman and a mother how could they where would they all of them be if they hadnt all a mother to look after them
But as much as Molly complains about men and Bloom in particular, she still loves him. The chapter and the book ends with Molly thinking about when Bloom proposed to her:
and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.
Isn’t that one of the best ever endings to a book? I think so. Orgasmic definitely. But touching too. It even made me get a little teary. Or maybe those were tears of joy at being done with the book? Either way, I am so very glad I read Ulysses I didn’t expect to like it and I did. In fact, I liked it so much, I am certain I will read it again sometime.
Thanks for following along with my Ulysses journey. I have no idea what is next. I think a little break from big books is in order at least until the new year. Then, who knows?