July 14, 2024

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Ulysses in Exile

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Ulysses in Exile

Leopold Bloom the mythical, religious, historical, and local exilic figure of Ulysses raises quite a lot of sympathy and compassion in his readers. He could be regarded as a modern “Odysseus”, walking through Dublin streets, questing for various things; a quest for his hybrid identity, a quest for knowledge of himself, a quest for a deeper discovery of what has been left behind and what is he confronting now, particularly of his family affairs. In this article, the purpose is to study Bloom’s life to find out in what ways he is considered an exile in Dublin. To what extent his physical and/or spiritual exile is the result of his intellectual representations. Joyce created his fictional “Everyman”, or as some critics may call him an “extraordinary ordinary man”, Leopold Bloom in parallel to its classical equal, Homer’s Odysseus. Based on Sherry Bloom’s wandering and roving “not only resemble the adventures of Odysseus (Ulysses), but also recalls the destination and promise of that homeward voyage; the Greek hero’s desired reunion with son and wife” (2). The central parallel to Homer is the fact the Molly Bloom is also being courted by a lover, energetic and lively Blazes Boylan a fellow singer of Molly. The only and of course major difference is that Penelope of classic Ulysses retained her loyalty toward Homer’s Odysseus, while Molly did not, apparently. This fact in Blade’s words takes Bloom “on an Odyssey around Dublin while at the same time he is prevented from returning home in case he intrudes on Molly and Blazes Boylan” (114).

Exile of the Wandering Jew

And I belong to a race too, says Bloom that is hated and persecuted. Also now. This very moment. This very instant. (U 31).

Leopold Bloom as an ad-canvasser Irish Jew whose main activity is to walk around Dublin, – even the nature of his job requires this walking, – could be considered an historical Jew traitor in the intensely catholic environment of Dublin. He is an outsider, a foreigner quintessentially, in his home, in his city and among his friends. Notice a short conversation that takes place in Bloom’s absence: “is he a Jew or a gentile or a holy Roman or a swaddle or what the hell is he? Says Ned” (335-6). And the answer is like this: “he’s a perverted Jew, says Martin, from a place in Hungary and it was he drew up all the plans according to the Hungarian system” (U 335-6). Ulysses, according to Cawelti, examines many aspects of exile. One of its protagonists Stephen Dedalus has flied to Paris to break away from the repressive forces of his motherland to enliven his artistic soul. The other protagonist Leopold Bloom, an Irish Jew is in many ways an exile in his own country. In the modern Ireland of Joyce’s time, Bloom bears in himself some features of both Irish and Hebrew races. He could be considered a “product of Diaspora who has metaphorically wandered far from his Palestinian homeland” (Cawelti 43). In the surrealistic chapter of “night town”, Bloom in a king’s costume promises his folks to build a new Jerusalem, a new homeland, a kind of utopian- like country in which according to Bloom’s intellectual part men and women are equal and free from injustice. Besides, like old father Abraham, he has been called upon to sacrifice his only son, Rudy. In this case, of course, the sacrifice was unwilling and the child was not spared; no angle appeared with good tidings of saving. Bloom, sonless and sorrowful, wanders the earth without any hope of return to home. He has forgotten the key to his own house.

Actual Exiled Bloom

What composite asymmetrical image in the mirror then attracted his attention? The image of a solitary (ipsorelative) mutable (aliorelative) man. Why solitary (ipsorelative)? Brothers and sisters had he none. Yet That man’s father was his grandfather’sson. Why mutable (aliorelative)? From infancy to maturity he had resembled his maternal procreatix. From maturity to senility he would increasingly resemble his paternal creator. (U 628-9)

Leopold Bloom, an island in himself, is definitely aware of the fact that he is an outcast at his home. This is obvious in his stream of thoughts and emotions. Bloom as a modern Odysseus is far from his home and from his family members. His father has committed suicide; his only eleven-day son has died years ago; his fifteen year old daughter, Milly, seems to be on a business affair out of Dublin, sending letters home, while she is going to have a date with Alec Bannon. Above all, his wife Molly is going to meet her lover at 4 P.M. June 16, 1904. All of these force Bloom to become farther from home, both physically and mentally. After his only baby son, Rudy, died Bloom remains in his desperate loneliness. He thinks with himself “if little Rudy had lived. See him grow up. Hear his voice in the house. Walking beside Molly in an Eton suit. My son. Me in his eyes. Strange feeling it would be. From me. Just a chance” (U 90). His hope of having a son has been short and abrupt, just like the stream of sentences of the previous passage. Bloom not only is conscious of his lonely state, but it seems that he does not try to change his condition and come out of this state. This is evident in the fact that he and Molly could not have a sexual relationship after the son’s death, apparently due to Bloom’s discontentment. Nevertheless, when he becomes aware of Molly’s tryst with Boylan, he retreats more into himself in depression. He decides not to go back home, because he thinks that there is not a home any more and “all is lost now” (U 271). A faithless wife first brought strangers to our shore . . . . A woman too brought Parnell low” (U 40), he thinks sorrowfully. Alternatively, in another passage he reveals his sense of loneliness more, as this: ” . . . went Bloom, soft Bloom, I feel so lonely Bloom” (U 285). He repeatedly emphasizes his solitary condition caused perhaps by a faithless wife, a dead son, a heedless daughter. “I feel so lonely . . . too dear, too near to home, sweet home” (U 289). Therefore, Leopold Bloom the melancholy outcast figure of Ulysses according to Henderson “begins thus by exile; the exile of his body offers a striking example of the exile of his heart” (117).His imagination is obsessed with the thought of building a new home; what he has been far from for a long time. He intensely wishes a true domestic life. He tries to think of a name for that imaginary home, “What might be the name of this eligible or elected residence? Bloom Cottage. Saint Leopold’s flower villa” (U 635). He is lonely in building and choosing a name for his imaginary house. Edward Said in Reflections on Exile and Other Essays also asserts on the sadness associated with the loss of love and home simultaneously. He believes “what is true of all exile is not that home and love of home are lost, but that loss is inherent in the very existence of both!” (185). Bloom’s love and home have been lost together.

Up to this point Mr. Bloom’s actual and physical exile from his home and family was studied. However and yet, he is actually exiled in another possible way as well. He is an Irish Jew, with a Hungarian origin. Nationally speaking, both Bloom and his father are considered foreigners in Ireland. Furthermore, Leopold Bloom does not have any brothers or sisters or any relatives in Dublin. His family name is also a barrowed one. Bloom’s original family name has been Virag, meaning flower in Hungarian language. He changed Virag to Bloom after his father’s derogatory suicide. Accordingly, even the Dubliner dentist’s namesake is an accident. This is what Bloom’s friends discovered long ago. All of them seem to be aware of Bloom’s dislocation and loneliness. “And after all, says John Wyse, why can’t a Jew love his country like the next fellow? Why not? Says J.J., when he’s quite sure which country it is” (U 335). As evident from this short dialogue and many other similar examples in Ulysses, the other and seemingly very important factor in alienating Bloom is that he is a Jew; a Jew in the fervent Catholic environment of Dublin. Although, Bloom has converted to Catholicism in order to marry Molly and then he has experienced some time of being protestant, he is still known and treated as a Jew. Bloom also still considers himself a Jewish Dubliner. For example, this could be perceived in his expectation for a male heir to become the redeemer of Jewish race, or in his surrealistic desire to build a new “Bloomusalem” (459). Bloom’s double multi-layer strangeness as a Jew and a Hungarian in Ireland is intensified by the fact that Dublin itself is an occupied city, a colony whose identity is indeterminate. Therefore, based on the colonial theory all the citizens’ identity is under question; nothing is stable. Enda Duffy, in Semicolonial Joyce, extends this sense of alienation to all of the Dublin citizens. Duffy believes:

Dublin in Ulysses is a place without any center of viable political power and hence ( as no real alternative sites of contestation are suggested in the novel) without any real possibility that the city could exist as the site of viable community. In this light Bloom’s self cultivated marginality is a normalizing, rather than an othering strategy: his ostracized solitariness is the condition of every citizen in the city. (Duffy 49)

Consequently, considering Duffy’s opinion one could attribute this exilic state in Dublin to all of the Dubliners living in their hometown, but under a foreigner’s power and domination. Bloom ,who could be considered an “Everyman” representing all the exilic features in Joyce’s mind, is treated coldly and is ignored repeatedly wherever he goes. For instance, in chapter 7, entering in the newspaper office he is ignored, mocked and rebuffed. Again, Based on Duffy who asserts on the public exile and marginality of all Dubliners:

Just as Bloom is on the margins of the newspaper office and of every group he encounters from the funeral mourners to the men carousing in the brothel, so too are the members of those groups themselves on the margins of any presumed centers of power-hangers-… (Duffy 49)

Thus, Joyce projects his sense of alienation, and all the Dubliners’ sense of estrangement in Bloom’s dislocation and loneliness in his hometown. To close this part notice Blades view about Bloom’s alienation that in fact “the central chapters of the novel emphasizes this impression of his alienation amidst the teeming life of the city” (140).

Metaphoric Exiled BloomIs he a Jew or a Gentile or a Holy Roman or a swaddler or what the hell is he? Says Ned. (U 335)

Leopold Bloom is almost by definition an exile, both physically and spiritually. The reason, which intensifies his alienation both physically and, of course symbolically, as mentioned before is his Jewish origin. This origin does not offer any kind of support, but imposes him to a whirlwind of cruel insults. According to Jewish beliefs, Jewish people are promised to receive justice and they should be waiting for a savior, a redeemer who comes and establishes justice everywhere. Evidently, Bloom cannot observe any real justice, equality, love, and brotherhood around him in whatever religion he once believed. When he confronts a young blind man, he thinks with himself: “poor fellow. Quite a boy. Terrible. Really terrible. What dreams would he have, not seeing? Life a dream for him. Where is the justice being born that way?” (U 182). Bloom seems to blame the whole system of justice and creation. He cannot find any peace of soul in God’s promise of justice and unlimited love. This he might have noticed when his baby son died very soon. As a Jew, he is waiting for a redeemer. Nevertheless, even his very hope of having a son, whom he expects so compassionately, vanishes very soon within eleven days. In addition to these, his fatherlands, both Hungary and Israel are far fetched and a foreigner force occupies his motherland. Therefore, his symbolic and spiritual exile and alienation is intensified in the shadow of his homelessness. Bloom is someone with the touch of the artist and intellectuality who according to Levine is obviously an “odd man out in Dublin” (123). Levine summarizes some reasons why Bloom is an outcast in Dublin as this:

Bloom is odd man out in Dublin: he does not drink; he does not buy drinks for others; he does not bet (though he is suspected of doing so); he is a Jew (and doubly alien from his Jewishness, for he has chosen to become both catholic and protestant). (Levine 123)

Bloom’s loneliness and sorrowful life at his home is what Edward Said considers as one of the “saddest fates” (47). Said believes that in “premodern” times exile was particularly a “dreadful punishment”, because the exiles should be far away from family and familiar places. However, Said in Representations Of The Intellectual declares exile also means to be a sort of “outcast, someone who never felt at home, and was always at odds with the environment, inconsolable about the past, bitter about the present and the future” (47). This passage explains Bloom’s state of exile clearly.

Intellectual Exile of Bloom

I stand for the reform of municipal morals and the plain Ten Commandments. New worlds for old union of Jew, Moslem and Gentile. Three acres and a cow for all children of nature. Saloon motor hearses. Compulsory manual labor for all. All parks open to the public day and night. Electric dishcrubbers, tuberculosis, lunacy, war and mendicancy must now cease. General amnesty and weekly carnival with masked license, bonuses for all, Esperanto the universal brotherhood. No more patriotism of bar spongers and dropsically imposters. Free money, free love, and free lay church in a free lay state (U 462).

The previous passage taken from the surrealistic chapter of night town might reveal the fact that Bloom is a real difference in Dublin and among his friends. Here, in a dream, Bloom in a king’s costume is promising his subjects of an ideal and perfect life, of something he himself desires to have, but does not have now. He is a sensitive and careful person among the other Dublin people who perceives injustice, poverty, racism, violence and cruelty. In his dreaming, he seems to be in search of building a utopia. Such utopian desires belong to those who are aware of the incongruities of the society they live in. As Sherry states, this passage “in the context of Bloom’s character and the concern he professes here for men and women, that mannerism is also an intellectual marker” (53). The fact that he considers men and also women is noticeable in words of a seemingly ordinary man of Dublin, someone of such a simple family, education, and occupation record.. Based on Gramsci quoted in Said “all men are intellectuals . . ., but not all men have in society the function of intellectual” (3). According to the first part of Gramsci’s quotation Leopold Bloom could be an intellectual even if he does not have the function of what we have in mind of intellectuals’ role. However, regarding this definition by Gramsci and of course Bloom’s lonely state and alienation, both physical and symbolic, in Dublin Said’s own point of view about who could be called intellectuals is also applicable to Bloom. Said in his book Representations of the Intellectual states that primarily, intellectuals are among those who could be called “nay-Sayers”, the nonconformists, especially to the social norms and to what is imposed on people by power institutions. They are, according to Said, those who “raise embarrassing questions” in public and confront “orthodoxy and dogma” (11). Furthermore, in the introduction to the same book he declares that intellectuals try to “break down stereotypes and reductive categories”, because they believe that such stereotypes tend to be very “limiting to human thought and communication.” Actually, they should be among those who question “patriotic nationalism, corporate thinking and a sense of class, racial or gender privilege.” This is what could be noticed in Leopold Bloom’s manners clearly and would be discussed more in the following paragraphs. Therefore, regarding these features an intellectual’s voice and position in the society he lives tends to be a lonely one. He might be treated as an outsider, as someone who questions authoritarian states and dares to speak “truth to power.” Thus, an intellectual could be an exile at home, at his native culture and among his citizens. This is what Said explains as follows, “exile is the condition that characterizes the intellectual as someone who stands as a marginal figure outside the comforts of privilege of power and being-at-homeness . . .” (11). Finally, the other significant feature about the intellectuals in exile is that they have the ability to see both aspects of things. They do not take events as granted and ordinary. They have the ability to stand away from events and analyze them, then to infer what caused things to be that way. Considering all of these features, Bloom’s character might represent some intellectual signs. For instance, to take into consideration the opening passage of this part, he is in favor of equality, justice, and prosperity for all the people, whether men or women from any race, culture, or language. The fact that Bloom represents some intellectual signs is obvious in reference to some of his actions; initially in his family life and in his relationship with Molly. After having her tryst with Boylan, Molly reviews the events of that evening and compares Boylan’s behaviors with Bloom’s. She confesses that Bloom is a more considerate and polite man. In her soliloquy, Molly reveals why she has been attracted to Bloom and why she is still attracted to him. According to Blades Molly “could see that he ‘understood’ or ‘felt’ what a woman is. And this confirms an idea that has been current through the whole novel: Mr. Bloom’s knack of seeing the other person’s point of view” (120). The fact mentioned above, that is considering the other person’s idea and will, seems to be a very democratic sign. Thus far, Bloom in contrast to the Citizen or Stephen’s principal at school, is the person who understands each person has the right to speak for him or herself. In his view, no one has any privileges over others, as he stands for the “union of all, Jews, Moslem, and gentile” (462). He professes for love, mutual love and understanding that is what should really construct human societies other than hatred and pious racism. He is the person who “helps the blind man kindly” (U 182). Some of his friends also declare that Bloom is the “decent quiet man” (U 177) and “he’s a safe man” (U 178). For Bloom, the major theme of life is love. Love is the deriving force for him. He shows love and affection toward every living creature. For instance, the kind-hearted Bloom buys apples and throws it for “poor birds” (U 152). He is aware of the miserable life of the Dedalus. Their mother, the center of love and loving is gone. He feels sorry for the Dedalus’ daughters and is concerned about Stephen, too. He thinks with himself that “home always breaks up when the mother goes” (U 152). As clear, he does not limit love and affections to his own family; the love and concern toward his dead son, the teenage daughter and the aging beloved, whom he still regards with respect, in spite of her unfaithfulness, extends to other creatures around him. In his argument with the racist Citizen he declares, “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” (U 331). By the opposite of hatred, he means love. He believes everybody should know that to love is to live. Consequently, he believes putting force against force does not work, either. The important factor in Bloom’s consideration of love is that based on Sherry “no less important that the message is the form of utterance; negating the contrary, Bloom shows his own habitus, his ingrained tendency to see the two sides of an issue” (53). Regarding this concern of Bloom, to love everybody, from any religious, nationality, and political background which logically should result in peace and safety, Blades states “however, in terms of Mr. Bloom’s character, ‘love’ is an extension of the many positive values which he embodies in the novel: tolerance, equanimity, compassion, charity, and sensitivity among them”(117). The other feature distinguished in Bloom as mentioned in Blades too is Bloom’s tolerance. In the function of an intellectual who stands against repressing power, Bloom also stands for union of people of any race. He does not believe that any religion, nation, or race has superiority over any other particular kind. These are his own words to express his belief that violence reaches nowhere. Hatred and enmity for him are just a kind of absurdity. He says to Citizen:

It’s all very fine to boast of mutual superiority but what about mutual equality? I resent violence and intolerance in any shape or form. It never reaches anything or stops anything. A revolution must come on the due installments plan. It’s patent absurdity on the face of it to hate people because they live round the corner and speak another vernacular, so tospeak. (U 564)

Here, Bloom defends himself, and the people like him, from the guilt of being born a Jew or in fact the guilt of being the other. He definitely believes that being a Jew, a Moslem, or a gentile should not be considered a fault or privilege of any kind. Therefore, as clear in Bloom’s definition of nation, the possibility of removing all the boundaries between the nations is what he is looking for, regardless of his feeling of dislocation and diasporic racial fate. Bloom believes “a nation is the same people living in the same place . . . Or also living in different places” (329). As it may be inferred here, Bloom dares to question the traditional definition of what a nation is. Although, the Irish citizens are reluctant to accept him as an Irish man, because of his Hungarian as well as his Jewish background, Bloom considers himself an Irish citizen because “I was born here. Ireland” (329). Cullingford in an article included in Semicolonial Joyce also indicates Bloom’s skeptical view about the “politics of natural boundaries.” In Cullingford’s view, Bloom’s definition of nation is an “elastic approach to geography dictated by his diasporic Judaism” (224). Leopold Bloom, Joyce’s mild-hearted, considerate protagonist, not only stands for a united nation, other than the nations made through boundaries, he severely is against racism of any kind. Considering the one-eyed racist, Cyclops/Citizen, and the other Catholic Irishmen who assume more power and authority for themselves than for Bloom (and the people similar to him), Leopold Bloom seems to confront these unchosen authoritarian representatives. He is not frightened to express his open-minded ideas about nation, the notion of nationalism, and resentment of violence toward men and women. He tries to “speak truth to power” from his weak position among Dubliners. Blades in his book How to Study James Joyce believes that:

A more cautious fellow might have kept his head down. He is a handy target for their anger, a scapegoat, particularly as he insists on affirming his Jewish origin in the same breath that he asserts his Irishness, a combination which seems to be an anathema to his listeners. (Blades 116)

In spite of his poor family and educational background, Bloom seems to maintain his individuality. He does not confirm to socially accepted rules easily. This is one of the intellectuals’ representations according to Edward Said. On the other hand, Bloom seeks to gain knowledge of many things. As obvious from his wife and his friends’ behavior, they refer to him as a site of knowledge and information at times. Molly refers to him when, for example, she has trouble finding out some words’ meaning. McCoy a Dublin acquaintance of Bloom tells, once when he was with Bloom, Bloom “bought a book from an old one in Liffey Street for two bob. There were fine plates in it worth double the money. The stars, and the moon and comets with long tails. Astronomy it was about” (U 233). Therefore, Bloom, even, from his seemingly poor situation is in search of knowledge and is not frightened to share his bright ideas with his society members. He could be a representative of the intellectual among his lower than average circle of friends. That is what imposes him to violent attacks and insults from his friends, or better to call them his Dublin citizens. Some critics, such as, Joseph Valente in an article included in Semicolonial Joyce believe that the group’s attack on Bloom, insulting and belittling him, is actually a reflection of what has happened to them as the occupied, Irish colonized people. Valente believes that this attack on Bloom “clearly acts to displace the trauma of their own undecidable social inscription in the interstice of colony and metrople” (122). Here, Dublin functions as “no place” and at once the “capital of Ireland, the center of English pale and the seat of colonial government” (122). Therefore, Dubliners might be considered as no man, embodied particularly in Bloom. To take what has been mentioned up to now into consideration, some intellectual features could be attributed to Bloom’s character and behaviors; including the fact that he resents any kind of gender, race, or national privileges. This is in addition to the fact that he questions some traditional and socially accepted boundaries and tries to stand against authorial sites, in spite of his somehow fragile position. Besides, Bloom retains his individuality in a colonial-stricken society of heated mass opinions, struggling to “speak truth to power” on his side. To consider Gramsci’s definition of intellectuals, mentioned in Said that all men could be intellectual, but some of them have the role of an intellectual (4), Bloom also could be considered an intellectual, in spite of his vulnerable position. He is an intellectual generally speaking and therefore, an exile at his home, exiled from his own tradition and culture. This exilic state leads to his lonely and dislocated domestic exile of the intellectual. Alienating himself more from his spousal and social life might sooth the pain of seeing both aspects of things. He chooses exile to escape and stand away from the situation he does not like and cannot change seemingly. In an encounter and a kind of eye flirtation that Bloom has with a young girl on a Dublin coast, Joyce reads the girl’s mind, who is observing Bloom with great care. She observes Bloom closely:

His eyes burned into her as though they would search her through and through, read her very soul. Wonderful eyes they were, superbly expressive, but could you trust them? People were so queer. She could see at once by his dark eyes and his pale intellectual face that he was a foreigner. He was in deep mourning, she could see that, and the story of a haunting sorrow was written on his face. (U 355)

Bloom’s visual image is also indicative of his lonely soul, his Jewish wandering, and his sorrowful thoughts. Bloom the intellectual exile at home, according to Said in Representations of the Intellectual, is “skeptical about the present and future, and bitter about past” (47). Leopold Bloom incarnates the individual figure, dislocated and alienated in his own country and culture, a kind of hybrid creature of colonial modern world who is skeptical of all the established religions, political, and national boundaries struggling to speak to power institutions from his vulnerable position. All of these different features collected in one person have been possible through Joyce’s rich allegorical, symbolic, and of course realistic observation of man.

Leopold Bloom the wandering Jew roaming in Dublin streets proves to be an essentially exilic figure. His exile is both physical and spiritual. He is an actual exile in that he is isolated from his home and his family and he feels he has no home to return. At a deeper level, he is an exile from Hungary, where his father comes from originally, and symbolically speaking from Jerusalem, where the Jews always dream of. Meanwhile, some critics believe that it is his spiritual exile that leads him to leave the actual idea of home. He is a spiritual exile, because he is alienated and isolated among his native culture at his hometown. Besides, he retains some intellectual features, such as, his clever definition of nation, or his fervent belief in equality of all people from all races and religions. This is in addition to his struggle to resist against authoritative sites of power and oppression like church. His several conversions might represent his spiritual perplexity and his rejection of different religious authorities. Dubliners attack on this marginal figure might express the entire Dubliners marginalized situation in the colonial Dublin, under the colonizer’s gaze.

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