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3 From Monument to Mobile Genetic Criticism and Ulysses As the “Aeolus” episode of Ulysses nears its conclusion, Stephen Dedalus comes to the end of his short vignette about two old ladies who have climbed to the top of Nelson’s Pillar. Feeling dizzy from the height, the women “pull up their skirts” and “settle down on their striped petticoats, peering up at the statue of the onehandled adulterer.” The text continues: DAMES DONATE DUBLIN’S CITS SPEEDPILLS VELOCITOUS AEROLITHS, BELIEF —It gives them a crick in their necks, Stephen said, and they are too tired to look up or down or to speak. They put the bag of plums between them and eat the plums out of it, one after another, wiping off with their handkerchiefs the plumjuice that dribbles out of their mouths and spitting the plumstones slowly out between the railings. A few lines later, the focus shifts briefly from Stephen’s oral story to Dublin’s tram system: HELLO THERE, CENTRAL! At various points along the eight lines tramcars with motionless trolleys stood in their tracks, bound for or from Rathmines, Rathfarnham , Blackrock, Kingstown and Dalkey, Sandymount Green, Ringsend and Sandymount Tower, Donnybrook, Palmerston Park and Upper Rathmines, all still, becalmed in short circuit. Hackney cars, cabs, delivery waggons, mailvans, private broughams, aerated mineral water floats with rattling crates of bottles, rattled, rolled, horsedrawn, rapidly . 54 Ulysses in Focus Finally, as “Aeolus” draws to a close, Stephen names his tale “A Pisgah Sight of Palestineor The Parable of The Plums.” One of his listeners, Professor Mac­ Hugh, reacts (“We gave him that idea”) and then, like the trams, stops his motion: He halted on sir John Gray’s pavement island and peered aloft at Nelson through the meshes of his wry smile. DIMINISHED DIGITS PROVE TOO TITILLATING FOR FRISKY FRUMPS. ANNE WIMBLES, FLO WANGLES—YET CAN YOU BLAME THEM? —Onehandled adulterer, he said smiling grimly. That tickles me, I must say. —Tickled the old ones too, Myles Crawford said, if the God Almighty’s truth was known. (U 7:1013–75) Critics have analyzed this short scene in many different ways. First, it parallels one in the Odyssey: Odysseus and his men are stuck on Aeolia after Aeolus’s winds blew them almost home to Ithaca but then back to the island, and in Ulysses the women are motionless and silent, the men have stopped walking, and the trams are short-circuited. At the end of an episode full of noise and movement, almost everything is quiet and motionless. Second, Stephen’s parable calls out for interpretation. His short tale is full of realistic detail and strong language, and, unlike his anemic vampire poem from a few pages earlier (or the villanelle in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man), it obeys Myles Crawford’s request that he produce “something with a bite in it. Put us all into it” (U 7:621). Stephen weaves several details from Ulysses into his narrative: the two midwives with their umbrellas whom he saw on Sandymount Strand (U 3:29ff); Fumbally’s lane, where, he recalled on the strand, he once met a prostitute (U 3:379) and where his two climbers live; Garrett Deasy’s “little savingsbox,” which finds an echo in the women’s “red tin letterbox moneybox” (U 2:218, 7:932); Nelson’s Pillar, toward which Stephen and Professor MacHugh walk after they leave the newspaper office ; Buck Mulligan’s song about Mary Ann “hising up her petticoats” (U 1:384, 3:462), clothing that becomes part of Stephen’s story; and, in his title, Seymour Bushe’s speech about Michelangelo’s statue of Moses (U 7:768–71) and John F. Taylor’s about “the youthful Moses” (U 7:833), which provokes J. J. O’Molloy’s remark that Moses “died without having entered the land of promise” (U 7:873; C. H. Peake discusses these and other echoes in James Joyce: The Citizen and the Artist).1 From Monument to Mobile 55 Harry Blamires discusses Stephen’s story as a study in frustration and disappointment ; Daniel Schwarz considers it a metaphoric presentation of a sterile Ireland in which two old women “spit potential seeds upon concrete where they cannot grow” and Paul Schwaber a picture in which the women are “representative of sterile Ireland and [Stephen’s] own self-censure”; and Peake emphasizes the linking of politics and sex, since the Irish women are transfixed and paralyzed by the English conqueror...


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