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4 - Bloom as Stranger and Samaritan in “Cyclops,” “Oxen of the Sun,” and “Circe”

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 April 2023

Richard Rankin Russell
Affiliation:
Baylor University, Texas
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Summary

Those few commentators on the use of parable in the novel, such as Donoghue, tend to relegate its presence solely to the “Eumaeus” chapter, but again, it can be thought of as not only inspiring the novel, but helping structure parts of its final four episodes, together comprising over a third of the novel in terms of page count. For instance, even a very rigorous reading of Joyce’s clear allusion to the Good Samaritan parable in “Eumaeus” must recognize that its beginning events are narrated in “Circe” when Private Carr attacks Stephen: “(He rushes towards Stephen, fist outstretched, and strikes him in the face. Stephen totters, collapses, falls, stunned. He lies prone, his face to the sky, his hat rolling to the wall. Bloom follows and picks it up)” (U 15.4747–50). Already, we can see Joyce reconfiguring Christ’s parable: Instead of two travelers who decide not to stop and help the Samaritan, Joyce’s Good Samaritan, Bloom, (assisted by Corny Kelleher), who has been rejected earlier in the day by two groups representing the two travelers (Protestantism: Deasy and Crofton, and Catholicism: Simon Dedalus and the Citizen), instantly stoops to help him. Bloom thus fully assumes the role of the Good Samaritan, a role he has enacted throughout the day even as he is himself introduced objectively as a stranger to us and perniciously attacked by others as a Stranger.

Joyce’s adoption of a parabolic structuring device for crucial parts of his novel protests the restrictions of Irish Catholicism, signals an affinity with the apostate Jewish Bloom, and reaffirms the radical agency of both his characters and readers. Neil Davison’s contention that “[a]lthough [he is] an apostate from Judaism, Bloom’s ethnicity parallels Joyce’s view of his own anti-Catholic Irishness” helps us begin to apprehend that Joyce’s sense of his own marginality as a lapsed Irish Catholic exiled in Europe gave him certain affinities with the similarly exiled Bloom that enabled him to compassionately portray him through his turn to scriptural narratives to help structure his novel.

In regard to Bloom’s strangeness and exilic condition, David Pierce makes the simple but profound point that while Stephen Dedalus and Buck Mulligan have nicknames, employed repeatedly by the narrator and other characters, “Bloom is introduced as Mr Bloom, a polite form of address for someone we don’t know.

Type
Chapter
Information
James Joyce and Samaritan Hospitality
Postcritical and Postsecular Reading in Dubliners and Ulysses
, pp. 87 - 121
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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