Everything in Ulysses happens in the span of a day in Dublin, Ireland, the home of James Joyce. After three chapters spent with Stephen Dedalus, who is destined to meet his kismet/spiritual father Mr. Bloom, the book introduces us to Bloom and his wife. His wife is a famous opera singer and a Spanish beauty. Her father is Spanish and her mother is Jewish as is Mr. Bloom. Mr. Bloom seems a very affable fellow as he goes about his morning business of feeding the cat, taking care of Mrs. Bloom, and visiting the outhouse. Typical examples of Joyce's writing: (this is the cat thinking..."Wants to go out. Wait before a door sometime it will open. Let her wait. Has the fidgets. Electric. Thunder in the air. Was washing at her ear with her back to the fire too."
Another Joyce example, this time Mr. Bloom after he eats his breakfast: "He felt heavy, full: then a gentle loosening of his bowels. He stood up, undoing the waistband of his trousers. The cat mewed to him." He finds a magazine and makes his way to the outhouse. "Quietly he read, restraining himself, the first column and, yielding but resisting, began the second. Midway, this last resistance yielding, he allowed his bowels to ease themselves quietly as he read, reading still patiently that slight constipation of yesterday quite gone."
After waiting on his wife, which is a typical occurrence every morning, and uncomfortably pondering her affair with a man named Boylan, he saunters (on his odyssey) down the street. He needs to get ads published for his clients. He picks up a letter from his mistress. He runs into an asshole M'Coy who brags about himself and his wife and asks Mr. Bloom if he is going to a mutual acquaintance's funeral. The man then makes up some lame excuse as to why he cannot go and tells Mr. Bloom to write his name down on the attendees book. Adding insult to injury, M'Coy is blocking Mr. Bloom's view of a women pulling up her stockings (the NERVE). Mr. Bloom has thoughts about eastern religion and life (a reoccurring theme with Stephen and Mr. Bloom). There is a lot of book time devoted to eastern religious beliefs and transmigration (reincarnation). Episode Calypso ends (Calypso is personified in Mrs. Bloom... a nymph) and episode the Lotus Eaters begins. Mr. Bloom goes to a pharmacy to have lotion made for his wife and ends up grabbing some lemon soap for himself. Back out on the street, his mind wonders from the chemist at the pharmacy, drugs, opium in the east and the reasons why people use drugs or numb themselves with other things such as religion (anything that people follow blindly without any self examination).
"The chemist turned his back page after page. Sandy shriveled smell he seems to have. Shrunken skull. And old. ... Drugs age you after mental excitement. Lethargy then. Why? Reaction. A lifetime in a night. Gradually changes you character."
Focus/Comments: Joyce's understanding of examined and unexamined lives is obvious and a major point throughout his writings. And, the predisposition for people to be lemmings straight into the grave. I used to wonder how people became addicted to a drug like heroin. Who would grab a needle and shove it into their arm. Insanity. Then a sibling of mine developed an opiate addiction. It was horrible, devastating, there is no way to describe it in words. It's worse than death because the person is still walking around like a ghost, an empty shell. In hindsight, I see that she wanted to get away from an unhappy life, but she felt so powerless that she couldn't do it on her own. Of course it does not start with the hard stuff, or being an intravenous drug user. It is insidious. It starts tiny, like any parasite, and then mushrooms into a bloodsucking beast, hollow eyes, walking dead. I didn't even know her anymore. It is still shocking to think this started from an individual's inability to take control of life, to leave, to chart a new path alone. That it was preferred to become numb and avoidant, until you're dead inside. It's been along road back.