Chapter Two – Episode 12The Cyclops
This episode is marked by the use of an unnamed narrator and a use of varying styles of writing. It begins with the narrator and a character named Joe entering a pub known as Barney Kierneys. This episode is of particular importance for the way Bloom is treated by the men in the bar.
The men, including Alf Bergan, are laughing about Breen and his notion of taking libel action for the card he received (with U.P. on it). The men then appear to discuss Bloom as one of them asks, whats that bloody freemason doing . prowling up and down outside. The conversation then turns to the hanging of a prisoner and Alf Bergan produces letters from a hangman.
The character named the citizen points out that he can see Bloom and says scornfully that he is on point duty. Bloom comes in and is afraid of the citizens dog. He is looking for Martin Cunningham and avoids accepting a drink, but does take a cigar that is offered to him.
The narrator mentally observes that the dog is sniffing Bloom and that Jewies have a sort of a queer odour. The narrative shifts to Alf Bergan discussing hanged men, and how they have an erection on death. Bloom demonstrates his penchant for fairness and debate as he tries to explain that this is a natural phenomenon.
The narrators malevolence towards Bloom continues as his scathing thoughts are revealed about Blooms belief in the anti-treating league (temperance society). The citizen talks to his dog, Garryowen, in Irish and Bloom refuses a drink again as he repeats that he is only at the bar to see Martin Cunningham. This is with regard to Dignams insurance, and makes a Freudian slip when referring to the wifes admirers rather than wifes advisers.
As Joe and Bloom discuss foot and mouth disease, the narrator thinks of Bloom as effeminate. The general discussion shifts to Irish games being forbidden in the park and the readers learn that the citizen made the Gaelic sports revival. The narrator continues to think critically of Bloom. This time he is scathing of how Bloom can talk about anything.
The style shifts to a formal account of parliamentary affairs. Then, Alf Bergan and Joe mention Boylan, and Bloom continues to talk about lawn tennis. There is then a cut to description of a boxing match. They continue to discuss Boylan and Bloom tells them he is organising a summer tour for Molly.
Breen then becomes the basis for the conversation once more and the men continue to mock him. Bloom shows sympathy for his wife (Josie, who is a former admirer of Bloom). The citizen retorts that she has married a half and half, neither fish nor flesh. The citizen then begins to voice anti-semitic views and Bloom lets on he heard nothing and talks to Joe. The citizen, in an echo of Deasy, says we want no more strangers in our house.
It is revealed by Lenehan that Throwaway won the Ascot Gold Cup at odds of twenty to one (an outsider). This is significant as Lyons believes incorrectly that Bloom gave him a tip for this.
As the conversation turns to criticisms of how the British treat their navy, Bloom offers the view that isnt discipline the same everywhere? This point exasperates the narrator further and Bloom goes on to criticize nationalism. The citizen rudely asks Bloom what his nation is, and Bloom replies he was born in Ireland. The citizen says nothing, but spits in the corner. Bloom goes on to say that he also belongs to a race, a race that is hated and persecuted. Also now. This very moment. This very instant.
John Wyse says Bloom should stand up to it with force like men, but the narrator thinks scornfully that Bloom is too effeminate to do this: Old lardyface standing up to the business end of a gun. Gob, hed adorn a sweepingbrush, so he would, if only he had a nurses apron on him. Bloom replies to Wyse that it is no using facing force, hatred and history in such a way – love is really life.
Bloom leaves to find Martin Cunningham. He tells the other men this and asks them to tell Cunningham where he is if he should come in the bar. In his absence, the citizen says he thinks Blooms motto is beggar my neighbour and Lenehan says he thinks Bloom has not really gone to the courthouse to find Cunningham; he guesses instead (incorrectly) that he has placed a bet on Throwaway and he has gone to gather in the shekels. Lenehan informs the men that Lyons told him about the tip from Bloom. Criticisms of Bloom continue when Cunningham and Mr Powers enter the bar and the style changes to one of mock medieval. Implications that Bloom is effeminate continue when Ned recalls seeing him buy baby food six weeks before the birth of Rudy. This causes the citizen to ask: Do you call that a man? The narrator remembers being told that Bloom used to be incapacitated once a month with a headache, like a totty with her curses and thinks throwing Bloom in the sea would be justifiable homicide.
On Blooms return, the atmosphere is so sour that Cunningham and Mr Power rush Bloom outside to an awaiting carriage. The citizens continued (unjustified) anger continues as he shouts three cheers for Israel! to Bloom. In defence against the anti-semitism, Bloom replies that Mendelssohn, Karl Marx, Mercadante and Spinoza were all Jewish, as well as the Saviour and God. After being told his God is a Jew, the citizen throws an empty tin of biscuits at them, but misses because the sun is in his eyes. This episode ends with mock Old Testament language as Bloom is compared to Elijah.
This is perhaps the strongest episode for revealing the startling anti-semitic and misogynist prejudices of the crowd and the fairness of the outsider, Bloom. In every instant Bloom reveals a capacity to consider different points of view, and goes as far as to say love is what is important.
Blooms position on the margins is reinforced, however, by his ability to see two sides to an argument. Further to this, his masculinity is doubted by his fellow men as he has been seen buying baby food, for example. Blooms ability to appreciate traditional feminine and masculine forms of behavior is regarded by these men as questionable. In their eyes, he appears to be what the citizen accuses Breen of being: neither fish nor flesh. Because Bloom refuses to be tied to stereotypical masculine behavior, he is regarded by his fellow men as androgynous and worth killing. He refuses to fit the stereotype, and it is clear that Bloom is being used as a means to criticize the type of macho male which unquestioningly accepts nationalism, Catholicism, and the lower status of women.
Chapter Two – Episode 12The Cyclops