Step 4f: The twining stresses, two by two.

Below is the entire text for chapter 1.  I ask the reader to zoom-out until the stack of pages are only about an inch wide.  I’m recommending this to illustrate how versatile it may be to have the interior monologue marked.

You may note that there’s a sort of rhythm or pulse to the monologue.  These are in fact moments of emotional intensity for him.  I believe that our own minds share this sort of pulse.

I believe that there are two halves to Ulysses, the outside part and the inside part.  Why complain?  Well, later on, there will be pages of this inside stuff.  You’ll feel you’re drowning.  You’ll be clawing for an outside line.  You’re riding washboard through Baja California.  You need to have this interior monologue mapped out (a good phrase) so that you might know how to read.

Before I continue, I have “highlighted” all chapters from Telemachus to Scilla & Charybdis.  It is a wonderful assignment digitally and quick, and I would find it to be an odious task with book and pencil or hi-lighter.  His thoughts are a transparent 40% gray.  That’s very appropriate for his monologues.  His and Bloom’s thoughts were quickly detected and “highlighted” through all those chapters, before other literary techniques start to dominate.

Let me mention a belief of mine here.  I’ve heard the advice, when attempting Ulysses, to skip over the Telemachiad, aka the first three  chapters given to Stephen, and land on chapter four, the first Leopold Bloom chapter and his later wanderings.  The reasoning is that the first three chapters (esp. chapter three) can be so bewildering because the mercurially quick mind of Stephen.  In despair, the reader throws the book (or eReader) against the wall with the first line of ch. 3:   “Ineluctable modality of the visible”.  I still, myself, don’t completely understand that line.

The reasoning continues, Bloom’s reflections, in his interior monologue, are so concrete and are therefore approachable.  He’s learn-ed but not a scholar or a poet.  Stephen is both, and mercurial in thought.  Bloom is more enjoyable because his mind is comfortable.

However, I believe that if one finishes the first two chapters well, then one truly feels a sense of accomplishment.  You are encouraged to ride on over on chapter 3, five or six times.  Joyce originally conceived of Ulysses as a short story itself.

Treating the book as 18 interlaced short stories, as Dubliners is, can be much more fulfilling than reading it as a double Iron Man.  You finish the book, whether at a run or a walk or in sections.  Hideously, the midpoint of the novel is not until about Oxen of the Sun, by which time other literary techniques outweigh our dependable interior monologue.

I believe, that Joyce is not being cruel or unnecessary obscure in these first two chapters.  I believe that he is training you, “ramping up” in his internal monologue here.  He does a good job.  If someone treats these chapters as short stories in themselves and really reads them well, then:

  • one is well prepared for chapter 3 and beyond
  • one will recognize the sheer poetry of Stephen’s mind
  • one will understand something of the psychology of the internal monologue.  Thoughts are more often reactions to experiences, than vice-versa.
  • one can “pretty easily” separate most internal monologue from narrative and dialogue, IF one does this ahead of puting ones hand to the reading plow.

Joyce does occasionally make it difficult to separate his use of French dialogue conventions from actual interior monologue.  I’m not concerned with being precisely accurate.  I believe that the “long view” of his interior monologue is more interesting than any instance at a glance.

I should say more about this.  In chapter 1, as in many chapters, there’s a definite pulse, or ebb & flow, of the ratio of outward narrative to interior monologue.

Of course, who would want manually to highlight page after analogue page?  What an assignment that would be!  I dislike the thought of doing what others having done year after year.  It always reminds me of Auden’s beast that repeats itself.  I hope I have a fresh idea here.


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