Q. Where was Leopold Bloom when the lights went out?
A. In the dark, along with Moses, “Sinbad the Sailor and Tinbad the Tailor,” et. al. (U 737).
At the end of the “Ithaca” episode of Ulysses, readers are apt to feel that James Joyce has left them “in the dark” concerning the union of Leopold and Molly Bloom. Critics speculate as to the outcome of events on June 17, 1904. Such conjectures are futile. As we know from our Joycean catechism, the past is irreparable and the future unpredictable: the circus clown was not Bloom's father; the notched florin never came back (U 696). “Ithaca,” that lame duck of a chapter, deals a coup de grace to the traditional reader eager to “know everything and know it in the baldest, coldest way” (Letters, I, 159-160). Joyce refuses to unravel the action of his novel or to satisfy our desires for a comforting denouement.
Leopold Bloom is one of those rare literary heroes whom we have recently learned to admire as “androgynous.” He has a “bit of the poet” about him, and a “bit of the woman,” as well. As Joyce tells us in “Circe,” Bloom is the “new womanly man” who will redeem the wasteland of twentieth century society. Boccaccio's Calandrino may have been the first male to find himself with child. But in the expressionistic drama of Nighttown, Leopold Bloom gives birth to eight yellow and white male children. He suffers sympathetic menstrual pains with his wife Molly and experiences visceral horror at the thought of Mina Purefoy's maternal agony. Leopold habitually dispenses pity to the poor and the sick, to the blind and the gelded, to men, women, children and animals—in fact, to almost every living creature he encounters. In Western culture, such, extraordinary powers of empathy are usually confined to artists and to women.
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