Please analyse this extract from episode 4 of Joyce's Ulysses from the words "Mr Leopold Broom ate with relish.." to " No, she can jump me".

Expert Answers
droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This passage opens with an excellent example of indirect characterization in the way it presents "Mr Leopold Bloom," who "ate with relish." The passage utilizes the Modernist "stream of consciousness" style, wherein what is related seems to depend upon the whim of both author and character; the enumeration of all the various items Leopold Bloom likes to eat seems at first unnecessary, but the fact that the author selects such unusual choices in fact direct the reader to draw related inferences about Bloom's character. Specifically, the fact that he enjoys kidneys because they "gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine" presents a repugnant image to the reader, and leads us to question why Bloom should favor such a taste.

The motif of the kidneys extends into the next paragraph; they (and their "fine tang of...urine") are in Bloom's mind, although they seem ill-fitted to the "gentle summer morning." Bloom is righting "her" breakfast things on the "humpy tray." The article "her" is left standing alone without the narrative enlightening the reader as to who "she" might be. In this way, we too, like the kidneys, are "in [Bloom's] mind." What is revealed to us follows the patterns of Bloom's thought. As he knows who "she" is in this context, the narrative does not elaborate for the reader's sake.

This stream-of-consciousness style underlies the use of fragmentary half-sentences in the passage, echoing the thoughts entering Bloom's mind. "Right...Cup of tea soon. Good. Mouth dry." Joyce gives no elaboration; the reader must infer that these are Bloom's thoughts. The juxtaposition of these fragmentary sentences, then, with instances of descriptive prose--"Gelid light and air were in the kitchen but out of doors gentle summer morning everywhere," "The coals were reddening"--serves to draw out the imagery of the explanatory sentences, the picture of the morning seeming clearer by contrast to the jumbled thoughts.

The cat appears in the narrative without preamble, just as it has appeared, we presume, in Bloom's awareness, walking "stiffly round a leg of the table." This supposition is supported by the fact that, in so walking, the cat sparks a memory in Bloom's mind: "Just how she stalks over my writing table." There is no differentiation between what is narrative and what are Bloom's thoughts. Joyce deliberately blurs the difference between narrative, internal thought, and dialogue; what dialogue there is in this passage eschews the traditional use of quotation marks, and is instead introduced with dash marks. Even with this delineation, it is not only the dialogue, but the dialogue tag which follows the dash mark, without distinction:

—O, there you are, Mr Bloom said, turning from the fire.

In his description of Bloom's behavior towards the cat, a certain surreal quality is given to the narrative by the fact that the usual semantic order of sentences in English is disrupted. For example, the statement, "Mr Bloom watched curiously, kindly the lithe black form." The construction is odd to the ear, lilting; it does not follow the usual construction of subject-verb-object-adjective. Yet the lengthier description of the cat is rather elaborate: "the gloss of her sleek hide, the white button under the butt of her tail, the green flashing eyes." It is evident that the cat has now become the total focus of Bloom's attention, as the whole narrative has swung in her direction. A rush of Bloom's thoughts concerning the cat now break into the narrative, in which we see him propose a hypothesis to himself -- that he looks "height of a tower" to the cat -- and then dismiss it: "No, she can jump me."

The style of Joyce's Ulysses has fascinated scholars for decades; Joyce himself said it would take scholars a century to interpret the novel. Each chapter has its own distinctive style. This passage is fairly characteristic of the rest of the chapter to follow.