Critical Inquiry 10 (4):567-578 (1984)

“O, rocks!” Molly exclaims in impatience with Bloom’s first definition of metempsychosis, “tell us in plain words” . Looking forward, then, we remember that Bloom asks Murphy if he has seen the Rock of Gibraltar and asks further what year that would have been and if Murphy remembers the boats that plied the strait. “I’m tired of all them rocks in the sea,” replies Murphy . Bloom’s interest derives from Molly’s connection with Gibraltar, and Molly herself in her monologue remembers the boats well and thinks of missing the boat at Algeciras , just before the book ends with her thoughts of the awful deepdown torrent,” the tide that moves like a river through the strait. Imaginatively she moves with that torrent, figuratively the torrent of time that plunges from the future to the past, which she accepts, with her yes, going deeply with the flow of life, and with her goes Murphy/Joyce, touching on Gibraltar at last. Molly remembers Ulysses S. Grant getting off a boat in Gibraltar, an occurrence that Adams sees as unduly stretching probability merely in order to bring Molly in incidental touch with a man named Ulysses.19 But remembering that Murphy is a “wily old customer,” we may remember also that the Ulysses of Joyce’s favorite Dante cannot rest with Penelope but, in search of knowledge and excellence, moves on through the two rocks of the straits of Gibraltar, the pillars of Hercules, to further adventure and also to destruction; and we may then think that with this reference, Joyce took pains to tell us that the Ulysses of this book here completes in hidden climax the design and purpose of his work, and sails on to oblivion, or rather to dispersion and reconstitution as everyone in the new adventure of Finnegans Wake. 19. See Adams, Surface and Symbol, p. 233. Ralph W. Rader, professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of Tennyson’s “Maud”: The Biographical Genesis. He is currently working on a theoretical study of form in the novel and other genres. His previous contributions to Critical Inquiry include “The Literary Theoretical Contribution of Sheldon Sacks” and “The Dramatic Monologue and Related Lyric Forms”
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