In Episode 7, I failed to mention the connection to the Homeric theme of “wind”. How could this happen!? As in Aeolus is the Greek God of the Winds. You know, Aeolus?? That guy.
Any reader, or anyone who has persevered this far, can see the metaphor at work in Episode 7. The most obvious being the wind coming out of all the characters as they go on and on about the events of the day. Chatter , rhetoric, hot air, and general rambling juxtapose against the headlines and flurry of activity of the town (the movement of the trams, etc.).
The telling of the “Parable of the Plums”, by Stephen, is attempted to be told in a straightforward manner. It’s a new effort by Stephen to enter into the world of intellectuals/artists, and though it’s met with enthusiasm by the men, you can tell they aren’t really paying all that much attention as distractions abound.
The parable itself tells the story of two oldish ladies going for an outing to Nelson’s Pillar. They take cash from their savings to buy what amounts to a picnic, including some nice ripe plums. They also purchase tickets to climb up to the top of the monument, which they do in a pant (see the wind theme?). Once they reach the top, they are too worn out to look at the view and instead begin eating their plums, spitting out the pits through the railings, we suppose to drop on any passersby below.
I’ve been to the monument to Lord Nelson in London a handful of times (and have also seen the spire that replaced the former monument in Dublin, destroyed by the IRA) celebrating his triumph over France, the seas, and the general western world. When I did a bit of research into the Dublin column, I found it was erected in 1808 and generally viewed, during Joyce’s time at least over a Century later, as a symbol of British “control” over Ireland. I find this all very strangely sci-fi, the idea of objects being erected to display and exert dominance over a people. It’s kind of interesting to think about this being an old-y technique.
So, of course it would happen there are all sorts of interpretations of Stephen’s parable, both as it stands as a parable, as it relates to Stephen specifically as a character, within the confines of Joyce’s Ulysses, and within Aeolis the “episode”.
Concerning the first, parable as parable: I’ve read a discussion of the phallic symbol of both the column and the plum tree in relation to the elderly ladies (spinsters = virgins); another journal article discussed the enthusiastic support given by the Freemason’s Newspaper (the office our characters are sitting in during this episode) during the time of Nelson’s death a Century earlier and the general protestant leanings of the paper; still another theory goes into a bit of a stretch drawing parallels between Molly and Nelson’s lover, Lady Hamilton. In this theory, I think Nelson and his pillar are meant to be symbolic of Blazes Boylan doing one over on Bloom.
It was interesting reading the various interpretations of the Plums tale. I also learned a bit – including the little known factoid that when Nelson died his body was preserved in brandy in order to get the hero across the seas and home to England before he decomposed too badly. This doesn’t have much bearing on the story of the day, namely Stephen and Bloom and how they are getting on in Ireland circa 1904.