The Final Voice

Honestly, I am not sure why Joyce ends Ulysses with an episode in Molly’s voice. At the same time, I don’t think I would have been satisfied if had ended with the Bloom in the previous episode. Although I don’t exactly know why, giving voice to Molly just makes sense in a way. The novel has been such a “man novel.” We’ve lived inside the heads of the men for almost the entire time, and although women have been an important part of the novel, they’ve been presented from the perspective of men. So it is almost odd that after everything, Molly, a woman, would get the final word. It does something to reverse the gender roles, I think. Bloom, the husband, is denied the final episode.

There are a lot of ways in which I think these gender roles might be reversed. For example, Molly seems to dominate the relationship. Bloom cowers before her, lets her treat him poorly, and is passive about anything that bothers him. He has an affair on paper only, with his erotic pen pal, while Molly actually has affairs with other men. Several times throughout the book, Bloom is identified as being the husband to Molly. At the end of “Ithaca” we learn that Bloom and Molly have not had sex since Rudy died. Bloom is essentially impotent, while Molly, at the end of the episode, is described as “fulfilled, recumbent, big with seed” (606). When I think about all of these things, it only makes sense that Molly would get to end the novel instead of Bloom. I am not exactly sure what that means though. I’m also unsure as to how we are supposed to feel about this episode. Jack and Will both make good arguments, and I can see both of them. On the one hand, Molly did choose Bloom. And her “yes” to him is romantic in someways, and I’d like to think that she loves him. On the other hand, now that time has gone by, they are no longer happy in their marriage and we have learned more and more about that throughout all of Ulysses. So I am conflicted about how this ending is supposed to make me feel. But I wonder if that is what Joyce intended. Nothing else about this book has been easy, so why should the ending be? I also wonder what this ending says about the novel as an art form, since that has been so important. But I’m not exactly sure about that either.

 

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