BURGESSThere's a question of plausibility, of course; but also of social class; and Burgess has a point about the duty of a novelist engaged upon an exercise like Ulysses to pay attention to the details. But this lush, affirmative blurring of the border between the fictional Major's daughter from Gibraltar and the actual Dublin woman in Joyce's life is surely precisely the point here, a bug not a feature?
I’m interested in what sounds Joyce is hearing when he is writing down the speech of Molly Bloom and Leopold Bloom and the minor characters. It’s a matter of great literary import, I would suggest, because the final monologue of Molly Bloom inclines a particular way of speech which is not consonant with her declared background. Here in Joyce there is something very implausible about the fact that Molly Bloom is the daughter of a major, brought up in the Gibraltar garrison, coming to Dublin speaking and thinking like any low Dublin fishwife. This seems to be totally inconsistent, and the point has not even been made before. I know Gibraltar better than Joyce did and better than most Joyce scholars. I’m trying to examine this.
If Molly’s monologue is too elegant, isn’t it one of Joyce’s points to have the poetic emerge from the demotic?
It’s not elegant enough. I mean the fact that she uses Irish locutions like “Pshaw.” She would not use any such term, she would not.
There’s a geographical thing.
There’s a pattern implied. There’s a social thing. In a very small garrison town like Gibraltar with this man, Major Tweedy, whose previous wife is Spanish, his half-Spanish daughter would speak either Spanish as a first language (and not with the usual grammar) or English as a first language—but certainly both languages, in the first instance in an Andalusian way, and in the second instance in a totally class-conscious, pseudo-patrician way. She would not come back to Dublin and suddenly start speaking like a Dublin fishwife.
So Molly’s language is probably closer in terms of social background to that of Nora Barnacle.
It is indeed; this final image is an image of Nora Barnacle and not of Molly at all. And as we know from Nora’s letters, Joyce must have studied the letters and learned from them how to set down this warm womanly pattern of speech. Nora wrote the letters totally without punctuation, and sometimes it is hard to distinguish between a chunk of one of Nora’s letters and a chunk of Molly’s final monologue.
Friday, 15 July 2011
Burgess on Molly Bloom's soliloquy
This is interesting: I've not read Joysprick, but stumbled upon a 1972 Paris Review interview with Burgess, in which he discusses the register and level of Molly Bloom's soliloquy: