Molly Bloom  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Molly Bloom is a fictional character in the novel Ulysses by James Joyce. The wife of main character Leopold Bloom, she roughly corresponds to Penelope in the Odyssey. The major difference between Molly and Penelope is that while Penelope is eternally faithful, Molly is not, having an affair with Hugh 'Blazes' Boylan after ten years of her celibacy within the marriage. Molly, whose given name is Marion, was born in Gibraltar in 1870, the daughter of Major Tweedy, an Irish military officer, and Lunita Laredo, a Gibraltarian of Spanish Jewish descent. Molly and Leopold were married in 1888. She is the mother of Milly Bloom, who, at the age of 15, has left home to study photography. She is also the mother of Rudy Bloom, who died at the age of 11 days. In Dublin, Molly is an opera singer of some renown.

The final chapter of Ulysses, often called "Molly Bloom's Soliloquy", is a long, unpunctuated stream of consciousness passage comprising her thoughts as she lies in bed next to Bloom.


Molly Bloom's Soliloquy

Molly Bloom's soliloquy refers to the eighteenth, and final, "episode" of James Joyce's novel Ulysses in which the thoughts of Molly Bloom are presented in contrast to the previous narrators, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus Molly's physicality is often contrasted with the intellectualism of the male characters, Stephen Dedalus in particular.

Joyce's novel presented the action with numbered "episodes" rather than named chapters. Most critics since Stuart Gilbert, in his James Joyce's Ulysses, have named the episodes and they are often called chapters. The final chapter is referred to as "Penelope", after Molly's mythical counterpart. One major difference between Molly and Penelope is that while Penelope is eternally faithful, Molly is not, having an affair with Hugh 'Blazes' Boylan after ten years of her celibacy within the marriage (though some critics, including Gilbert, point out that the celibacy of Penelope is questionable).

In the course of the monologue, Molly accepts Leopold into her bed, frets about his health, and then reminisces about their first meeting and about when she knew she was in love with him. The final words of Molly's reverie, and the very last words of the book, are:

"...I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes. "

Joyce noted in a 1921 letter to Frank Budgen that "[t]he last word (human, all too human) is left to Penelope." The episode both begins and ends with "yes," a word that Joyce described as "the female word" and that he said indicated "acquiescence and the end of all resistance." This last, clear "yes" stands in sharp contrast to her unintelligible first spoken line in the fourth chapter of the novel.

Molly's soliloquy consists of eight enormous "sentences." The concluding period following the final words of her reverie is one of only two punctuation marks in the chapter, the periods at the end of the fourth and eighth "sentences". When written this episode contained the longest "sentence" in English literature, 4,391 words expressed by Molly Bloom (it was surpassed in 2001 by Jonathan Coe's The Rotters' Club).


Joyce modelled the character upon his wife, Nora Barnacle; indeed, the day upon which the novel is set — June 16, 1904, now called Bloomsday — is that of their first date. Nora Barnacle's letters also almost entirely lacked capitalization or punctuation; Anthony Burgess has said that "sometimes it is hard to distinguish between a chunk of one of Nora's letters and a chunk of Molly's final monologue". Some research also points to another possible model for Molly in Amalia Popper, one of Joyce's students to whom he taught English while living in Trieste. Amalia Popper was the daughter of a Jewish businessman named Leopoldo Popper, who had worked for a European freight forwarding company (Adolf Blum & Popper) founded in 1875 in its headquarters in Hamburg by Adolf Blum, after whom Leopold Bloom was named. In the (now published) manuscript Giacomo Joyce, are images and themes Joyce used in Ulysses and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Cultural references

  • J.M. Coetzee's novel Elizabeth Costello portrays the fictional writer Costello as the author of a fictional novel, The House on Eccles Street, which is written from Molly Bloom's point of view.
  • Molly Bloom is a British underground rock band.
  • Kate Bush's song "The Sensual World" is based on Molly Bloom's soliloquy.
  • Molly Bloom's soliloquy was also used as the basis for a dance song by Amber, titled "Yes."
  • The soliloquy is also featured in a Rodney Dangerfield movie, Back to School, wherein it is read aloud to a college English class by Dr. Diane Turner (played by Sally Kellerman).
  • It was also the inspiration for the Kate Bush song "The Sensual World". Originally Bush had written the song to directly quote Ulysses, but Joyce's estate refused permission. Thus she rewrote the lyrics, but it still is very much about Molly Bloom's soliloquy. Bush's 2011 album Director's Cut includes a version of the track with the original Joyce text, entitled "Flower of the Mountain".
  • Part of the soliloquy is quoted by the character Molly Greaney in the Susan Turlish play Lafferty's Wake.
  • The character Ralph Spoilsport recites the end of the soliloquy as the last lines of the Firesign Theatre's album "How Can You Be In Two Places At Once (When You're Not Anywhere At All)"

Further reading

  • Blamires, Harry (1988). The New Bloomsday Book: A Guide Through Ulysses (Revised Edition Keyed to the Corrected Text). London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-00704-6.
  • Joyce, James (1992). Ulysses: The 1934 Text, as Corrected and Reset in 1961. New York: The Modern Library. ISBN 0-679-60011-6.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Molly Bloom" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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