Academic journal article European Joyce Studies

Bloom's Dream Cottage and Crusoe's Island: Man Caves

Academic journal article European Joyce Studies

Bloom's Dream Cottage and Crusoe's Island: Man Caves

Article excerpt

[Stephen Dedalus] pored over a ragged translation of The Count of Monte Cristo .... At night he built up on the parlour table an image of the wonderful island cave out of transfers and paper flowers and coloured tissue paper and strips of the silver and golden paper in which chocolate is wrapped.

p 62

"Joyce was a great admirer of Defoe", Frank Budgen recorded. "He possessed his complete works, and had read every line of them".1 Such admiration is amply demonstrated in the lecture on Defoe that Joyce delivered at the Universita Populare Triestina in March 1912, the first of two on the subject "Realism and Idealism in English Literature" (ocpw 163-75). Something of Joyce's esteem may derive from identification with an author who, the lecture notes, was made to stand in the pillory and whose work was burned by the hangman.2 The primary interest in Defoe, however, is in the introduction of realism into English fiction. Hugh Kenner says that "no novelist has ever been more indebted" to Defoe than Joyce, and with equal justice Michael Seidel - like Kenner an admirable reader of both novelists - writes of "the accoutrements of realism" that Joyce learned from Defoe.3

I will focus not on the indebtedness or the accoutrements but on affinities between Leopold Bloom - Joyce's Irish Ulysses - and Robinson Crusoe - his English Ulysses.4 One of the wonders that Bloom performs in "Circe" is contorting his face to resemble Crusoe's, and the two characters indeed resemble each other in significant respects (u 15.1848). Seidel opens a fine essay on Defoe with lines from "Hades" in which Bloom remembers from a popular song, "O, poor Robinson Crusoe! / How could you possibly do so?" (u 6.813-14).5 Noting that Bloom is thereby posing "an exile's question to another exile", Seidel associates not only Crusoe and Bloom but with them Odysseus and the Hebrews of Exodus. Joyce's modern Odysseus does appear to be an exile through much of Ulysses: he is the wandering Jew, the hero declared in "Cyclops" to have no country, the keyless citizen, and the cuckold who spends most of June 16 away from the site of his wife's adulterous assignation. Furthermore, as the throwaway Bloom is the polytropic man of many devices the castaway Crusoe is the jack of all trades who becomes "architect, carpenter, knife-grinder, astronomer, baker, shipwright, potter, saddler, farmer, tailor, umbrella-maker, and cleric" - as Joyce says, exhibiting the fondness for listmaking that he shares with Defoe (ocpw 174).

It may be true that no man is an island, but many men - and many women and children - dream of escape to islands, some even succumbing to the disease Lawrence Durrell diagnosed as "islomania".6 In D.H. Lawrence's cautionary fable "The Man Who Loved Islands", the protagonist, an Englishman and thus an islander to begin with, migrates to smaller and smaller islands. On the first one he purchases, he comes to be referred to as "the Master" not only by tradespeople and by his servants and tenants, but also by himself and the narrator.7 Searching for a "world of pure perfection, made by man himself", he wishes to "regain paradise".8 As might be expected, the quest ends disastrously. On the tiny island that is his final home, the Master comes to detest humankind, finding even his cat and a half dozen sheep more company than he can tolerate; at the end of the story, as falling snow obliterates the treeless landscape, he awaits imminent and solitary death.

When Joyce turns in his Trieste lecture to what he terms Defoe's "masterpiece", he describes Crusoe as "that great solitary figure who ... obtains, to the applause of the simple hearts of many a man and boy, his citizenship in the world of letters" (ocpw Γ74).9 It is noteworthy that Joyce speaks of the approval of boys as well as men, for the novel does appeal deeply to boys, so much so that an anonymous critic writing in 1855 complained that its acclaim was based on their liking.10 Insight into what many youths find in the novel was suggested in a web advertisement for an outfit selling "personalised" college admissions essays. …

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