Moody brooding

Moody brooding

In Brief

"— Don't mope over it all day, he said. I'm inconsequent. Give up the moody brooding." Mulligan seems graciously self-deprecating here, but he is, in effect, saying that Stephen should grieve more moderately and less irrationally, and the novel manages to insinuate, by multiple allusions, that his motives are quite selfish. Although the word "brood" prompts him to quote immediately afterward from a gentle and goodnatured poem by Yeats, the chapter's ongoing allusions to Homer's Odyssey and Shakespeare's Hamlet link him to less savory advice-givers.

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The brooding likens Stephen to Telemachus, who is mocked by the insolent suitors, and to Hamlet, whose mother urges him to get over his grief and get out of his mourning attire. If so, then Mulligan plays the roles of Antinous, Claudius, and Gertrude, urging the young prince to get over his grief and resentment because it suits their selfish purposes. These three urge good cheer because good cheer affirms their dominant social position and does not irritate their bad conscience. Mulligan occupies exactly the same position.

Although Stephen is tortured by conscience and supposes that English Liberals like Haines may be as well, the novel never gives the slightest indication that Mulligan is troubled by such things.

John Hunt 2011

Mel Gibson as Hamlet and Glenn Close as Gertrude in Franco Zeffirelli's film (1990).