Where is my hat?

Where is my hat?

In Brief

On his way to the outhouse, Bloom notices a void in his memory: "Where is my hat, by the way? Must have put it back on the peg. Or hanging up on the floor. Funny, I don't remember that. Hallstand too full. Four umbrellas, her raincloak. Picking up the letters. Drago's shopbell ringing." Acknowledging these discontinuities in consciousness is one aspect of the realism of Joyce's prose style, and in this case it probably registers the shock that Bloom received upon seeing Boylan's letter.

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The narrative has represented his return to 7 Eccles Street: "Two letters and a card lay on the hallfloor. He stooped and gathered them. Mrs Marion Bloom. His quickened heart slowed at once. Bold hand. Mrs Marion." It has also showed his return to the bedroom, upstairs: "Entering the bedroom he halfclosed his eyes and walked through warm yellow twilight towards her tousled head." The time between, however, is a blank.

In "The Rhetoric of Silence," JJQ 14.4 (Summer 1977): 382-94, Hugh Kenner observes that "Novelists normally don't know where characters' hats are. The heady experience of frequenting a novelist who does know may encourage us to turn back, expecting to find out more about Bloom than Bloom knows himself." In this case, Kenner notes that Bloom has been gripped, in the street, by a vivid apprehension of old age and death, and when he emerges from it he wants only "to smell the gentle smoke of tea, fume of the pan, sizzling butter. Be near her ample bedwarmed flesh. Yes, yes." But when he enters the front door, his attention is arrested by another "unpleasant jolt," from seeing Boylan's letter. "Not only is 'Mrs Marion' a way of affirming that there is no Mr. Leopold worth considering, the 'bold hand' is recognizably Boylan's, and we are having our first experience with the principle that any irruption of Boylan into Bloom's field of attention has the effect of suspending his faculties. That is why he is not aware of what he did with his hat" (384).

The gap in the narrative, then, corresponds to a blankness in Bloom's mind that is best conveyed by silence. Bloom's remark on his mental lapse—"Funny I don't remember that"—points both to an interesting feature of human psychology and to the "rhetoric of silence" by which Joyce's prose style evokes that psychology.

John Hunt 2014
An English oak hallstand ca. 1890, with coat and hat hooks, a drawer for gloves, and drip trays for umbrellas. Source: www.antiques-atlas.com.