In Brief

On "Whitmonday," Bloom thinks in Calypso, "That bee or bluebottle here" (. . . did something or other). In Lestrygonians the reader learns what it did: "Still I got to know that young Dixon who dressed that sting for me in the Mater." Bloom was stung in the garden area behind his house on May 23.

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Whitmonday is the day after Whitsunday, which falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter. Gifford notes that it is a bank holiday in Ireland, which suggests that Bloom may have been enjoying himself at home at the end of a three-day weekend when the incident occurred.

Many people would remember a bee having stung them three weeks earlier, but not many (unless they were severely allergic) would run to the nearby hospital to be treated by a doctor. Bloom's babyish alarm confirms what Molly thinks about him in Penelope: "if his nose bleeds youd think it was O tragic." It is the subject of hilarious parody in Oxen of the Sun: "the traveller Leopold came there to be healed for he was sore wounded in his breast by a spear wherewith a horrible and dreadful dragon was smitten him for which he did do make a salve of volatile salt and chrism as much as he might suffice." (One can make such a chrism for oneself, at home, with baking soda and water.)

In addition to earning him the name of wimp, Bloom's reaction to the incident betrays a lack of entomological curiosity. Bees sting, but the bluebottle does not. Only slightly larger than a housefly, it possesses very similar anatomy and behavior.

JH 2017
A bluebottle fly, Calliphora vomitoria, photographed by Jens Buurgaard Nielsen. Source: Wikimedia Commons.