If anyone in Ulysses can be called a good Samaritan
it is Leopold Bloom, and the first sentence of Eumaeus
shows him acting explicitly and exactly like the one in the
Bible: "Preparatory to anything else Mr Bloom brushed off the
greater bulk of the shavings and handed Stephen the hat and
ashplant and bucked him up generally in orthodox Samaritan
fashion which he very badly needed." But Lotus
Eaters slyly undercuts this altruism by having Bloom
recall the question posed to Jesus just before the parable: "Who
is my neighbour?" He thinks of it as he imagines
checking out anonymous women in St. Andrew's church.
Luke's gospel recounts an unbeliever's challenge which Jesus
answers by invoking the two ancient commandments of
Deuteronomy: "And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and
tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit
eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law?
how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love thy
God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all
thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as
thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this
do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself,
said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?" (10.25-29).
Jesus answers the lawyer's implicitly selfish question with
the parable of a Jew who travels from Jerusalem to Jericho and
runs into thieves who rob him of his clothes, wound him, and
leave him "half dead" by the side of the road. A priest
happens by, sees the man, prudently crosses to the other side
of the road, and passes on. A Levite does the same thing. But
a passing Samaritan, one of a sect that was bitterly at odds
with the Jews, "had compassion on him, And went to him, and
bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on
his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of
him" (10.34). Which of these three men, Jesus asks, do you
think was a "neighbour"? The lawyer can only say, the
Samaritan, and Jesus tells him, "Go thou and do likewise."
Joyce scrupulously reproduces the biblical story: military
thugs knock Stephen to the ground, where he appears half dead, and it is a
member of a despised race, not one of Dublin's Christians,
that helps him to his feet, restores his scattered articles of
clothing, escorts him to a place of safety and recuperation (a
cabman's shelter, standing in for the inn), physically
supports him as he staggers out, and takes him into his own
home. Bloom's action is admirable, but this mock-heroic novel
will not let him play the part of a hero in any
straightforward, sentimentally inspiring way. His words in Eumaeus,
the prose style of the narrative itself, and his less than
completely disinterested relationship to Stephen hold the
reader at an ironic distance from any saint's worship.
And then there is the weird allusion to Luke 10 eleven chapters earlier. Bloom steps into the church, sees that there are not many people in it, only some members of a women's sodality, and thinks, "Pity so empty. Nice discreet place to be next some girl. Who is my neighbour?" His logic seems to be that if the church were more crowded, he could sit down beside some pretty girl and worship her from anear. If charitable love can be extended to strangers, why not libidinous love as well? The distinction between caritas and cupiditas is Augustinian, not biblical, but Joyce seems to be using it to add a Bloomian layer of polymorphous perversity ("free love and a free lay church in a free lay state," as Circe wickedly puts it) to Jesus' admonition to love selflessly. In Calypso Bloom directs his erotic attention to "the nextdoor girl" in the butcher shop. Now he asks "Who is my neighbour?" and justifies lusting after complete strangers.