In Brief

In Lotus Eaters, as Bloom strains to catch a glimpse of a woman's delicately stockinged leg across the street, his view is suddenly and violently interrupted: "A heavy tramcar honking its gong slewed between." His frustrated reaction, "Curse your noisy pugnose," may at first seem directed at the man beside him, since M'Coy has been babbling inanely and Bloom has tried to keep him from blocking his view of the action. But a reader who holds on to this little facial detail will discover in later chapters that the pugnose actually belongs to the man driving the  tram. Strangely, Bloom supposes that the motorman has intentionally interfered with his sexual fantasy.

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The tram blocks Bloom's view only a moment after he tries to keep M'Coy from blocking it: "He moved a little to the side of M'Coy's talking head. Getting up in a minute." After this comical objectification of a noise-making head, "noisy pugnose" sounds like more of the same. But in fact Bloom has taken a different noise—the trolley's clanging gong—and attached it to a different face. Lestrygonians finds Bloom absurdly supposing that the tram's motorman deliberately moved his car forward in order to frustrate his lecherous gazing: "Up with her on the car: wishswish.... Think that pugnosed driver did it out of spite."

In Circe this fantasy of a malevolent tram driver becomes a hallucination in which a municipal "sandstrewer" transforms into a DUTC "trolley" and nearly runs him down:


(Halts erect, stung by a spasm.) Ow!

(He looks round, darts forward suddenly. Through rising fog a dragon sandstrewer, travelling at caution, slews heavily down upon him, its huge red headlight winking, its trolley hissing on the wire. The motorman bangs his footgong.)

                                THE GONG

Bang Bang Bla Bak Blud Bugg Bloo.

(The brake cracks violently. Bloom, raising a policeman's whitegloved hand, blunders stifflegged out of the track. The motorman, thrown forward, pugnosed, on the guidewheel, yells as he slides past over chains and keys.)

                            THE MOTORMAN

Hey, shitbreeches, are you doing the hat trick?

Perhaps nothing more than sound-play is involved, but the tram driver's pugnose is linked later in Circe with Bloom's confession of a dark sexual deed. When Bello demands, "Say! What was the most revolting piece of obscenity in all your career of crime? Go the whole hog. Puke it out! Be candid for once…. Answer. Repugnant wretch! I insist on knowing," Bloom stammers out: "I rererepugnosed in rerererepugnant..." The offending driver's pushed-in nose here morphs into a nose that has relished pushing itself into offensive things. Does Bloom translate the demand that he confess a "Repugnant" action into the similar-sounding "repugnosed" because his humiliation at the hands of a dominatrix somehow calls up the sexual frustration he endured earlier in the day?

Thanks to Scott Shepherd for pointing out to me the person to whom the noisy pugnose belongs!

JH 2022
A motorman at the controls of a tram on the Dalkey line, probably taken in 1898. Source: www.tramwaybadgesandbuttons.com.
Detail of a photograph taken in front of the Monkstown church, probably in 1897. Source: www.tramwaybadgesandbuttons.com.
Motorman and conductor of a tram at the Whitehall terminus, probably taken in the early 1910s. Source: www.tramwaybadgesandbuttons.com.