Into my eye

Into my eye

In Brief

The first sentence of the chapter called Cyclops comically identifies the unnamed narrator as a member of that tribe of murderous giants by having him say that "a bloody sweep came along and he near drove his gear into my eye." In the Odyssey, Odysseus and his men disable the Cyclops Polyphemus by waiting for him to fall asleep and then heating a sharpened log in a fire and driving it into his single eye. This Homeric analogue recurs several times within the cavelike confines of Barney Kiernan's.

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Pressed to drink with the men in the pub, the abstemious Bloom resists, "saying he wouldn't and he couldn't and excuse him no offence and all to that and then he said well he'd just take a cigar." The narrator later refers to this lit log in Bloom's hands as a "knockmedown cigar," and when Bloom courageously asserts that his Jewish people have been just as badly persecuted as the Irish have, the image of a stick in the eye seems always to be hovering nearby. The narrator paints a picture of "J. J. and the citizen arguing about law and history with Bloom sticking in an odd word," and then he quotes one of Bloom's interjections: "— Some people, says Bloom, can see the mote in others' eyes but they can't see the beam in their own."

The Citizen, playing the part of Polyphemus in this exchange, does indeed fail to see the beam that has been thrust into his eye: "— Raimeis, says the citizen. There's no-one as blind as the fellow that won't see, if you know what that means. Where are our missing twenty millions of Irish should be here today instead of four, our lost tribes?" Bloom's thrust was too subtle for a shaggy monster to feel.

JH 2014
Odysseus and his men blinding Polyphemos, on a proto-attic amphora, ca. 650 BC, held in the museum of Eleusis. Source: