Must get glasses

Must get glasses

In Brief

In addition to the bad teeth that maybe he should spend some of his drinking money on, and the beaten-up country shoes and old pants that he has accepted from Mulligan, and the handkerchief that he forgot to pick up from the floor in the tower, on June 16 Stephen has no glasses for his bad eyes. Striking a match in Circe and attempting to light his cigarette, he thinks of how history has repeated itself from the painful time at Clongowes when his glasses were smashed on the cinderpath.

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Watching Stephen struggle to light the cigarette, Lynch tactfully remarks that "You would have a better chance of lighting it if you held the match nearer." Stephen does so and says, "Must get glasses. Broke them yesterday. Sixteen years ago." The earlier accident, mentioned in part 1 of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, precipitated the cruelly unjust beating by Father Dolan, an incident that will spring back to life a page later in Circe. Zoe says to Stephen, "I see it in your face," and on cue the top of the pianola flies open and Father Dolan pops out like a jack-in-the-box: "Any boy want flogging? Broke his glasses? Lazy idle little schemer. See it in your eye."

In an eternal return of the same befitting Joyce's cyclical view of history, the glasses are now smashed once again. The tender six-year-old's naive faith in justice has been replaced by the 22-year-old's despairing conviction that "History is a nightmare," but life keeps cycling through its little jokes.

John Hunt 2024