Nor no nothing

Nor no nothing

In Brief

In a chapter defined by recurrence of the word Yes (91 times), Molly's uses of the word No are not only fewer (60) but much more ordinary, less distinctive and expressive—with one significant exception. She did not like it when Boylan slapped her on the behind: "no thats no way for him has he no manners nor no refinement nor no nothing in his nature slapping us behind like that on my bottom because I didnt call him Hugh the ignoramus." Joyce's rhetorically deliberate bunching of n-words here suggests a tipping point in Molly's estimation of her new lover.

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The eight punchy negatives (no, no, no, nor no, nor no nothing) initiate the eighth of Molly's eight "sentences." Clearly they are intended as a bookend to the more conspicuous eight affirmatives that conclude the sentence: "then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes." The Yeses express her affirmation, after skeptical examination, of a marriage that has lasted for nearly 16 years and may endure longer.

The Noes, by contrast, indicate her ambivalence about a liaison that may prove brief: "of course hes right enough in his way to pass the time as a joke sure you might as well be in bed with what with a lion God Im sure hed have something better to say for himself an old Lion would." In the words of Porgy and Bess, Boylan is a sometime thing. In the horse race of Molly's thoughts, the turn into the home stretch, at sentence 8, marks the point where the longshot dark horse begins to overtake his rival. The numerology is surely deliberate: Molly's birthday is September 8, Bloom once sent her "8 big poppies because mine was the 8th," and her literary symbol in Penelope is ∞.

John Hunt 2020