Character Analysis Hugh Blazes" Boylan"


Molly Bloom presents the most complete picture of her lover of June 16, 1904, in "Penelope," but other glimpses of Blazes Boylan are scattered throughout Ulysses. In fact, Boylan's presence in Bloom's mind is ubiquitous, and several times in the novel, Bloom's thoughts of his rival call forth his physical appearance. Bloom's daughter, Milly, has been sent to Mulligar by her father so that she will be away from home during the upcoming affair; yet her letter mentions Boylan: "Tell him silly Milly sends my best respects." On the way to Glasnevin Cemetery (in "Hades"), Boylan passes by the carriage of mourners; and Simon Dedalus, Martin Cunningham, and Jack Power all praise Boylan — as Bloom sits quietly staring at his nails (a Christocentric symbol since Bloom is being nailed to the Cross by the marital infidelity), and he wonders how otherwise sensible men can like the "worst man in Dublin." In "The Lestrygonians," Bloom's thoughts that Boylan may have venereal disease (an improbable, passing, though painful consideration) precede Boylan's appearance, and the sight of his trademarks, a straw hat and tan shoes, forces Bloom to flee into the museum. When Bloom does manage to summon the courage to follow Boylan into the Ormond Hotel in "The Sirens," he sits in another room so that Boylan can't see him, as Boylan "warms up" with a drink before his meeting with Molly.

Despite the fact that Boylan is a "man's man" — a manager of a fighter, an advertising man, and a fine singer in a city that venerated the male voice — Joyce makes it clear that Blazes is a shallow sort, in many ways a stereotypical seducer. When Blazes stops into Thornton's to purchase a bottle of wine and some fruit to be sent to Molly before his visit, he looks down into the salesgirl's blouse, and Joyce permits the reader a glance at Boylan's thought processes: He regards the young woman simply as a "young pullet," and he thus reveals his inability to see beyond the physical. Molly has so little trust in the tricky Boylan (he once spread rumors that his fighter was drinking beer during training and then made money by betting on his underdog) that she thinks the presents might be Boylan's way of avoiding the assignation.

In many ways, then, Boylan is a humorous self-parody, a Dublin Priapus. He flirts with the (not unwilling) bargirls in the Ormond Hotel just before he leaves to see Molly, and the expression associated with him, "Cockcarracarra," signals both his sexual capacities and his conscienceless betrayal of human emotions. And Joyce suggests that, even after experiencing (possibly) four sexual climaxes with Molly, Boylan may be the man who, having lost on the Gold Cup Race, has come to Nighttown in "Circe" to find a prostitute.

Nor does Boylan make any attempt to cover up his deeds, even though he does know Bloom personally. In "Ithaca," Bloom finds several obvious signs of Boylan's recent presence: torn-up betting tickets, a depleted bottle of port, furniture rearranged so that Boylan and Molly could sing "Love's Old Sweet Song" together, cigarette butts, and an impression left in the Blooms' bed by a male (not Bloom). The crumbs of Plumtree's Potted Meat, carelessly left in this Penelopian bed, suggest the vulgarity of Boylan's lovemaking, since "to pot the meat' is Dublin slang for sexual intercourse.

Nor does Boylan deceive Molly, who is only too aware of his vulgarity. Boylan undressed casually in front of her, slapped her on the rump in a too familiar manner as he was leaving, and probably allowed Molly to determine the tone and manner of their sex. Molly does not deceive herself into believing that she and Boylan have any chance of a future together; she is using Boylan for relief from a quirkish husband as much as he is using her, and she considers how she can force him to buy presents for her. Molly knows how jealous and angry Boylan can be, however, and she hopes that Bloom does not change his mind and decide to accompany the two on the upcoming concert tour. She would have to sleep with Bloom in one room, and Boylan would be in another, and he would never believe that nothing sexual occurred between her and Bloom. Then, too, Boylan did tear up the losing racing tickets right in front of her in a fit of anger, not a very sophisticated way to act on a first seduction.

Given Boylan's coarseness, it is possible that Bloom may win Molly back. Boylan's phallic choice in the Gold Cup, Sceptre, did lose the race, which was won by the darkhorse, Throwaway, symbolic of Bloom. Molly will probably accede to Bloom's wishes for breakfast in bed later on the morning of June 17. And her last thoughts are of her husband. Above all, even if Bloom does lose Molly to Boylan, Bloom finds comfort in knowing that Blazes is only the "last term of a preceding series . . . ."