The following thoughts are from Mary Beth, a member of our group:
I’m reading with the assumption that each title is a sign of the content that follows.
Consider “Dear Dirty Dublin.” First of all, as Gifford points out, JJ tried to use all the classical Rhetorical Figures (figures of speech) in the Aeolus chapter. “Dear Dirty Dublin” is an example of at least two: alliteration , oxymoron and/or synoeceiosis.* The contradiction/contrast in the rhetorical figures of the headline applies also to the content of its section. For example, I wasn’t sure at first if the two “vestals” were truly elderly and pious (“dear”) as directly stated, because they are followed by Stephen’s memory of the (“dirty”) prostitutes . Clues do come in later sections, but I’m still not sure if the two women are pious or prostitutes (the same ambiguity surrounds the role of vestal virgins) or reformed prostitutes.
We are led to think about contradiction and ambiguity two headline sections before “Dear Dirty Dublin.” In “Ominous—For Him,” there is a reference to Macduff (line 10). In Macbeth “fair is foul and foul is fair.” For example, Lady Macbeth says ambiguously to King Duncan on his arrival: “All our service/In every point twice done, and then done double” (I vi). (They have prepared their hospitality and they also have prepared to murder Duncan so that Macbeth can assume the crown, as the witches prophesied he would.) The duplicitous witches (“Double, double, toil and trouble…”) make three prophecies for Macbeth when he consults them later. One is “Beware Macduff.” Another is “No man of woman born shall harm Macbeth.” Macbeth believes, then, that he really has nothing to fear from Macduff—until he is confronted by Macduff, who reveals that he was not born, but was “from my mother’s womb untimely ripped.” Then he kills Macbeth.
My question is why does JJ make us think about Macbeth at this point. Hmmmm … Well, Blamires says a theme of the Aeolus chapter is disappointment. There are few characters in literature who are more disappointed than ambitious Macbeth. Could this be the connection?
The two “vestals” and contrast and ambiguity appear again in the headline section following “Dear Dirty Dublin.” One vestal ‘s use of Lourdes water is contrasted with the other’s drink of Guiness double-X (more double!). The former has been given Lourdes water by a Trappist, monk who vows to convert sinners. Has she been reformed by him? Perhaps the latter, who drinks double-x and eats pig (symbol of gluttony) feet (unclean), is still a sinner, now guilty of gluttony. Thus, we have a wise and a foolish virgin, the parable referred to at the end of “Dear Dirty Dublin!”
Perhaps the ultimate contradiction implied in the headline is that Dublin is truly dear to the Irish, while at the same time dirtied by British control.
I don’t know if all of the headlines can be read so deeply, nor if each one links so deeply to sections before and after and to the themes of the entire book. That’s my challenge to you!
- oxymoron: “the conjoining of contradictory terms so as to give point to the statement… “ (Gifford,639)
- synoeceiosis: “contrasted or heterogeneous things are associated or coupled such as contrary qualities attributed to the same subject…” (Gifford, 638)