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“Tatters, Bloom’s Cat, and Other Animals in Ulysses

Department of English, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-2650, USA
Humanities 2017, 6(3), 50;
Original submission received: 5 May 2017 / Revised: 17 July 2017 / Accepted: 17 July 2017 / Published: 20 July 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Joyce, Animals and the Nonhuman)


Given how few animals appear in the stories of Dubliners and in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, we may be surprised to find a dog and a cat playing small roles in the third and fourth chapters of Ulysses. Their appearance in adjacent episodes is neither coincidental nor entirely casual, however, if one takes a careful look at their presentations. The animals’ circumstances are very different. Stephen Dedalus has been walking along the strand at Sandymount, when he spots a dog running along the sand, followed by its owners, a man and a woman whom he assumes to be cocklepickers. In the next chapter, Leopold Bloom is preparing breakfast for his wife when he hears his cat meowing and pours her some milk in a small bowl. It is particularly worth looking at the narration of these two scenarios because the different human perceptions and responses to animals they present help us analyze the challenges of resisting animal anthropomorphizing and its implications for the limitations and boundaries of preserving the status of animal “otherness” in a work of fiction. Put differently, the narrative strategies in “Proteus” and “Calypso” manage to maintain animal identity as that of “actors” rather than “characters,” while demonstrating what is required to maintain this status for them. I will discuss these two animals, dog and cat, in the order in which they appear in Ulysses, as well as a number of other animals appearing later in the work.
dog; cat; actors; interactors

Carrie Rohman’s book, Stalking the Subject: Modernism and the Animal (Rohman 2009), offers detailed studies of the treatment of animals in a collection of modernist writers, including T. S. Eliot, Joseph Conrad, D. H. Lawrence, H. G. Wells, and Djuna Barnes. However, James Joyce is alluded to only once in the text, on page 33, and not in relation to animals but for attitudes toward Jews. Rohman’s exclusion reflects the minimal role of animals in Joyce’s work, particularly his early fiction. But animals do appear in Joyce’s Ulysses (Joyce 1986) and Finnegans Wake, with particularly interesting small roles played by a dog and a cat in the third and fourth chapters of Ulysses. Their appearance in adjacent episodes is neither coincidental nor entirely casual, if one takes a careful look at their presentations. The animals’ circumstances are very different. Stephen Dedalus has been walking along the strand at Sandymount, when he spots a dog running along the sand, followed by its owners, a man and a woman whom he assumes to be cockle-pickers. In the next chapter, Leopold Bloom is preparing breakfast for his wife when he hears his cat meowing, and pours her some milk in a small bowl. It is particularly worth looking at the narration of these two scenarios, because the different human perceptions and responses to animals they present help us analyze the challenges of resisting animal anthropomorphizing and its implications for the limitations and boundaries of preserving the status of animal “otherness” in a work of fiction. Put differently, the narrative strategies in “Proteus” and “Calypso” manage to maintain animal identity as that of “actors” rather than “characters,” while demonstrating what is required to maintain this status for them. Although my major focus will give attention to Tatters and Bloom’s cat through the narrative strategies that present them to the reader, I will also look at a few other animals, including the seagulls Bloom feeds in “Lestrygonians,” the citizen’s dog Garryowen in “Cyclops,” and the dog Bloom encounters in Nighttown, to add further perspective to the animal representations in Ulysses. With these later animals, as with Tatters and Bloom’s cat, Joyce generally eschews anthropomorphism, defined in Wikipedia as “the attribution of human traits, emotions, and intentions to non-human entities.” The literary consequences of the tendency to give animals human characteristics shapes their representation in such genres as fables and fairy tales, where they speak and perform human actions. In Ulysses, the earlier bio-centric presentations of animals become anthropomorphically violated mainly in the fantasies of the “Circe” episode.
The first dog on the scene in “Proteus” is dead. Stephen Dedalus has decided to sit down on a rock, with his ashplant resting beside him, when he spots the “bloated carcass of a dog” (3.286)1. Then, a live dog comes on the scene, and we learn that like Joyce himself, Stephen is afraid of dogs. “Lord, is he going to attack me?” he thinks when he spots the dog, and then remembers “I have my stick. Sit tight” (3.295). Stanislaus Joyce’s explanation of how Joyce came to fear dogs offers an interesting resonance to the setting of this scene. “My brother’s fear of dogs and preference for cats dates from the time when he was badly bitten by an excited Irish terrier, for which he and I were both throwing stones into the sea on the beach near the sea-bathing establishment,” he writes in My Brother’s Keeper (Joyce 1958, p. 4). In Ulysses, the dog runs toward Stephen, then back again toward two barefoot figures Stephen likens to gypsies or “red Egyptians” (3.370). But he sits tight and his mind wanders over a world of historical disasters: the Danish invasion of Ireland, the Great Famine, the Black Plague, and many others—“Terribilia meditans” (3.311), he thinks, meditating on terrible things. He contrasts himself unfavorably to Mulligan, who “saved men from drowning and you shake at a cur’s yelping” (3.317).
The description of the dog that follows shows him ambling along the bank, trotting, sniffing, and then racing off to chase a “lowskimming gull” (3.335). His owner whistles a loud shriek and we learn that the dog has “limp ears.” He bounds back, lifts his head to bark at the waves curling toward his feet, yelps and runs back toward his owners, rears up and paws at them, drops back down on all fours, rears back up to paw them some more. He is panting and his tongue is hanging out. He has a “speckled body,” we are told, and he now sees the dead carcass and stops to circle it and sniff it rapidly, at which his owner shouts at him “Tatters! Outofthat, you mongrel!” (3.353) and gives him a “blunt bootless kick” that sends him “unscathed” across the sand. The dog’s name, his designation as a “cur” by Stephen and as a mongrel by his owner, indicate a mixed breed—a characteristic of no particular significance with respect to an animal whose immense vitality dominates the scene and captures our attention.
Stephen has been watching him, we now learn—”Doesn’t see me” (3.356)—and Tatters now runs along a rock, smells it, and “under a cocked hindleg pissed against it. He trotted forward and, lifting again his hindleg, pissed quick short at an unsmelt rock.” Stephen thinks “The simple pleasures of the poor.” The dog then scatters the sand with his hind legs, and paws and scrapes the sand with his front legs. Stephen’s thoughts return to his dream of the previous night, and he then watches the gypsies shoulder their bags and walk off. Tatters appears to have run ahead and they follow him, and soon they are all gone, “Passing now” (3.389). Besides characterizing the dog’s urination as a simple pleasure of the poor, Stephen thinks of him as looking “for something lost in a past life” when he sees him “sniffing on all sides” (3.331). But otherwise his thoughts impose few features on the animal, and this prompts us to ask how Tatters becomes so “alive” in this section? The immediate response is that the narrative obliges us to contrast him with the dead “dogsbody’s body” lying on the strand—an inanimate object that is totally unlike Tatters, whose every movement and action display a charged and potent life.
We might turn here to the work of Lubomír Doležel, a theorist of possible worlds in the realm of fiction, who points out the variety of roles animals may play in literary narratives. These range from serving as mere objects in the imagination of humans, to action and possible interaction with humans, and to assuming a constructed human status in fables and fairytales (Doležel 1998, p. 58). Tatters belongs in the middle category, with activities that animate not only his body but also his interior or mental state, and with behavior that implies emotions ranging from energetic excitement to fear and gloom in the way he skulks, crouches, and slinks after being kicked. At the same time, the narration does not project human characteristics onto him, but observes a principle articulated by Donna Haraway when she writes about dogs, “They are not a projection, nor the realization of an intention, nor the telos of anything. They are dogs, i.e., a species in obligatory, constitutive, historical, protean relationship with human beings” (Haraway 2003, p. 11). The narrative voice abides by this and merely endows Tatters with an intense liveliness. Yet, it also goes beyond this with a curious poetic strategy that manages to metaphorize the dog with a number of animal allusions without anthropomorphizing him.
When Tatters suddenly bounds off after trotting and sniffing, he is described as “a bounding hare, ears flung back.” His ears are flung back when he bounds, but when he halts with “stiff forehoofs,” his ears point toward the sea. When he barks, he lifts his “snout,” and later, tired and panting, his “wolf’s tongue” hangs from his jaws, before he lopes off “at a calf’s gallop” (3.334–48). Humans express emotions not only in words but also in facial expressions, and the dog’s ears, tongue, the lift of his head, and movements do so as well. In addition, Tatters is here given the speed of a hare, the hoofs of a goat, perhaps, a snout reminiscent of a pig, the tongue of a wolf and the gallop of a calf. Joyce could have added tropes giving him human traits—something like “the speed of a racer,” or “a thirsty fellow’s tongue”—but he avoids this to good effect. By flagging his kinship to other animal species rather than to the human, the narration plants the dog in a bio-centric world beyond the human and cultural one we imagine him inhabiting, and one that counteracts another feature of the language that would turn him into a piece of art or a static symbol. Gifford and Seidman write that “Stephen translates the dog on the beach into the language of heraldry,” with such words as tenney, trippant, passant, unattired—the last one referring to a creature without antlers (Gifford and Seidman 1988, p. 60; 3.336–37). The Wikipedia article on “Hound (heraldry)” points out that even if the figure of a dog is in a sense frozen, it may be frozen while in action: “[a]ttitudes of the hound may be sejant, rampant, salient (its hind feet on the ground), passant (trippant), skipping, courant (sometimes blazoned “in full chase” or “in full course”) or questing (i.e., pointing).” This certainly echoes some of Tatters’ movements, and the erudite Stephen watching him may indeed have translated his lively activity into the figurations of heraldry. But this reflects chiefly his own anthropomorphic imagination, viewing the energetic vitality of a living animal as an artistic or cultural icon.
Tatters is a domestic animal, belonging to human owners who let him roam the strand while they do their cockle-picking and who discipline him if he engages in troublesome or inappropriate behavior, like nosing around the carcass of a dead dog. But he has a fair amount of freedom which appears to give him his high-spirited air on this morning. When we move to “Calypso,” we encounter a very different style of animal life. Bloom is in the kitchen preparing the tray for Molly’s breakfast, when a cat appears, a “she” as he designates her. She “walked stiffly round a leg of the table with tail on high” (4.15) and begins meowing. In the previous chapter, Tatters is described as barking, but we are never given the sound. Yet in “Calypso” we get to hear the cat’s language, its sound intensified as the letter “r” is added to her speech, presumably to indicate the growing urgency of her hunger—”Mkgnao!” “Mrkgnao!” “Mrkrgnao!” (4.16–32). She does not always sound like this, we learn from Bloom’s thoughts, as he remembers her stalking in the same still way around his writing table: “Prr. Scratch my head. Prr” (4.19). When she is content, she purrs. And when Bloom puts a saucer of “warmbubbled” fresh milk on the floor for her, she produces still another sound—”Gurrhr!” (4.38)—presumably relief and satisfaction. Given the variety of sounds produced by the cat, her mode of communication might conceivably be characterized as an animal language, according to a Wikipedia article on that topic, given that they appear to offer an inventory of arbitrary signs produced in the interest of volition. In Stalking the Subject: Modernism and the Animal, Carrie Rohman points out that “The animal’s otherness is especially acute because it does not speak our language,” and because “the animal literally cannot talk back to our objectifying codes” (Rohman 2009, p. 17).
Unlike Stephen, who give Tatters only minimal thought, Bloom engages with his cat not only physically but also mentally, as he watches her “lithe black form” “curiously” and “kindly” (4.21). He notices how clean she looks, “the gloss of her sleek hide, the white button under the butt of her tail, the green flashing eyes.” He gives her credit for understanding—”They call them stupid. They understand what we say better than we understand them. She understands all she wants to” (4.26). But he does not sentimentalize her, and it appears that the cat, who seems to have no specific name, is kept on the premises chiefly to catch mice: “Vindictive too. Cruel. Her nature. Curious mice never squeal.” And then, remarkably, Bloom takes a moment to enter her mind, trying to imagine how she perceives him. “Wonder what I look like to her. Height of a tower? No, she can jump me” (4.28). Presumably a cat’s mind would not imagine a cultural construct like a tower, and conversely, Bloom cannot picture how a cat might visualize height. But his question nonetheless takes us into the imagination of a cat for a moment, and obliges us to consider how a tall, imposing object might be conceptualized in the animal imagination. Not only does Bloom watch the cat, he also speaks to her, “Afraid of the chickens she is, he said mockingly. Afraid of the chookchooks. I never saw such a stupid pussens as the pussens.” He may teasingly call her stupid to her face, but he has earlier given her credit for acute understanding.
Carrie Rohman notes that “The displacement of animality onto marginalized others operates as an attempted repression of the animality that stalks Western subjectivity in the modernist age” (Rohman 2009, p. 63). Bloom’s interaction with his cat engages in the questions raised by scholars of animal philosophy in our own time, in such collections as Animal Others: On Ethics; Ontology; and Animal Life. In this volume, William McNeill asks how we can know anything about the being of animal life “without falling into a naïve anthropomorphism?” (McNeill 1999, p. 212). He goes on to ask “How do we know what it is like to be an animal? If the animal is truly other, will not any attempt on our part to define its being necessarily reduce and erase its otherness?” I would argue that Bloom raises questions about the cat’s otherness but with considerable care not to impose his own answers, or at least to concede that the questions are open and not easily resolvable. In the process, he avoids the anthropomorphism that Stephen Laycock in the same volume describes as an imposition when “we insert ourselves at the heart of the purported alterior subjectivity, there to speak for the mute, to give voice to the silent—to give (or rather impose), that is, our own voice, not to offer the animate Other a vehicle whereby it may express itself” (Laycock 1999, p. 277). In the same volume, Ralph R. Acampora notes “that the singular experiential viewpoint of another (especially non-human) individual is unyielding to description, and therefore unintelligible (Acampora 1999, p. 117).
Bloom’s cat continues to meow plaintively; “showing him her milkwhite teeth,” and as she begins to drink the milk Bloom has put in front of her; he notices “the bristles shining wirily in the weak light as she tipped three times and licked lightly” (4.39). As he watches her drinking, he has more questions about her. Her bristles make him ask “Wonder is it true if you clip them they can’t mouse after. Why?” And although he has no clear answer, he notes that by shining, the bristles may help cats to see in the dark, or they may function as “kind of feelers in the dark.” As he listens to her lapping, he begins to think about his own breakfast, and decides to get a pork kidney at Dlugacz’s. But he still watches the cat as she licks her saucer clean. “Why are their tongues so rough? To lap better; all porous holes” (4.47). When she has finished her milk, he wonders if there is anything else he could give her to eat, but sees nothing, and his thoughts now turn to his wife and he goes upstairs to ask if she would like anything for breakfast.
Bloom’s engaged and engaging thoughts about his cat are partly a sign of the scientific curiosity we will see him displaying throughout the day. But they also signify an emotional connection that accounts for his kindness and attention to her, an area now explored in the field of anthrozoology, which explores the relations between “humans and other animals,” according to Wikipedia. In Bloom’s case, this may be driven by a degree of identification, for example, his awareness that the cat’s hunger shares characteristics with human hunger. He had no other food to offer her before going to the butcher’s, but when he unwraps the pork kidney on his return home, the cat still meows hungrily. “Give her too much meat she won’t mouse. Say they won’t eat pork. Kosher. Here. He let the bloodsmeared paper fall to her and dropped the kidney amid the sizzling butter sauce” (4.276). His gesture is a compromise since he does not want to prevent her job of hunting mice, yet wants to placate her at least a little with the bloody wrapping. Later, when he returns to the kitchen after taking Molly’s breakfast tray up to the bedroom, he lets the cat have the burnt flesh of the kidney which had been sizzling on the stove while he was upstairs. He eats his breakfast, reads his daughter’s post card, and remembers that Milly once asked for a dog as a pet: “Wanted a dog to pass the time” (4.451). Meanwhile, his cat, “having cleaned all of her fur, returned to the meatstained paper, nosed at it and stalked to the door. She looked back at him, mewing.” Bloom answers her, mimicking her “Miaow!”—but without the “r” that produces her specific feline sound. Bloom knows she wants to go out, but he is not quite ready yet. “Let her wait. Has the fidgets. Electric. Thunder in the air.” (4.457). It will be a hot day, and he assumes that may be why the cat is so fidgety to go out on this morning. But when he finally opens the kitchen door, the cat runs up the stairs instead and he thinks, “Ah, wanted to go upstairs, curl up in a ball on the bed.” And then he hears Molly upstairs calling the cat, “Come, come, pussy. Come” (4.471).
Unlike Stephen’s detached observation of Tatters, Bloom displays his anthrozoological awareness, a domestic intimacy with the nameless cat that reflects his observation, familiarity, interest, and caring. The cat, conversely, appears familiar with the morning routine, and has learned to give both vocal and gestural signals to communicate her desires and needs in a way that will prompt satisfying responses. She thereby displays what Doležel calls a “quasi-interaction” (Doležel 1998, p. 59) with a human, an awareness that her actions can produce reactions from an other, which makes them transitive rather than merely intransitive. Put differently, her actions have a purpose or a goal, even if they are motivated by physical or organic urges or pressures, in her case hunger on this particular morning. She needs food and has learned that performing such actions as meowing will give her what she needs. This suggests that animals are capable of something akin to motivation, a mental state with an awareness that actions can produce results. The basis of her motivation may be sensory, a feeling of hunger, but it nonetheless entails a process in which action is linked to a goal. We should note here that the behavior of Tatters displays no particular motivation on the morning Stephen sees him frolicking on the beach, and his actions appear not to be aimed at any specific objects or goals. This in no way suggests a species difference between dogs and cats but a situational difference, that Tatters has no specific physical needs, having perhaps already eaten on this morning, and is therefore able to engage in intransitive behavior of acting for its own sake, not some other purpose.
The meticulous detail with which Joyce endows Tatters and Bloom’s cat displays such a keen attention to animal behavior that it is difficult not to wish there were more animals, with larger and more complicated roles, in his work. Yet there are at least a few more instances of Bloom observing or interacting with animals that are worth mention. The most significant of these is the dog Garryowen—a “mongrel” or “cur” like Tatters—but with a more aggressive behavior and role in the “Cyclops” episode. And later, in the Nighttown neighborhood of “Circe,” Bloom will encounter still a third and nameless dog, whose identity, like all identities in the chapter, remains ambiguous and problematic. But first there are also minor moments of animal encounter worth noting. As he walks around town in “Lotus Eaters,” Bloom passes “the drooping nags of the hazard” (5.210) or cab-stand. He hears the horses crunching oats from nosebags with “gently champing teeth,” but both his thoughts and language in response to them are considerably more demeaning than his earlier view of his cat. He calls them poor “jugginses,” and gives them no credit for observation or attention—even though their “full buck eyes” had “regarded him as he went by.” “Damn all they know or care about anything with their long noses stuck in nosebags,” he thinks. Bloom appears to think of them as an inferior species of animal life, but when he notices that they are gelded, he does enter their minds for a second, “Might be happy all the same that way. Good poor brutes they look,” he thinks, but then remembers that “their neigh can be very irritating” (5.220). The anthrozoological relationships depicted in Bloom’s casual and brief encounters with the different animals on his journey complicate his relationship with the species in ways that diffuse what may have seemed like an earlier sentimentalism.
But the care for animal hunger Bloom displayed with his cat arises in his further encounters with animals, including the horses he is glad to see feeding. Since the later “Lestrygonians” episode is set at lunchtime and is spotted with many food references, Bloom again thinks of feeding animals of a range of species, beginning with rats helping themselves to the contents of vats of porter from a brewery, “Rats get in too. Drink themselves bloated as big as a collie floating” (8.47). But it is the seagulls flapping and wheeling above him that bring to his mind a little verse—”The hungry famished gull/ Flaps o’er the waters dull”—and stirs his sympathy for “[t]hose poor birds” (8.73). He has nothing at hand to offer the famished birds, and so he actually goes to the trouble to buy them something to eat: two Banbury buns whose “brittle paste” he broke, and “threw its fragments down into the Liffey.” He then watches as the “gulls swooped silently, two, then all from their heights, pouncing on prey. Gone. Every morsel” (8.77). The cakes are gone, thanks to the gulls’ “greed and cunning,” as Bloom now thinks of it, and he notes that their diving into the water to pounce on his buns reflects on the fact that they must dive for fish to supply them with food. However, he will not buy them any more, “I’m not going to throw them any more. Penny quite enough. Lots of thanks I get. Not even a caw” (8.83). In this rather odd moment, Bloom anthropomorphizes the birds, although presumably jokingly, by accusing them of ingratitude. We see Joyce here varying and complicating Bloom’s anthrozoological relationships, perhaps again in the interest of de-sentimentalizing him.
Later in “Cyclops,” Joyce also de-sentimentizes the animal in the figure of the citizen’s dog Garryowen by introducing a very different anthrozoological relationship between the narrating debt-collector or dun, the citizen, and the dog. In contrast to Bloom’s generally kind and sympathetic attitude toward animals, the dun slurs and demeans the dog in Barney Kiernan’s pub from the outset when he sees “the citizen up in the corner having a great confab with himself and that bloody mangy mongrel, Garryowen” (12.119). Garryowen produces a sound that the dun describes as a “grouse,” which might well describe the dun’s own speech—”The bloody mongrel let a grouse out of him would give you the creeps. Be a corporal work of mercy if someone would take the life out of that bloody dog” (12.124). He justifies this by reporting “I’m told for a fact he ate a good part of the breeches off a constabulary man in Santry that came round one time with a blue paper about a license.” Here, as elsewhere, the dun’s narrative focus and style border on humor, suggesting that his aggressive parlance—presumably produced to amuse listeners in another pub at another time—may be intended to be as much comedic as abusive. But even if this is so, his presentation of Garryowen gives the dog an aggressive temperament that results in his chasing Bloom’s jaunting car, presumably to attack him in imitation of the citizen, who hurls a biscuit tin after Bloom. Garryowen’s aggression is probably the result of mistreatment. “The bloody mongrel began to growl that’d put the fear of God in you seeing something was up but the citizen gave him a kick in the ribs” (12.263). In contrast to the dun’s brutal view and the citizen’s occasional harsh treatment of the dog, the drunken Bob Doran treats him kindly to the disgust of the narrator, who mocks him for “talking all kinds of drivel about training by kindness and thoroughbred dog and intelligent dog: give you the bloody pip” (12.493). Unlike Tatters, who exhibits no signs of hunger or thirst, Garryowen appears not to have been fed, and Doran scrapes bits of biscuit out of the biscuit tin to give to the dog—”Near ate the tin and all, hungry bloody mongrel,” the dun tells us. The dog keeps nosing around the tin, to the irritation of the dun, “I’d train him by kindness, so I would, if he was my dog. Give him a rousing fine kick now and again where it wouldn’t blind him” (12.698). The citizen responds to the dun’s evident dislike for the dog with a jeering question, “Afraid he’ll bite you?” When the dun says no, but “he might take my leg for a lamppost,” the citizen calls the dog, now named “Garry,” and plays with him, talking to him in Irish, to the disgust of the dun who suggests that someone should demand a “muzzling order for a dog the like of that” (12.709). The narrator-dun of “Cyclops” belongs to the category that Donna Haraway in The Companion Species Manifesto calls “the dog phobic” (Haraway 2003, p. 3).
But the dun’s brutish view of Garryowen serves a more troublesome aggressive function when we see it linked to his attitude toward the gentle Bloom. The dog does not greet Bloom kindly—”Garryowen started growling again at Bloom that was skeezing round the door. –Come in, come on, says the citizen. He won’t eat you” (12.407). So Bloom enters a little nervously, “with his cod’s eye on the dog,” but Garryowen does no more than sniff at him. The dun gives this an ugly interpretation, “I’m told those jewies does have a sort of queer odour coming off them for dogs” (12.452). This comment has him put Bloom in the same category as the dog, giving him an unpleasant animalistic nature. This also draws our attention to the dun’s inability to imagine or consider what another person, or an animal, might think or feel—the very opposite of Bloom who consistently thinks himself into the mind or condition of the animal. Ironically, the dun’s attitude transforms him into a kind of animal, more like an “actor” able to respond to situations and to imagine the results and goals of actions, but less capable of human “interaction” that takes the thoughts or feelings of others into consideration.
Perhaps it is for this reason that “Cyclops” introduces a bizarre, scholarly third person moment of cynanthropy, a psychiatric delusion in which a person imagines himself to be a dog. According to Wikipedia, the term “cynanthropy” has had currency since 1901, explaining Joyce’s familiarity with it when writing Ulysses. The “Cyclcops” paragraph, narrated by a nameless speaker, begins by suggesting that “[a]ll those who are interested in the spread of human culture among the lower animals (and their name is legion) should make a point of not missing the really marvellous exhibition of cynanthropy given by the famous old Irish red setter wolfdog formerly known by the sobriquet of Garryowen” (12.712). Garryowen’s exhibition—”the result of years of training by kindness...comprises, among other achievements, the recitation of verse.” What is going on here? Is Garryowen able to speak like a human, or are we presented with a cynanthropic human who imagines being a dog capable of speech? Either way, we are presented with Garryowen’s verse—although presumably not as he “speaks” it but as it is spoken for him. “Perhaps it should be added that the effect is greatly increased if Owen’s verse is spoken somewhat slowly and indistinctly in a tone suggestive of suppressed rancour.” (12.737). The verse, spoken by a dog or a cynanthrope believing he is a dog, expresses his thirst:
  • The curse of my curses
  • Seven days every day
  • And seven dry Thursdays
  • On you, Barney Kiernan,
  • Has no sup of water
  • To cool my courage,
  • And my guts red roaring
  • After Lowry’s lights. (12.740)
Garryowen’s verse seems to be effective, because someone, a “he,” “told Terry to bring some water for the dog and, gob, you could hear him lapping it up a mile off.” Not only has Garryowen seemingly not been fed, but he may also have had no water on this day—possible sources of his ill temper and aggressive disposition. The customers in Barney Kiernan’s are thirsty for drinks and constantly ordering pints, although not Bloom who declines drinks, an act which eventually arouses the animus of the dun, “Mean bloody scut. Stand us a drink itself. Devil a sweet fear! There’s a jew for you! All for number one. Cute as a shithouse rat” (12.1760), he complains, troping Bloom as a low form of animal life.
The racist attitudes toward Bloom by the dun and the citizen are intensified by Lenehan’s wrongful assumption that Bloom has won a huge sum of money by betting on the winning dark horse “Throwaway” in the Gold Cup race, and by Bloom’s ostensible refusal to reveal this to the pub customers and share his winnings with them. “Don’t tell anyone, says the citizen,” sarcastically (12.1762), and at this point Garryowen wakes up and lets out a growl, as though joining in. Martin Cunningham, “seeing it was looking blue,” rushes Bloom out of the pub, only to have the citizen try to run after him shouting “Three cheers for Israel.” Surprisingly, the dun wishes the citizen would calm down, “Arragh, sit down on the parliamentary side of your arse for Christ’s sake and don’t be making a bloody exhibition of yourself,” but Bloom’s vivid historical defense of Jews only infuriates the citizen to the point of picking up the biscuit tin and hurling it at the carriage. “The bloody nag took fright and the old mongrel after the car like bloody hell and all the populace shouting and laughing and the old tinbox clattering along the street” (12.1855). Garryowen has taken his cues from an angry master and follows his lead of aggressive behavior without understanding what the ruckus is all about. But the dun’s narration has effectively endowed Garryowen with the same attitudes as the dun and the citizen, and has therefore anthropomorphized him to a degree Tatters was never implicated in the earlier chapter. In this way, Garryowen has become a kind of cynanthropic product of the narration of “Cyclops.”
Bloom feeds an animal again, or we are prompted to think he does, on his walk to Bella Cohen’s brothel in Nighttown. This encounter appears to resemble earlier ones with respect to Bloom’s kindness, but it is important here to remember that the realms of reality and fantasy mix and merge in “Circe.” Soon after he arrives, a “retriever approaches sniffing, nose to the ground” (15.247). The sniffing terrier continues to follow him, possibly lured by the “lukewarm pig’s crubeen” and “cold sheep’s trotter” (15.158) that Bloom had earlier purchased at a pork-butcher’s shop. After Bloom runs into Mrs. Breen, the “terrier follows, whining piteously, wagging his tail” (15.532). However, since the meeting with Mrs. Breen appears to be fantasy rather than reality, the dog’s presence is unclear at this point, although he does not go away, approaching Bloom again a little later, “his tongue outlolling, panting” (15.633). Bloom begins to question the wisdom of having bought the meat he purchased earlier, whose scent may excite the retriever, who “drives a cold snivelling muzzle against his hand, wagging his tail” (15.659). Bloom is surprised by the dog’s ardor—”Strange how they take to me”—but decides “Better speak to him first” (15.660). The dog might be mad, or unfriendly, like Garryowen earlier in the day, “Good fellow! Fido! Good fellow! Garryowen!” Bloom calls to him, and as the “wolfdog sprawls on his back, wriggling obscenely with begging paws” (15.663), he opens his package and lets the crubeen and trotter slide to the ground, where the “mastiff mauls the bundle clumsily and gluts himself with growling greed, crunching the bones.” This moment harks back to the morning scene in the kitchen, when Bloom lets the bloody paper in which his breakfast kidney was packed, slide to the floor for his cat to lick. But it also evokes Bob Doran offering the starving Garryowen “bits of old biscuit” at the bottom of the Jacob’s tin in “Cyclops”—a reference that may account for Bloom’s echo of Bob Doran’s “Give us the paw! Give the paw, doggy! Good old doggy!” (12.489) and calling the Nighttown cur “Garryowen.”
The way this feeding of the dog recalls Bloom’s feeding of the cat and Doran’s feeding of Garryowen is followed by a quick series of other animal recollections, which together suggest that this may all be fantasy or fantasized memory rather than reality. First the gulls reappear—”A covey of gulls, storm petrels, rises hungrily from Liffey slime with Banbury cakes in their beaks” (15.683). The fantasy gulls do something the real gulls did not do earlier, and that is to thank Bloom, in a sense, for his Banbury cakes—”Kaw kave kankury kake.” Bloom had earlier called the sound of the seagulls a “caw” (12.84), and curiously, a comment on an online website on seagull sounds notes that gulls respond to threats with a sound described as “keow” (James Ries, Quora (Ries 2016)). However, Bloom, who earlier chided the gulls for their ingratitude, is in “Circe” pleased, and echoes Bob Doran by calling them “friend of man. Trained by kindness.” And now Bob Doran himself appears, and the dog seems to have turned into Garryowen, as the earlier scene is relived with Doran’s asking him “Towser. Give us the paw. Give the paw” (15.692). The dog, now turned into a “bulldog” growls, but continues to crunch his pig’s knuckle, as Bloom recalls once scolding a “tramdriver on Harold’s cross bridge for illusing the poor horse with his harness scab. Bad French I got for my pains” (15.699). Many pages later, the dog, now a “beagle,” finishes his dinner—“He has gnawed all. He exhales a putrid carcasefed breath”—but then surprisingly “grows to human size and shape. His dachshund coat become a brown mortuary habit. His green eye flashes bloodshot. Half of one ear, all the nose and both thumbs are ghouleaten” (15.1205). He has transformed into the dead Paddy Dignam, the lost soul Bob Doran mourns so effusively in “Cyclops.” The animals that Bloom has encountered in Nighttown may all be memory and fantasy.
Joyce will introduce many more animals into his later Finnegans Wake, representing a much wider range including frogs, fish, birds, and earwigs, among others. And the Wakean animals are virtually never realistic but largely figurative in one respect or another, with colorful attention to the poetic resonances of their names and their conditions, and subject to transmutation and transformations, like the “gnarlybird” pecking at trash in the midden heap who takes form as Anna Livia Plurabelle or ALP, putting “spoiled goods” into her “nabsack” to distribute to her children. The animals in Ulysses may not be characters in the way human fictional figures are, endowed with active discerning minds and speech that make them capable of interacting with each other socially and psychologically in complex ways. But they are actors, and occasional inter-actors, capable of expressing emotions and desires and responsive to human signals and treatment. And the Ulysses animals are given a progression similar to the one we see in the human figures in the novel, beginning realistically in conformity to the laws of nature, but losing their grounding in the later episodes, until it becomes unclear whether they are meant to be construed as representations of creatures or as mental or psychological constructs, products of the human imagination and human language. In the process, Joyce has endowed Ulysses with vividly engaging non-human living beings that animate the imaginations of his characters, and the imagination of his readers.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflicts of interest.


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Norris, M. “Tatters, Bloom’s Cat, and Other Animals in Ulysses”. Humanities 2017, 6, 50.

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