Gerty MacDowell

This afternoon’s reading took me to the end of Part 2, Chapter 11 of Ulysses. After struggling through the heady earlier chapter, Chapter 11 is a strange change of pace.

We meet Gerty MacDowell who:

 . . . was in truth as fair a specimen of winsome Irish girlhood as one could wish to see. She was pronounced beautiful by all who knew her though . . . Her figure was slight and graceful, inclining even to fragility … The waxen pallor of her face was almost spiritual in its ivorylike purity though her rosebud mouth was a genuine Cupid’s bow, Greekly perfect. Her hands were of finely veined alabaster . . .

After 500 pages of Joycean wit, sirens are whoop-whooping at this point. “Rosebud mouth?” “Waxen pallor?” If there is one writer that never resorts to sluggish cliche, it is Joyce. As the chapter develops, Joyce’s  stylistic choice becomes dimly evident. Our Gerty is set up to be sullied, then permitted a defect that makes her beauty more potent.

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