Molly’s Return to Howth
In James Joyce and the Revolt of Love, Utell takes issue with critics who read Molly Bloom’s soliloquy as “an affirmation of the Bloom’s marriage” (129). Inspired by Christine Froula’s argument that critics who posit an “ending beyond the ending” where Molly serves Bloom breakfast in bed “retrofit Joyce’s actual plot to their own desire” (171), Utell contends that Molly’s meditations on Bloom in “Penelope” do not constitute a viable affirmation because she “remains unknowable … to the man beside her” at the novel’s conclusion. Given that “Penelope” is structured as an internal monologue where the reader accesses amorous thoughts that a sleeping Bloom is denied, Utell argues that “to read ‘Penelope’ as an affirmation is to miss the point,” for Joyce is actually “creat[ing] an infinite distance between Molly and Bloom” that makes “their profound alterity” the defining characteristic of their marriage (130; 132). Thus, the “devastating reveal of ‘Penelope’” is that “we see them sharing the same story, and neither knows it is happening” (Utell 131-2), which transforms the Blooms’ mutual otherness into an “infinite distance” that is impossible for the text’s concluding “yes” to traverse.