November 19th, 2008

The Mysterious Stranger, Continued

One thing always, always leads to another.

The mysterious stranger in the yellow macintosh I encountered in the woods yesterday appears in Joyce's Ulysses as the thirteenth mourner, but of course Joyce got him from Homer's Odyssey. In the epic he is named Theoclymenos, and like Odysseus he goes to Ithaca.

Scholar/critic Victor Berard says when Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, arrives at the palace, the suitors discuss where he is to sleep, but they simply ignore the stranger. "Where," Berard asks, "Did [Theoclymenos] sleep that night? He did not accompany the suitors or Telemachus; he did not stay with Ulysses. It is unlike Homer thus to abandon one of his characters without having assured him bed and shelter. Yet the next day he reappeared at the palace when the slaughter of the suitors was about to begin."

Stuart Gilbert elaborates. "There is a strangely modern touch about this MYSTERY MAN FROM PYLOS as a newspaper man of today would feature him. Indeed, M'Intosh-Theoclymenos is always with us; he is the hunchback one never fails to see in the left-hand corner seat of the front row of the gallery on every first night, the bearded Russian priest who never misses an international football match, that old woman in a moleskin coat with a packet of peppermint lozenges who is always in evidence in the Nisi Prius court when mixed cases of equity are being heard. The etait civil of such queer fish is written on their shells, as, to the Romans, Ibsen, when living in their city, was merely the Cappellone--the fellow with the big hat."

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