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Ulysses: Episode 5: The Lotus Eaters: Down to the River to Pray: 03/28/09
In the fourth episode of Ulysses called "The Lotus Eaters", Bloom is finally ready to get started with his day properly. His morning chores involve a trip to the post office, a walk around town and brief rest in a church during services. Blooms lengthy monologue about the church service and organized religion is the connecting point between The Odyssey and Ulysses. It's also my reason for picking O Brother Where Art Thou? (another funny update of The Odyssey) as this week's point of comparison.
Lotus eaters in modern usage are people too strung out on narcotics to be a useful contribution to society. In Bloom's case religion is the opiate that keeping the masses from thinking on their own or being useful members of society. Bloom like Odysseus is intrigued by the lotus eaters and their strange was but not especially tempted to join in.
Ulysses Everett McGill and his two traveling companions religion in the form of a mass baptism are at first puzzled by what they see. To emphasize the strangeness of their activity the crowds show up in the background as the men argue over the best way to find transportation to meet their deadline. Here more and more white clothed men and women start streaming on screen and soon the hymn they are singing, "Down to the River to Pray" becomes only thing in sound track.
Like Odysseus, Ulysses loses his "crew" to the over whelming temptation of the swelling music and the lure of peace of mind in this case through being reborn through baptism. The remaining part of the scene involves the baptism of one as he runs down into the river almost up to his armpits and cuts in line for a chance at salvation.
For Bloom though the stop at church is no different from any of the "sins" he has committed so far that morning (receiving a love letter from someone other than his wife, giving betting advice on a race horse, lusting after a young woman in town and so forth). For Ulysses's companions, the baptism gives them a chance to admit to the crimes they had committed before being sent to jail, ones that up to now they have professed innocence over.
So far Ulysses has been a fun, silly and crude read. I've found similarities with Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy, Kif and Capt. Brannigan (from Futurama), (created by Louise Rennison), Fry from Futurama and the baptism scene in O Brother Where Art Thou?