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Ulysses: Episode 11: Sirens: Our Man in Havana: 05/09/09
The eleventh episode of Ulysses called "The Sirens" is pretty self explanatory. The sirens on the rocks are among the best known pieces of Greek mythology. They sing from their rocks luring in the ships and then they eat the crew as they lay scattered in their smashed vessels.
In Ulysses the sirens make their appearance as a seductive barmaids at a the hotel restaurant. There is also singing but it is done by Simon Dedalus (Stephen's father) and other drunken patrons at the hotel.
The music and noise of the hotel restaurant is rendered as a strings of lyrics thrown in amongst the dialogue and limited descriptions. The music comes in without explanation and without warning or segue. In that regard, the noisy pub is as much a distraction to the reader as the sirens are to sailors.
With the location of dinner in a noisy, music filled location brought to mind many different scenes I could have used to illustrate Joyce's rendition of the sirens. The best one though is the introduction of the secretary and radio man in Our Man in Havana. Although Beatrice Severn and the radio man don't sing as part of their introductions, they first meet Wormold in the noise of a Havana dinner theater.
Beatrice Severn's appearance means trouble for Wormold. After her arrival things hot up in Havana for real and perceived reasons. Her existence ads to the seductive power of being a spy, albeit a bogus one. As a divorce she symbolically has left behind a trail of men (even if it's just one). Wormold, like Odysseus is on an island far from his wife (who in this case, left him for a suitor).
So if Beatrice is a siren, it appears that Stephen's family are some how the sirens (in the sense of being trouble) for Bloom. There are seven more episodes remaining to see how their trouble plays out.
Next Saturday I'll post my thoughts on Episode Twelve: The Cyclops. If you want to read along, Ulysses is available online at Read Print.
As an added bonus, I want to share my runner up. This is a dream sequence of sirens called the "Lullaby of Broadway" from the 1935 film Gold Diggers of 1935. In it a woman is lured to her death by the sirens call (and dance) at a late night New York dinner theater.
Lullaby of Broadway