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Ulysses: Episode 9: Scylla and Charybdis: If I Had a Hammer: 04/25/09
The ninth episode of Ulysses called "Scylla and Charybdis" takes its name from the two monsters who block the narrow strait that Odysseus and his crew must pass to get home. It's also the inspiration for the expression "between a rock and a hard place" which brings me to my choice of last week's episode, "If I Had a Hammer..." on CSI.
Episode 9 is also in terms of episode numbers the halfway point of Ulysses but like Don Quixote there is still 2/3 of book left. I expect the remaining episodes to get steadily longer.
This episode takes place entirely in a library. Stephan (whom I've compared to Kif) takes center stage again and engages in a lengthy argument over Shakespeare, his life, the meaning of his plays and most specifically, Hamlet. Most specifically, they argue about fathers and sons vs. mothers and sons. Stephan explains: "The son unborn mars beauty: born, he brings pain, divides affection, increases care. He is a male: his growth is his father's decline, his youth his father's envy, his friend his father's enemy." (pgs 207-8)
The way time changes the relationship between fathers and sons is a theme of The Odyssey, Ulysses (to a lesser degree) and to "If I Had a Hammer." Odysseus's son was an infant when he left for war and is now in his twenties. Part of Odysseus drive to get home despite all the obstacles is his desire to see his son before he loses any more of his son's youth. In Ulysses the theme is more complex as adults, some of them parents are also still children to their own parents. Some have parents who have died (Stephen and Bloom) and still feel like children in the eyes of their dead parents. Then in "If I Had a Hammer" we have the playing out of Stephan's quote as the evidence unfolds the truth behind the crime and Clint Owen's motivations.
Since most of Episode 9 is from Stephan's point of view, I think the person here stuck "between a rock and a hard place" is Stephan. He sees himself like Hamlet torn between familial duties and larger responsibilities, though what those larger ones are isn't clear yet. In "If I Had a Hammer" the person caught in the middle is Catherine Willows who has her first solo case from 1991 unexpectedly reopened. The man, Clint Owen, convicted of a homicide during a robbery wants his case reexamined claiming innocence.
Clint, like the water belching Charybdis, never shuts his mouth. He is a talker and a provoker. On the other side of the case the evidence now points to Serina who like Scylla is a beautiful but dangerous woman. Scylla is depicted as having dogs heads around her body and Serina is introduced surrounded by her teenage children who bark at from the car that they will be late to practice if Jim Brass doesn't leave.
Next Saturday I'll post my thoughts on Episode Ten: The Wandering Rocks. If you want to read along, Ulysses is available online at Read Print