An ounce of opium

In Lotus Eaters Bloom contemplates the Catholic church from at least three points of view: as a man of business who judges its effectiveness in organizing people politically, economically, and socially; as a Jew who is bemused by the strange rituals and beliefs; and as a sympathetic human being who observes the effects those things have on believers. This last perspective is obliquely introduced as he stands outside St. Andrew's reading the announcement of a priestly mission: "Save China's millions. Wonder how they explain it to the heathen Chinee. Prefer an ounce of opium." He is considering the opium habit of Chinamen here, not the religious faith of Christians, but it is tempting to suppose that Joyce may be subtly alluding to Karl Marx's famous description of religion as the opium of the people, because Bloom's thoughts about the worshipers in the church, a moment or two later, will be quite similar.

JH 2022

Opium den in a Chinese lodging house in San Francisco ca. 1890, held in the Bancroft Library of U. Cal. Berkeley. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

A "stacking room" for balls of opium in a British warehouse in Patna, India. Source:


 Page 71 of the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher published in Paris in 1844. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

 Photographic portrait of Karl Marx made by John Jabez Edwin Mayal at some date prior to 1875. Source: Wikimedia Commons.