Concentric circles

Just before the end of Ithaca, as Molly and Bloom lie beside one another in bed, she interrogating, he responding, comes the question, "What moved visibly above the listener's and the narrator's invisible thoughts?" Answer: "The upcast reflection of a lamp and shade, an inconstant series of concentric circles of varying gradations of light and shadow." The image recalls a scene just before the end of the Divine Comedy in which the pilgrim and his guide gaze up at the divine Trinity in the form of three interpenetrating circles. Rather than the perfection of God, the Blooms have been contemplating their imperfect marriage. But Bloom too has been on a long pilgrimage, and the last thing he sees on this day suggests that he has returned to his heaven. Like Dante's God, it is something that he and his wife must struggle to understand and to find their place in.

John Hunt and Russell Raphael 2024

1793 illustration of the circles at the end of Paradiso 33 designed by John Flaxman and engraved by Tommaso Piroli. Source:

A more representational rendering of the circles, artist and date unknown. Source:

Elena Mastropaolo's oil painting of St. Bernard and Dante gazing up at the circles. Source: .