Este nível que esta aqui é o de fim do curso médio nos Estados Unidos e o que se espera para um aluno que queira ingressar na Universidade. Um tipo de CliffsNotes.Veja o equivalente ao que esta aqui no CliffsNotes para Ulysses. Estas anotações se sustentam admiravelmente na companhia das aulas do Prof. Heffernan e da seleção que fiz para graduação, Don Gifford e Harry Blamires. Para tradução para as línguas alvo selecionadas, tem que resolver o problema do copyright

This level here is what is expected at the end of high school in the United States and what is expected for a student who wants to join the University. A kind of CliffsNotes. You can see the equivalent of what is here in CliffsNotes para Ulysses. This job sustains itself admirably face the classes of Prof. Heffernan and the selection I made for graduation, Don Gifford and Harry Blamires. For translation to the selected target languages it will have to be solved the problem of copyright


In A Nutshell

James Joyce's Ulysses (1922) is, arguably, the single most influential novel of the 20th century. Written in a wide variety of styles, chock-full of an encyclopedia's worth of allusions, rife with enough puns and jokes to fill a comedian's career, the novel focuses on one day – June 16, 1904 – in the life of Mr. Leopold Bloom, a middle-aged Jewish man living in Dublin, Ireland. The groundbreaking stream-of-consciousness style allows the reader not only to trace the actions of Bloom's day, but also to follow the movement of his thoughts, to hear the inner timbre of his needs and desires, his joy and his despair. In doing so, the novel nearly breaks the back of realism (literature with a goal of portraying people and events as they exist in the real world). Ulysses is so saturated in Dublin life and in the particularities of its characters that, at times, it strains coherence. In other words, it is (as you may have heard) hard.

Ulysses is Joyce's third book. His first book, Dubliners (1914), was a remarkable collection of short stories which set out to depict the sense of paralysis that one could get from living in Dublin at the turn of the 19th century. Joyce then set out to write a semi-autobiographical novel about his youth in Dublin. It began as a book called Stephen Hero, but Joyce was so dissatisfied with his first attempt that he threw the manuscript in the fire. (Many thanks to his wife, Nora Barnacle, for fishing it out.) Joyce then re-worked Stephen Hero into the much more experimental and ambitious A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). After Ulysses, Joyce wrote one final novel, Finnegan's Wake (1939). That one took him seventeen years to write and was based on puns in a number of different languages. Finnegan's Wake is recognized not only as a masterpiece, but also as one of the most difficult books ever written. In other words, if you see it on someone's bookshelf, check to see whether or not the binding is broken.

There is a noticeable progression in the body of Joyce's work, and you can see him begin in Portrait to toy with a number of the techniques that he would flesh out and master in Ulysses. Namely, we're talking about stream-of-conscious writing and other radical ways of depicting a character's internal life in relation to the world around him. Similarly, some of the more radical techniques in Ulysses are extended even further in Finnegan's Wake. Ulysses itself was originally going to be a short story in Dubliners about an erudite young teacher who has a run-in with an English constable and is rescued by a middle-aged Jewish man (this story was itself based on an actual experience of Joyce's). But then it grew. And grew. And grew…

Joyce wrote Ulysses between the years 1914 and 1921. The book was first published in Paris on February 2, 1922 by Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare and Company. Before being published as a whole, however, the book was serialized in the American journal The Little Review beginning in 1918. When the journal published the episode in the book called "Nausicaa," which depicts the main character masturbating, the publication was prosecuted for obscenity and the book was censored until 1933. In that year, Judge M. Woolsey declared that the book was neither pornographic nor obscene. The scandal in the U.S. was only one of many around the world, and ironically, it was Ireland, Joyce's home country, that was the last to lift the ban on Ulysses (source: Ellman, James Joyce, 3).

So what's the big deal? As T.S. Eliot's poem The Wasteland (1922) did for poetry, Ulysses changed people's ideas about what a novel is and what it can do. Joyce, more than any author before him, realized that how you write about something determines what you can write about. In other words, form is inseparable from content, and content from form. While other writers realized this and just lamented the fact, Joyce strove to master a wide variety of styles instead of becoming imprisoned by them. He wanted to give his language the power to say anything.

Ulysses is best known for its stream-of-consciousness style, where Joyce forces readers to become intimately familiar with his characters' thoughts no matter how fragmentary and disoriented they may be. But style is also extremely flexible in the novel, giving Joyce the power to alter his form to fit his content. Hence, a chapter set in a newspaper office is broken up with newspaper headlines; a chapter set in a maternity ward is written in styles ranging from Old English verse to contemporary Dublin vernacular, as if language itself were going through a gestation period and being prepared for delivery; a chapter set almost entirely in Leopold's Blooms fantasies and nightmares is written out as a play script.

Famously, Ulysses is structured on Homer's Odyssey, with each of the eighteen episodes in Joyce's book corresponding to a given episode in Homer's work. Joyce makes his hero, Leopold Bloom, a sort of modern-day Ulysses (called Odysseus by Homer). He casts Bloom's wife, Molly, as Penelope, and casts the aspiring artist Stephen Dedalus (first encountered in Portrait) as Telemachus. What is Joyce doing? Here, he might be trying to modernize the ancient epic, to strive to (in the words of Ezra Pound) "Make it New."

Ulysses moves the epic journey from the realm of external adventures to the realm of the mind, and in doing so Joyce dares to make a heroic figure of an ordinary urban man of no apparent distinction. For all its difficulty and obscurity, what Ulysses can do is to reveal the ordinary as extraordinary.

Why Should I Care?

There's this fascinating thing about Ulysses. Hordes of people think it's a brilliant book, maybe the best book ever written, except for one thing…they can't make it to the end.

There has always been a big disparity between the praise that people shower on Ulysses and the real experience of reading and trying to understand it. Just consider the book's reception in Ireland. Dublin today can seem like a city-size monument to the novel: there are tiles in the sidewalk quoting sections of the book; Davy Byrne's is filled with tourists who only know the pub because of Joyce; there's a life-size statue of Joyce himself off O'Connell Street; and June 16th, the day the book takes place, is now a holiday called "Bloomsday." But here's the thing. Joyce's book was banned in Ireland for years. In fact, Ireland was the last – the last! – country to lift the ban on the novel.

Now today, knowing the reputation the book has, you might feel like you "have to" like Ulysses. That's nonsense. When you get right down to it, Ulysses is an extremely difficult book. There are good reasons not to like it. As you push through it, there might be periods of frustration and boredom. You might even wonder: "Who does Joyce think he is?"

Well, here's an answer: he thinks he's a genius. The tradition of writing great literature could be traced back to Homer and the Greeks, but then it moved through Chaucer and Shakespeare and Milton and Dickens. So before Joyce, literature was English, not Irish. For most Irishmen, literature was something that did not belong to them. It was written in a language by which they had been humiliated: it was the language of the garrison, the language of the eviction notice. And now imagine Joyce, from this small country that had been brutalized by the English for centuries, saying: "With all due respect your majesty, I'm going to write the greatest novel in the English language."

But what about the novel itself is so great? Since we're giving Joyce the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he's a genius, let's talk about something that Joyce struggled with: jealousy.

Joyce was passionately in love with his wife, Nora Barnacle, but early on their relationship hit a major bump. In 1909, a friend of Joyce's informed him that, when Joyce had only just become involved with Nora, she had also been seeing this "friend." Unlikely as the story was, Joyce went mad with jealousy. He wrote letters to Nora that first were harsh and accusatory, but gradually became more and more honest and revealed just how vulnerable he felt. Joyce simply could not conceive of the woman he loved most being involved with another man.

We hear a lot about Ulysses as this extraordinary encyclopedic book that makes language go everywhere and do everything, but at the heart of it is ordinary human fear: fear of being betrayed by the person you love, made to look a fool. For all his genius, Joyce still couldn't figure out ordinary human problems like how to deal with love and pride and jealousy. And he gives us a hero like ourselves – a hero that's lost amidst these problems.

How It All Goes Down

Although Ulysses takes place in the course of one day, a whole lot happens (hence its 783 pages). We've divided up our summary based on the eighteen episodes in the book.

Part 1: The Telemachiade

Episode 1: Telemachus

Ulysses opens at Martello Tower, several miles southeast of Dublin, at 8am on June 16, 1904. Stephen Dedalus (of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man fame) is renting the Tower with his friend (of sorts) Buck Mulligan. An Englishman named Haines is staying there with them. He is very interested in Stephen and his different thoughts and sayings about the Irish, and constantly tries to make conversation with him. Stephen, however, distrusts Haines and acts aloof.

Buck Mulligan is a jovial, irreverent man who constantly mocks Catholic tradition, and treats Stephen deferentially. Stephen, for his part, mopes around the Tower, and can't keep from thinking back to his mother's death, when his mother asked that he pray over her and he refused. At the end of the episode, Buck Mulligan goes swimming in the sea, and Stephen leaves him and Haines there with the final thought that Buck Mulligan is a "usurper."

Episode 2: Nestor

We then move to the school at Dalkey at 10am, where Stephen is teaching some disinterested students. He makes jokes in front of his class that only he gets, and then helps a young boy with some math problems despite thinking that the kid has little chance of learning them for himself.

While the students play hockey, Stephen meets with the headmaster, Mr. Deasy. They settle Stephen's payment, and Deasy asks him to deliver to the press two letters relating to foot and mouth disease.

Deasy tries lecturing Stephen a bit and reveals himself to be a pompous English sympathizer and an anti-Semite. Stephen is not insubordinate outright, but he offers up several quips, the most famous being, "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake" (1.157). As they part, Deasy thinks that Stephen will not remain long at his job, and then chases him outside to tell one last anti-Semitic joke.

Episode 3: Proteus

Stephen has taken public transportation up to Dublin. He kills time waiting for his 12:30 meeting with Buck Mulligan. Mulligan and Haines wander up and down along Sandymount strand. As he does, he lets his mind roam free and he free-associates across a great deal of classical philosophy, Church doctrine, and Dublin folklore.

Stephen is particularly taken with his own role in the human race and its continuity across vast stretches of time. He imagines an umbilical cord that runs from Eden to the present. His mind eventually turns to Paris and the bohemian life that he led there, and he self-deprecatingly thinks of his youthful ambition and pretension.

Toward the end of the scene, Stephen jots down a poem, but then realizes it isn't about anyone and no one is there to read it. He feels lonely as he watches a ship come into the bay.

Part 2: The Wanderings of Ulysses

Episode 4: Calypso

We now move back to 8am, but we are at 7 Eccles Street, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Leopold Bloom. Leopold is preparing breakfast-in-bed for his wife, and in the midst of it he takes a break and goes to the butcher's to get a kidney.

When he returns home, he finds a letter from his daughter, Milly, and a rather suspicious looking letter to his wife from her singing partner, Blazes Boylan. Bloom takes the letter up to his wife, and then brings her breakfast. They discuss the meaning of the word "metempsychosis," which Molly has found in a book that she is reading. Molly didn't like the book much because she prefers smutty literature, and she thought it was too clean (think Harlequin romance novels).

Bloom realizes that he has burned the kidney and rushes back downstairs. He eats alone in the kitchen and reads the letter from his daughter Milly. He thinks about whether or not his daughter is doing well in the photo business, the death of his son Rudy, and the fact that he cannot prevent what will happen between his wife and Blazes. Upon hearing his tummy rumble, Bloom grabs a penny-weekly (small local newspaper) and goes back to the outhouse in his garden to go to the bathroom.

Episode 5: Lotus-Eaters

It's now 10am. Bloom has traveled a little over a mile from his house and is by sir John Rogerson's quay (a dock along the major river in Dublin, the Liffey river). He first goes to the post office to pick up a card from Martha Clifford, a woman with whom he exchanges something of an illicit correspondence.

When Bloom is about to open the card from Martha, he bumps into M'Coy who wants to talk about Dignam's funeral and their wives' singing careers. Bloom is intensely bored by M'Coy, and as soon as he leaves, Bloom reads the letter from Martha. It is addressed to Henry Flower, Bloom's alias, and it ends with Martha asking what kind of perfume Flower's wife wears, which Bloom finds bizarre.

He then wanders over to All Hollows Church where he listens to the end of the service, and thinks about what he considers to be the bizarre aspects of the Catholic religion. Bloom cuts out before they gather donations, and goes to the chemist to pick up some lotion for his wife, Molly. He realizes that he has not brought a bottle and so he'll have to come back later after they complete it. As he leaves, he foresees himself washing in the public baths, and imagines his penis as a "languid floating flower" on the water (5.142).

Episode 6: Hades

At 11am Bloom climbs into a carriage with Marty Cunningham, Simon Dedalus (Stephen's father), and Mr. Power. Dignam's funeral procession begins by his house in Sandymount and gradually makes its way to Prospect Cemetery. On the way, Bloom sees Stephen, and when he points him out to Simon, Simon starts talking about what a scoundrel Stephen's friend Buck Mulligan is.

Bloom begins to feel more and more like an outsider. The other men laugh at a Jewish man in the street, salute Blazes Boylan when they see him, and at one point Mr. Power talks about the disgrace of suicide (not realizing that Bloom's father committed suicide). Of the men, Cunningham is the most sympathetic to Bloom.

Throughout the ride, Bloom's thoughts drift back to his dead son and his dead father. Later, during the ceremony and the burial, Bloom's mind wanders. He thinks how strange it is that people make such a fuss over the dead. His imagination touches on different ways of burying people as well as what happens to bodies after they die. At the close of the episode, Bloom bumps into John Henry Menton, with whom he once fought over a game of bowls. He points out that Menton has a dent in his hat, and Menton responds by snubbing him.

Episode 7: Aeolus

It's noon and Bloom is at the office of the Freeman's Journal and the Evening Telegraph trying to renew an ad for Alexander Keyes. Bloom speaks with the foreman, Nannetti, but then has to run across the street to track down Keyes.

Just after Bloom leaves, Stephen Dedalus comes in to drop off Deasy's article on foot and mouth disease. Myles Crawford wants to recruit Stephen for the paper, and professor MacHugh asks him whether he accosted the mystic poet George William Russell in the street to ask about planes of consciousness. The men sit around and recall particularly fine pieces of oratory that they have heard over the years. MacHugh re-enacts a speech by John F. Taylor arguing for the revival of the Irish tongue and everyone listens on admiringly.

Stephen suggests that they all go out for a drink, and as they make their way out he tells MacHugh and Crawford a parable about two old virgins climbing to the top of Nelson's pillar to look down on Dublin, "The Parable of the Plums." The women take food and drink and sit there eating plums and spitting the seeds through the railings of the tower. Toward the end of the episode, Bloom returns and tries to secure the Keyes renewal with Crawford, but Crawford blows him off and tells him that Keyes can "kiss his arse."

Episode 8: Lestrygonians

At 1pm Bloom is moving south across the Liffey in the direction of Davy Byrne's pub. He's idle, without much to do, and all of his thoughts are dominated by hunger. Bloom runs into an old flame, Josie Breen, and makes small talk with her about how her husband's mind is slipping. After they part, Bloom wanders into Burton's restaurant, but is disgusted by the men eating there like pigs at a trough. Instead, he opts for a vegetarian lunch at Davy Byrne's. Bloom's mind rushes back to a time that he and Molly made love at Howth's Head, and he is struck by the sad contrast between his life then and his life now. He tries to keep himself from thinking of Molly.

After Bloom leaves, the other men make small talk about him. They think that overall he is a decent guy, but also circulate a number of unfounded rumors, such as the notion that Bloom is a freemason. Bloom heads toward the National Library to check out the statues there. When he's almost there, he sees Blazes Boylan. Bloom panics and ducks into the library quickly to hide from him.

Episode 9: Scylla and Charybdis

By 2pm Stephen is in the National Library presenting his theory of Hamlet to John Eglinton (respected librarian) and George William Russell (renowned literary figure in Dublin). Russell thinks that prying into Shakespeare's biography is irrelevant, and that the only important thing about a work of art is its formless spiritual essence. Eglinton is also skeptical of Stephen, but hears him out to the end. At great length, Stephen argues that Shakespeare corresponds more closely to King Hamlet than to the Prince. He re-works some Catholic beliefs about the trinity so as to be applied to art.

In the course of the discussion, Russell gets up to leave. Stephen feels snubbed when Russell and Eglinton discuss a literary event they will be attending that evening without inviting him. Toward the end of Stephen's argument, Mulligan appears and chides him for missing their 12:30 meeting. He tells him that he saw Bloom peeking up the skirts of the statue of Aphrodite in the lounge. When Stephen finishes, Eglinton asks him if he believes his theory and Stephen says he does not. Mulligan and Stephen leave to go get a drink, and as they pass out, they see Bloom. Mulligan kids Stephen that Bloom is gay and that Stephen must be on his guard.

Episode 10:The Wandering Rocks

Beginning at 3pm we follow the paths of over a dozen different characters as they wander the streets of Dublin. The episode consists of nineteen vignettes that overlap in time and often character involved. In the course of the episode, we see that the Dedalus sisters are living in desperate conditions, relying on food donations to get by. When one of the daughters asks their father, Simon, for money he reluctantly gives her two shillings. Stephen runs into one of his sisters in the street and is torn by a desire to free her from the family situation and the fear that he could suffer the same fate.

Meanwhile, Boylan flirts with a secretary as he prepares a fruit basket for someone. He has a plan to meet Lenehan at the Ormond Hotel at 4pm. Bloom buys Sweets of Sin from a bookcart for Molly. Patrick Dignam's son buys porksteaks and thinks about his father's death. A viceregal cavalcade (celebratory procession) moves through the streets of Dublin toward the Mirius Charity Bazaar saluting everyone that it passes.

Episode 11: Sirens

It's 4pm in the Concert Room at the Ormond Hotel. Two barmaids watch the procession pass by and joke amongst themselves. Simon Dedalus enters and flirts with one of them. Bloom sees Boylan in the street and decides to follow him to the hotel. Boylan only stops in briefly to have a drink with Lenehan before making his way to the Bloom's house at 7 Eccles Street to meet Molly. Bloom, however, has run into Richie Goulding and has agreed to have dinner with him. He nearly chokes with anxiety as Boylan leaves.

Meanwhile, Simon Ben Dollard, and Father Bob Cowley gather around the piano and begin singing songs. Simon signs a bit from the opera Martha to great acclaim. Bloom jots out a letter to Martha Clifford, telling Goulding that he is writing in for an ad. Dollard then sings "The Croppy Boy" and everyone in the bar becomes sentimental. Bloom cuts out before the end. He waits for a tram to pass and then lets out all the gas that has built up in his stomach during the meal.

Episode 12: Cyclops

At 5pm an anonymous narrator runs into Joe Hynes in the street and they decide to go to Barney Kiernan's pub to see the citizen. Throughout this "Cyclops" episode, there are 33 parodies of different writing styles mixed into the prose. They generally pick up on something that comes up in the course of the scene, and then greatly exaggerate it. The parodies are in no way set off from the rest of the prose, but in our detailed line-by-line summary, you'll find that we mark each of them.

"The citizen" is a grumpy old man sitting at the bar with his dog. He never misses an opportunity to talk about the greatness of Ireland and the injustices that the country has suffered. Alf Bergan, John Wyse Nolan, and Lenehan all come in to have a few drinks and join in the discussion.

Bloom arrives looking for Martin Cunningham regarding some insurance business related to the death of Dignam. He inserts himself awkwardly into the conversation; often he is far too literal about matters the men are only joking about. Bloom pushes for moderation in their discussion. Instead, he says, "Force, hatred, history, all that. That's not life for men and women, insult and hatred. And everybody knows that it's the very opposite of that that is really life" (12.423). Alf asks what he is referring to, and he says, "Love" (12.425).

Bloom steps out for a moment, and the opinion of the group turns solidly against him. Led by the citizen, the other men make fun of his Jewishness and his lack of masculinity. Cunningham arrives, and when Bloom comes back he quickly ushers him out to avoid a conflict. The citizen starts yelling anti-Semitic remarks at Bloom, and Bloom yells back. When Bloom tells the citizen that Christ was a Jew, the citizen becomes furious. He throws a tin after Bloom as Cunningham's carriage pulls away, but the tin falls short.

Episode 13: Nausicaa

We now jump to 8pm. A group of women sits on the rocks down by Sandymount Strand: Edy Boardman with her baby, Cissy Caffrey with her little brothers Tommy and Jacky, and Gerty MacDowell. A religious retreat takes place in Mary, Star of the Sea Chapel nearby.

The first half of the scene is told by a narrator in extremely sentimental prose, in the style of young girls romantic novels. Cissy and Edy play with the kids while Gerty sits and daydreams about finding romance and one day being married. She has recently been spurned by a crush (Reggy Wylie), and she pines for him.

Gerty notices a dark man (who, we later learn, is Bloom) a bit further down the beach. The man stares at her intensely, and she makes a point of showing him her hair and revealing her stockings to him. She wonders who he is, and imagines a relationship between them. Fireworks for the Mirus charity bazaar go up nearby, and everyone rushes to see them except Gerty and Bloom.

As a Roman Candle explodes, we realize Bloom has been masturbating and has just had an orgasm. Gerty stands up to walk away, and Bloom sees that she is lame in one foot. He feels guilty. As he recomposes himself, he thinks about Molly and Milly, and all the mysterious ways of women. Bloom's watch stopped at 4:30 (roughly the time Molly and Boylan slept together as we will see later in this episode), and after a while he decides to drift off for a short nap. As he does so, a cuckoo clock sounds from the priest's house up by the chapel.

Episode 14: Oxen of the Sun

It is 10pm at the National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street, where Mina Purefoy is on the verge of giving birth. Mimicking the gestation period, the chapter is written in a variety of styles, progressing from literal translations of early Latinate prose through Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse, Renaissance chronicles, 19th century realist novels, and finally into the broken slang and dialect of modern day Dublin.

Bloom comes to the hospital and is led to a room where a number of doctors, medical students, and men about town are drinking and having a raucous good time. Stephen is there and is extremely drunk. While most of the men joke about different matters related to giving birth, Stephen pontificates on matters of religion and philosophy. Like Bloom, he is outcast, and when a strike of thunder is heard he is scared that it was caused by his blasphemy.

Mulligan arrives with Alec Bannon, who is dating Bloom's daughter Milly. Mulligan's jokes are greatly appreciated by the men, though they tend to be at Stephen's expense. When Mina Purefoy gives birth, the men become even more rowdy. They eventually proceed to Burke's Pub nearby, but Bloom stays late a moment to tell the Nurse to pass his good wishes on to Mina Purefoy. At the bar, Stephen drinks absinthe (very strong liquor). As they leave, Stephen convinces his friend Lynch to go with him to Nighttown (the red light district). Bloom decides to keep an eye on him and follows at a safe distance.

Episode 15: Circe

It's midnight in Nighttown. The episode is rendered in play dialogue with stage directions, and much of the episode takes place in the minds of Bloom and Stephen. Reality and imagination often merge seamlessly and at times it can be difficult to distinguish the two.

Stephen and Lynch have wandered into Nighttown in search of Bella Cohen's brothel. Bloom follows behind. In the street, he imagines encountering his father, and then imagines an elaborate court sequence in which he is tried for being a lewd man. A number of characters from the novel appear to testify for or against Bloom.

Bloom then imagines that he has been crowned the king of the new Bloomusalem, and people call out to him adoringly. Eventually, however, they begin to denounce him. Bloom wanders into Bella Cohen's where he finds Stephen drunk at the piano, and Lynch flirting with a prostitute. When he meets Bella, Bloom has a long masochistic fantasy in which he and Bella change sexes and she abuses him and turns him into a prostitute.

Meanwhile, Stephen is being free with his money. Bloom offers to guard it for him. Stephen begins dancing with the prostitutes, but then is disturbed by a vision of his mother rising from the grave and urging him to repent. He goes pale and knocks the chandelier with his cane as he runs out, shouting "Non Serviam!" (In English, "I will not serve!")

Bloom follows him into the street where Stephen has become engaged in a verbal argument with the English constable Private Carr. Bloom tries to arbitrate, but Stephen mouths off and Carr hits him in the face. Two Irish policeman arrive on the scene and want to take Stephen's name, but Bloom convinces them that Stephen is not a problem. As Bloom helps Stephen up, he has a vision of his dead son Rudy. Bloom calls out to him, but his son does not respond.

Part 3: The Homecoming

Episode 16: Eumaeus

At 1am, Bloom helps Stephen up and walks him to the cabmen's shelter under Loop Line Bridge to get him some food. Under the bridge, Stephen sees a friend of his father and ducks behind a pillar to avoid him. A moment later, he runs into an acquaintance named Corley who hits him up for a half-crown (British coin). Bloom thinks Stephen is too generous.

Inside the shelter, Bloom tells Stephen the rumor that its keeper is Skin-the-Goat Fitzharris, the get-a-way driver from the Phoenix Park murders. A sailor named W.B. Murphy comes over and tells them about his world travels, though Bloom thinks that they are mostly made up.

Bloom tries to make small talk with Stephen. Stephen gets irritated when Bloom shares his communal vision for Ireland where everyone works and gets their fair share. To Stephen, it seems as if Bloom is condescending to the literary occupation.

The keeper and the men in the bar begin to discuss Charles Stewart Parnell and Katherine O'Shea, and Bloom sympathizes with Parnell instead of O'Shea's cuckolded husband (married man who has an adulterous wife). Bloom invites Stephen back to his house for cocoa, and the two of them begin discussing music in the street. Stephen sings a few lines, and Bloom is blown away by his voice. They walk along arm in arm into the night.

Episode 17: Ithaca

At 2am, Bloom and Stephen approach Bloom's house at 7 Eccles Street. The episode is rendered in the style of a catechism (religious book of beliefs to be memorized), and thus everything is narrated through a series of 309 questions and responses.

At his door, Bloom realizes he has forgotten his key and thus climbs over his fence to the lower door of his townhouse. He comes through and lets Stephen in and the two of them proceed to the kitchen. Bloom makes cocoa, and as he does he reflects on all the different qualities of water that attract him to it.

Stephen and Bloom discuss their different backgrounds and Stephen shows Bloom how to write Gaelic, while Bloom shows Stephen how to write Hebrew. At Bloom's request, Stephen sings an anti-Semitic song. Bloom is not too upset about the fact that it is anti-Semitic, but the song involves a man's relationship with his daughter, which makes Bloom glum as his thoughts turn to his own daughter, Milly.

Bloom invites Stephen to spend the night, but he politely declines. The two of them go out through the backyard and pee together in the garden as they observe a shooting star. Bloom reflects on the vastness of the universe and the infinite divisibility of small particles (evolution and involution). As the two of them walk to the rear door, Bloom is full of plans for the future, but Stephen seems indifferent.

Once Stephen leaves, Bloom goes back inside and bumps into some of the furniture that Molly and Boylan moved during their romp around the house. He sits at his desk and thinks of his father. Upstairs, Bloom undresses and climbs into bed beside Molly. They sleep head to foot, and he notes Boylan's imprint as he crawls into bed. Molly asks him about his day and he tells her, though with notable omissions (Martha Clifford, Gerty MacDowell). Molly thinks that they have not had sex in over ten years, and Bloom nods off to sleep with a nursery rhyme in his head.

Episode 18: Penelope

It's now the middle of the night, sometime after 4am. Joyce didn't list a time in the schema for the final episode because he claims that Molly doesn't live her life by the clock. In eight sprawling breathless sentences, we get Molly's wandering thoughts as she lies awake in bed next to Bloom.

Molly remembers her affair with Boylan in explicit sexual detail and reflects back on other lovers she has had over the years. Molly suspects that Bloom is cheating on her. She knows he keeps pornography in the house and that he has some sort of illicit correspondence going on, but she's not sure how she'll catch him.

Molly's period starts and she goes to the chamberpot to clean herself. As she returns to bed, her thoughts go back to her time in Gibraltar as a young girl and then come to focus on Stephen. She thinks that she'll study so he won't think her a fool if he returns, and briefly fantasizes about a romantic relationship with him.

Molly's last thought before she goes to sleep is the memory of Bloom proposing to her on Howth's head. She didn't answer him at first, just looked out over the sea and thought back to all the other men she'd known, but then she asked him to ask her again. And her answer: "yes I said yes I will Yes" (18.783).

Where The Money Is

Little Words, Big Ideas


Want a simple take-home theme from Ulysses? Love matters. Yet throughout the book, characters struggle with problems related to love. At the end of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus's mother prays that he will learn that word known to all men (i.e., love). In Ulysses, brilliant as the young artist is, he still finds himself incapable of loving, perhaps held back by the need to understand love in an intellectual sense. Leopold Bloom knows the importance of love, but over the course of the book we find just what a risk there is of love falling into sentimentality or easy infatuation: how do you preach love without sounding like naïve? And the other big question the book poses is: how does love relate to sexuality (we'll get into this more in the sexuality section)?

Questions About Love

How do Stephen's attempts to understand or justify the idea of love prevent him from ever being able to feel love?
Does Bloom's message of universal love come across as serious or sentimental? Is it possible to preach love without being sentimental? Does it depend on your audience?
Look again at the thoughts of Gerty MacDowell and Molly Bloom. Is there a fundamental difference between the way women think of love in this novel and the way that men do? Is there a difference between Gerty's and Molly's views on love?
What is the relationship between love and sex that comes out of this novel? What about the relationship between love and passion?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
The female characters in Ulysses tend to think of love on a personal level, as something one feels, whereas the men in the novel think of love as an idea to be either supported or refuted.

As Bloom attempts to come to terms with his wife's affair, the novel begins to present mature love not just as a form of activity, but also a form of passivity.


When we think of patriotism, we usually have positive connotations; it's good to be proud of your country. In 1904 Ireland, however, resentment of English oppression could sometimes lead to patriotism that was so strong it became like a form of primitive tribalism. The result is that people worshipped everything that was Irish and had little interest in the rest of the world, leading to a very narrow-minded and insular way of thinking. Joyce, remarkable scholar that he was, could not condone such short-sightedness. He loved his country, but throughout Ulysses he demonstrates the traps of nationalist thinking, and his characters do their best to steer their way through them.

Questions About Patriotism

Considering "Cyclops" and "Eumaeus," the image we get of Irish nationalism is often of a very narrow-minded way of thinking. What would an open-minded nationalism look like?
Compare and contrast some of the different definitions of "nation" that the novel presents. Does Ulysses present one coherent idea of what a nation is? If not, try to elaborate on some of the contradictions.
Think of the recurrence of Robert Emmet's speech in the novel. In what ways has patriotism run its course in Ulysses? How has it lost its power from overuse?
Is patriotism a fundamentally selfless or a fundamentally selfish feeling? Is it both? How so?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
Bloom's moderate view of nationalism is a result of the fact that he comes from two different cultures. The fact that he is both Irish and Jewish allows him to both exist inside a culture and to see it from the outside of it; this makes him think of nationalism as an idea rather than just as a feeling.

The communal nature of nationalism makes it unappealing to the individual-minded Stephen, but Stephen invents his own form of nationalism, one where one strives for self-perfection and allows the nation to benefit as a side effect.


You've probably heard that the plot of Ulysses hinges around the fact that Leopold Bloom's wife is having an affair, and on this particular day, June 16th, Bloom knows that she's going to sleep with Blazes Boylan. Sexuality, particularly in its relation to love, is an enormous problem that the text confronts. The question is: if you love someone, why is sex so important? The answer: sex is important, but it's not clear why. Over the course of the book, we learn more about the character's sexual desires, hang-ups, and neuroses than we could ever possibly want to know. At the same time that sex is revealed as a problem, part of the message of the book is that sex is something that's natural. It is not evil and it need not be hidden. According to Ulysses, though it complicates our lives, sex is something to be celebrated rather than something of which we should be ashamed.

Questions About Sex

What is the relationship between sex and love in the novel? Is sex a necessary part of a loving relationship or not? Must sexual desire and love always move along the same lines?
What are the factors that lead to Bloom's feelings of impotence and sexual inadequacy? Why is it that he's incapable of having sex with his wife, but carries on an illicit correspondence on the side?
Does Molly come across negatively as a result of her affair with Boylan? Is there anything wrong about her sexual desires or how she goes about satisfying them? If so, what is wrong and why?
What is Stephen Dedalus's relationship to sexuality? Is he a asexual creature or do his desires just come out in bizarre ways? Where in Stephen's behavior do you see sexual desire?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
The fact that Bloom's sexual desires are always mediated in some way – whether through language or fantasy – shows that he has not yet come to terms with whether or not he and Molly are somehow responsible for the death of their son Rudy.

Molly Bloom has successfully separated love and sexual desire in her mind. Her feelings of love and genuine affection are safely reserved for her husband Leopold, and she is simply using Boylan to satisfy her sexual cravings.

Memory and the Past

Ulysses takes place in the course of one day, from 8am on June 16th to sometime after 4 A.M. on June 17th. People often joke about the fact that nothing happens in Ulysses. We readily admit that if all the book did was narrate the actions of the characters, it'd be pretty boring and you'd probably never had heard of it. But Ulysses does more. Much more. With the intimate view that we get of each character's inner life, we are exposed to the vast expanse of their memories. Events in the present inevitably make them think of the past. The book poses a lot of big questions about the relation of past to present, particularly in terms of happiness: is remembered happiness somehow inferior to happiness experienced first-hand?

Questions About Memory and the Past

What triggers memories in the novel, Ulysses? Is it certain visual sensations, the words of others, one's own thoughts? What does this say about the relationship between memory and the present?
In relation to Leopold and Molly's marriage, much of their happiness together is remembered rather than experienced in the present. Does this make it less valuable? Is memory itself a sort of present experience?
In particular relation to the death of Stephen's mother, to what extent are the characters in the novel in possession of their memories and to what extent are they possessed by them?
Stephen is extremely erudite, and Bloom is fairly well educated. Is there a broader sort of memory at work in the novel – not just memories based on one's individual experiences, but also cultural memory? What role does language play in the transmission of cultural memories?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
In Joyce's novel, painful memories, such as Stephen's memory of the death of his mother, tend to be involuntary – they take possession of the characters without their control. Pleasant memories, on the other hand, seem to be voluntary – they are actively conjured up by the characters to make themselves feel better.

Molly's memory of Bloom's proposal at the end of the novel is a re-affirmation of their marriage, and in this case the act of remembering is an act of making past feelings and convictions present.


As you may have heard, all the action of Ulysses takes place over the course of a day. Joyce kept a detailed schema that had each episode in the book beginning at a particular hour. When the bells of different churches sound in Dublin, they fit in almost perfectly with his plan. Yet time isn't just measured by the clock in Ulysses. Because we get a window into the character's minds, we also have to think about how time works in thought versus how it works in the external world. In one episode, for example, a character's dreams go on and on for what would seem like hours, and yet we find that all the external action is taking place in just a few minutes. One of the many questions posed by the book is: to what extent do we live our lives in time?

Questions About Time

What is the distinction between time and eternity that is drawn in the novel? When Stephen contemplates both of them, what does it mean for him to think in terms of time? What about eternity?
How does age correspond to our sense of the past and the future? How does the way that Bloom experiences the past and the future differ from the way that Stephen experiences them?
Does having or not having children reflect the way that Leopold and Molly Bloom experience time? Namely, does the loss of Rudy give Bloom a more or less acute sense of time? Does the growth of Milly heighten or lower Molly's sense of time?
Is time presented as being objective or subjective in the novel? How can we distinguish between the character's experience of time and time itself? To what extent is time left a mystery?

Chew on This

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Stephen spends so much time contemplating the past because, young as he is, the future seems almost boundless. Bloom, on the other hand, mainly studies what he thinks will be useful to him because his sense of the future is limited.

Time measured by the clock and the subjective experience of time compete in the novel for the most accurate depiction of how time works. In Molly's timeless final monologue, the clock is revealed to be of only secondary importance in terms of how people think of time.

Life, Consciousness, and Existence

This is kind of a catch-all category for a theme, but there are a lot of big head-scratching nail-biting philosophical questions posed in Ulysses. Joyce is an author whose main concern is with how it feels to exist as a human being, with what it means to be alive. The characters in the book, Stephen Dedalus in particular, don't just struggle with personal problems, they are tormented by philosophical questions about the nature of truth. Yet the remarkable thing about Ulysses (and one of the things that makes it so hard) is that Joyce refuses to separate the abstract questions of philosophy from daily life. To an extent, there are parts of the book where the characters get more lost in thought than others, but in general they are both thinking and living at the same time. At no point do we get lost in universal questions about human nature without also getting drenched in the particular details of what it means to be, say, Leopold Bloom. In one moment, Bloom can simultaneously be speculating on how something came from nothing and also thinking that he has to pee badly.

Questions About Life, Consciousness, and Existence

In what ways can the character's views on life constantly be traced back to their own personal experiences, neuroses, and convictions? Does this undermine their views or affirm them?
Is there one coherent philosophy of life expressed in Ulysses? If not, then is there maybe one coherent philosophy of how one goes about making a philosophy of life?
What role does language play in how the characters view their existence?
Does language play a larger role in mediating experience for Stephen, who is extremely erudite, than it does for Bloom?
Based on the relationships between the three main characters – Leopold, Stephen, and Molly – are human beings portrayed as lonely and isolated or as inevitably connected to one another? Do the character's thoughts on life seem to alienate them from others or to bring them closer together?
Chew on This
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
The fact that the character's innermost thoughts are still expressed in language – however fragmented – suggests that one's relation to the world and to other people in the world is always mediated by the words that one uses.

There is no such thing as an impersonal theory in the novel, but especially in Stephen's case, subjectivity lends credence to his theories rather than undermining them. Complete objectivity is revealed as an impossible dream.


If you've read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, you'll probably remember that Stephen Dedalus grew up in an extremely religious family and that early on he even considered becoming a priest. By the end of that novel, he's broken his ties with the church, and has decided to replace the priestly vocation with the artistic vocation. So in a sense Stephen, one of the main characters of Ulysses, is not religious. But the truth is that he's actually more tormented by religious questions than most of the Dubliners that line up for Church every Sunday. The problem of religion was even more complex in 1904 Dublin because different religions sometimes broke down along political lines: most of the Irish nationalists were Catholics, and most of those who favored union with England were Protestants. Religion, like patriotism, is both an obsession and a danger in the novel; it has enormous value, but how does one escape its narrow-mindedness?

Questions About Religion

Though devout religious belief is something that is a mere memory to Stephen, how does strict belief shape his current views against orthodox religion?
Why does Stephen's frustration with religious belief isolate him from other people? What beliefs might he add that would make his religious experience a more communal one?
Why might Bloom be compared to the prophet Elijah in the novel? In what ways is Bloom prophetic?
Does Bloom's scientism leave any room for religious belief? What is the difference between Bloom and Stephen that allows Bloom to be an unbothered atheist whereas Stephen is a tortured lapsed Catholic?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
By parodying religious styles in the novel, Joyce reveals that what is often thought of as religious feeling is as much a result of the language in which religious ideas are expressed as it is of the ideas themselves.

Stephen has abandoned the Catholic Church in favor of a personal almost mystical belief in God as present in everything around us. It would seem that the belief might bind him closer to the people around him, but it isolates him because Stephen's religious beliefs are entwined with his guilt over the death of his mother – something with which he has not personally come to terms.


Leopold Bloom, the main character in Ulysses, is an Irishman. But in 1904 Dublin there are a lot of people that would not have thought so. The reason is that Bloom is also a Jew, and Jews were looked on as being somehow different – a separate (and inferior) race. The fact that Joyce makes the hero of his great Irish novel a Jew is a case of him stirring up a fuss. There's no doubt that he enjoyed driving Irishmen mad, but he's also challenging the prejudices of the time. Anti-Semitism was common throughout Europe, and Ireland was no exception. Throughout the novel, other characters speak disparagingly of Jews and Bloom does his best to stand up for them. It seems that Joyce already had a scent of the horrible prejudice that would become infamous world-round in World War II, with one of the most awful human rights disasters in the history of humanity.

Questions About Prejudice

Both Haines and Deasy seem to have a view of history that suggests it is beyond the control of any one individual. Who is responsible for the injustices of history if it is outside of human control?
How does your view of prejudice change when you see the roots of the characters' prejudices? Why is prejudice such an easy trap to fall into when one is actually motivated by a number of complex personal feelings? How can one denounce someone's prejudice while simultaneously empathizing with that person's perspective?
What are some of the different ways that Leopold Bloom opposes prejudice in the novel – both explicit and implicit? What are the pros and cons of the different approaches to fighting prejudice? Is one more effective than the other?
Is there any character in the novel that seems to be above prejudice? If so, who? How do they stay above it? If not, how are some of the least prejudicial characters still hemmed in by it?
Chew on This
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
In the novel, many characters think of themselves as objects of history – history happens to them and they cannot control it. Throughout Ulysses, this view leads to prejudice and narrow-mindedness. It is only when Stephen imagines himself as an agent of history that prejudice begins to subside.

In "Cyclops," Bloom's impossible position comes to light, and the two-heads of the prejudicial chimera can clearly be seen. First, if Bloom lets the men's prejudice pass uncommented, they will think him a coward and it will confirm their biases. Second, if Bloom actively opposes their prejudice, then they will become defensive and feel that his opposition merely confirms their preconceptions.


Ulysses is full of that most common thing – death. Stephen Dedalus's mother has died between the end of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and the opening of Ulysses, and he is tormented by feelings of remorse and guilt because he refused to pray over her before she passed. Leopold Bloom is a man who is in a sense living between two deaths – his father has committed suicide, and his son Rudy died over ten years ago, at the age of just eleven days. Thus the characters in the book are intimately aware of what a fleeting thing life is, and we are exposed to a great deal of their thoughts surrounding human mortality. At the same time, this isn't all super heavy-handed and serious. In "Hades," for example, you'll find that some of Bloom's thoughts on death are actually hilarious. Example: why don't they bury people long ways up instead of horizontal, so as to save space?

Questions About Mortality

Life is often viewed as being transient in Ulysses. How does life's very transience give way to a different concept of mortality, one not tied into any one individual's life span?
Though they have all died before the start of the novel, May Dedalus, Rudolph Virag, and Rudy all seem to be characters in Ulysses. In what ways is the line between life and death blurred in the novel? In what ways is it maintained?
Particularly in "Hades," death is treated humorously in the novel. Is it possible to think of one's mortality as a comic matter? Do the characters seem to have mastered this capacity, or do their attempts to crack jokes about death simply indicate that they are frightened of it and trying to hide it?
The deaths of Rudolph Virag (Bloom's father) and Rudy (Bloom's son) have left Bloom the only remaining male progenitor in his line. Does this fact seem to heighten Bloom's sense of his own mortality? When he reflects on their deaths, is he also thinking about his own?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
Stephen's vanity blinds him from any real sense of his own death. All he can imagine is the completion of his great artistic project, and young as he is, everything else seems tangential to it, including his own life.

In contrast to Bloom, who realizes that he is the last of his family line, most men in the novel never have to come to terms with what it means to be mortal. The other characters that speak of death seem to harbor the belief that by reproducing, they are guaranteed a form of immortality.

Freedom and Confinement

In 1904, Dublin could be a confining place to be. No one feels this more than Stephen Dedalus (though many felt it as much). Between English oppression and the enormous influence of the Roman Catholic Church, it was quite hard for one to feel any true sense of independence or self-empowerment. As in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen strives for personal freedom, but in Ulysses, we begin to see a more mature search. Stephen begins to learn that complete freedom can itself be confining, and at the start of this novel he feels cut off from the world around him, isolated and trapped in his own head. At times, it is unclear if Stephen has become free or simply been abandoned. He does not give up the search, but the question does present itself: if freedom itself can be confining, than what exactly does it mean to be free?

Questions About Freedom and Confinement

Though Stephen has renounced both, how is his desire to be a free thinker still belied by the English and the Roman Catholic Church?
What is the difference between Stephen's free thought and Mulligan's? What are the burdens of a truly free thinker?
Stephen famously refers to history as a nightmare. In what ways is history dream-like? Is it possible to be free from history or are we always to be constrained by it?
How are laughter and the ability to laugh at oneself liberating forces in Ulysses? How can seriousness come to feel like bondage?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
Stephen's guilt over the death of his mother has made him realize that if one cares about and feels obligations to other people, then regardless of what one says, they can never be completely free.

Laughter possesses salvatory power in the book. It is the only tool the characters have to undermine their own vanity, which, particularly in the case of Stephen, is the most confining thing of all.


Love Theme

# 1

"Ugly and futile: lean neck and tangled hair and a stain of ink, a snail's bed. Yet someone had loved him, borne him in her arms and in her heart. But for her the race of the world would have trampled him under foot, a squashed boneless snail. She had loved this weak watery blood draining from her own. Was that then real? The only true thing in life?" (2.69).

Here, in "Nestor," Stephen observes his student, Cyril Sargent. Stephen initially resents Sargent, but then begins to sympathize with the student when he thinks of how Sargent's mother must have loved him. Is Stephen starting to understand the nature of love or does the fact that his thoughts quickly turn to his own mother suggest that he still is far too self-absorbed to understand love?


"- The sentimentalist is he who would enjoy without incurring the immense debtorship for a thing done." Signed: Dedalus. (9.207)

How does Stephen's telegram to Mulligan in "Scylla and Charybdis" indirectly explain his own trouble with loving? Does he think that he has to justify his love? Is it possible to rationally justify love? Does the telegram explain how Stephen distinguishes himself from the constant-mocker Mulligan? Is the distinction justified?


"- Force, hatred, history, all that. That's not life for men and women, insult and hatred. And everybody knows that it's the very opposite of that that is really life."

- "What?" says Alf.

- "Love," says Bloom. I mean the opposite of hatred. I must go now, says he to John Wyse." (12.423 – 425)

How much courage must it take for Bloom to preach the importance of love to intoxicated and indifferent Irishman in Burke's pub? Does the message sound to these men? Is it affective, or does he just sound like a sentimentalist?

Patriotism theme


"- It gives them a crick in their necks," Stephen said, "and they are too tired to look up or down or to speak. They put the bag of plums between them and eat the plums out of it one after another, wiping off with their handkerchiefs the plum-juice that dribbles out of their mouths and spitting the plum-stones slowly out between the railings."

He gave a sudden young laugh as a close. (7.515-516)

These are the last lines of Stephen's "Parable of the Plums" that he tells to Myles Crawford and Professor MacHugh as they walk out of the Freeman Telegraph office. What does Stephen's parable say about Irish nationalism and life in Dublin? To get you going, why do they throw down the plum seeds? Why does the parable involve two old women that have never reproduced in their lives? Why is that they climb to the top of a pillar meant to honor an Englishman?


Nations of the earth. No-one behind. She's passed. Then and not till then. Tram. Kran, kran, kran. Good oppor. Coming. Krandlkrankran. I'm sure it's the burgundy. Yes. One, two. Let my epitaph be. Karaaaaaaa. Written. I have.


Done. (11.623-625)

These are the last lines of the "Sirens" episode. What's going on is that Bloom is remembering the last line of the patriot Robert Emmet's speech before he was executed. At the same time, he is waiting for the noise of a passing tram so that he can let out all the gas that has built up in his stomach. To an Irish reader, this passage would be extremely offensive. Joyce is mingling the dying words of their beloved patriot with the sound of a fart. Why would he do this? Is it possible for a sincere and powerful sentence to become sentimental and powerless simply from overuse? How would Bloom's fart undercut this sentimentality?


"-Their syphilisation, you mean," says the citizen. "To hell with them! The curse of a goodfornothing God light sideways on the bloody thicklugged sons of whores' gets! No music and no art and no literature worthy of name. Any civilization they have they stole from us. Tonguetied sons of bastards' ghosts." (12.331)

Here, the citizen rails against the lack of culture in England. This is one of his many "patriotic" rants in the "Cyclops" episode. It is plain to see how his Irish pride has caused him to renounce many things simply because they are not Irish. What would it mean for the citizen to be able to appreciate the culture of his oppressor? In what ways would it be degrading? In what ways would it be liberating?

Sex Theme


Wanted smart lady typist to aid gentleman in literary work. I called you naughty darling because I do not like that other world. Please tell me what is the meaning. Please tell me what perfume does your wife. Tell me who made the world. (8.110)

As Bloom passes the Irish Times, he remembers that he put an ad in the paper for a lady typist. That is how he met Martha Clifford with whom he is now carrying on an illicit (though relatively tame) correspondence. What does it say about Bloom that he lives out his sexual life through written letters? Does language itself become sexualized for Bloom? In what ways is he repressed and why?



Mr. Bloom with careful hand recomposed his wet shirt. O Lord that little limping devil. Begins to feel cold and clammy. Aftereffect not pleasant. Still you have to get rid of it someway. They don't care. Complimented perhaps. (13.91-92)

In this scene, Bloom has just finished masturbating to Gerty MacDowell. How does Joyce stylistically capture the down feeling after an orgasm? Hint: notice sentence length. Also, Bloom has just finished masturbating in public. Is he a disgusting man or is this a forgivable act? Has he disrespected Gerty? If so, how?



"He surprised me in the rere of the premises, your honour, when the missus was out shopping one morning with a request for a safety pin. He held me and I was discoloured in four places as a result. And he interfered twict with my clothing." (15.191)

Mary Driscoll, an ex-servant of the Bloom's, is one of the first women to testify against Bloom as a lewd man in his masochistic court fantasy. To an extent, her story is later corroborated by Molly. In general, it seems that the imaginary charges brought against Bloom are mainly a result of his guilt over his sexual desires. Why do people in general (and Bloom in particular) feel guilty about their sexuality? What is there to feel guilty about, if anything?

Memory and the Past


The cords of all link back, strandentwining cable of all flesh. That is why mystic monks. Will you be as gods? Gaze in your omphalos. Hello. Kinch here. Put me on to Edenville. Aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one. (3.6)

Stephen here imagines the umbilical cord (omphalos) as a telephone cord that goes back into the past, allowing him to make a telephone call to Eden by dialing the Greek letters (Aleph, alpha). Why might he settle on the image of an umbilical cord? How can the umbilical cord become a metaphor for our relation to the past?


Quick warm sunlight came running from Berkeley Road, swiftly, in slim sandals, along the brightening footpath. Runs, she runs to meet me, a girl with gold hair on the wind. (4.63)

Notice here how the external world ties into memory. The shifting of the sun jogs a memory of Milly for Bloom. Is this how memory actually works? Is it true to life?


Must have been that morning in Raymond terrace she was at the window, watching the two dogs at it by the wall of the cease to do evil. And the sergeant grinning up. She had that cream gown on with the rip she never stitched. Give us a touch, Poldy. God, I'm dying for it. How life beings. (6.29)

In the carriage with the men on the way to Dignam's funeral, Bloom has this recollection of the moment that he thinks was Rudy's conception. What does it mean to remember your child in terms of their conception versus their birth? Does the fact that we as readers read this memory as a sentence (a sentence that looks like all the other sentences that depict the present) make our experience of this memory different than it is for Bloom? What gives this memory special poignancy today? How might it be tied in with Bloom's feelings of guilt over the death of his son?



These heavy sands are language tide and wind have silted here. (3.62)

What does this thought of Stephen's say about the role of language in relation to the past? Can language become eroded, can it become washed up on the beach like heavy sands? Just how much is our relationship to the physical world around us mediated by language? What effect does time have on the language that we use?


He took the hilt of his ashplant, lunging it softly, dallying still. Yes, evening will find itself in me, without me. All days make their end. (3.90)

This is one of Stephen's thoughts toward the very end of the "Proteus" episode. To what extent do we think of time as something separate from us? To what extent is it a personal concept? What gives time personal meaning and significance? Is it just a set of measurements that help us keep track of our days?


Mr Bloom turned over idly pages of The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, then of Aristotle's Masterpiece. Crooked botched print. Plates: infants cuddled in a ball in bloodred wombs like livers of slaughtered cows. Lots of them like that at this moment all over the world. All butting with their skulls to get out of it. Child born every minute somewhere. Mrs Purefoy. (10.347)

Bloom speculates idly in "The Wandering Rocks." The passage interests us because people tend to think of time largely in relation to themselves. Time seems vertical, meaning that one moment follows the next but we don't think about all the different things that happen in each of those moments. Here, time seems horizontal. Bloom is thinking broadly about what happens all over the world with each ticking of the minute hand on a clock. How is this idea of horizontal time applicable to the chapter of "The Wandering Rocks" at large?



Thought is the thought of thought. (2.35)

This is a thought of Stephen's as he speculates on Aristotle and remembers his time in Paris in the episode "Nestor." Does this mean that thought can only lead to other thoughts and thus never actually sets a foot in the world? For example, when I think about a bicycle am I only thinking about a thought-bicycle (distinct from bicycles in the real world) or am I actually thinking about that thing in the world that we call a bicycle? If you have some time to kill, mull through the Gifford annotations around this passage and see what you can work out. Maybe it's more moderate. Thought is always different than things in the world, but is still somehow connected with them. How can you describe the relationship between thought and the world? Language and the world?


His shadow lay over the rocks as he bent, ending. Why not endless till the farthest star? Darkly they are there behind this light, darkness shining in the brightness, delta of Cassiopeia, worlds. Me sits there with his augur's rod of ash, in borrowed sandals, by day beside a livid sea, unbeheld, in violet night walking beneath a reign of uncouth stars. I throw this ended shadow from me, manshape ineluctable, call it back. Endless, would it be mine, form of my form? Who watches me here? Who ever anywhere will read these written words? Signs on a white field. Somewhere to someone in your flutiest voice. The good bishop of Cloyne took the veil of the temple out of his shovel hat: veil of space with coloured emblems hatched on its field. Hold hard. Coloured on a flat: yes, that's right. Flat I see, then think distance, near, far, flat I see, east, back. Ah, see now. Falls back suddenly, frozen in stereoscope. Click does the trick. You find my words dark. Darkness is in our souls, do you not think? Flutier. Our souls, shame-wounded by our sins, cling to us yet more, a woman to her lover clinging, the more the more. (3.78)

This quote gives a good sense of the stream-of-consciousness style in "Proteus." When we first read this, we thought this sounded like the thoughts of a man who had devoured encyclopedias and now had his mind on at full blast, as if he were hyped up on amphetamines or something. Do you find this an accurate portrayal of thought? If not accurate, what advantages does it have over the more traditional monologue form where the author is obligated to write in complete sentences? In what ways does Stephen associate goodness with being dark instead of bright?


"- Bosh!" Stephen said rudely. "A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery." (9.90)

In "Scylla and Charybdis," this is Stephen's response to John Eglinton's contention that Shakespeare made a mistake by marrying Ann Hathaway. There are two real statements here. First, a man of genius makes his errors by choice. Second, a man of genius can turn his errors into portals of discovery. Which of these do you agree with, if any? To what extent might Stephen's view of the artist be motivated by his own experience? What particular mistake of Stephen's might he have in mind? How is the fact that Stephen's life informs his theory actually a support of his theory that the artist and his work are inseparable?



"- You're not a believer, are you?" Haines asked. "I mean, a believer in the narrow sense of the word. Creation from nothing and miracles and a personal God."

"- There's only sense of the word, it seems to me," Stephen said. (1.289-290)

Is Stephen right that there is only one sense of the word "believe?" Obviously Stephen does not like Haines or his condescending attitude. Is his answer in some way a reflection of his dislike for Haines? Is the belief question an intellectual question for Stephen or is it something else?


From the playfield the boys raised a shout. A whirring whistle: goal…

"- The ways of the Creator are not our ways," Mr. Deasy said. "All history moves towards one great goal, the manifestation of God."

Stephen jerked his thumb towards the window, saying:

"- That is God…"

"- What?" Mr Deasy asked.

"- A shout in the street," Stephen answered, shrugging his shoulders." (2.159-165)

We note that Stephen's assertion that God is a shout in the street is actually an expression of belief (and not of atheism). What different views of God are Stephen and Mr. Deasy arguing? Does Mr. Deasy's theory now allow for God to be present in the moment? Does Stephen's theory contradict more traditional religious beliefs?


Cousin Stephen, you will never be a saint. Isle of saints. You were awfully holy, weren't you? You prayed to the Blessed Virgin that you might have a red nose. You prayed to the devil in Serpentine avenue from the fubsy widow in front might lift her clothes still more from the wet street. O si, certo! Sell your soul for that, do, dyed rags pinned round a squaw. More tell me, more still! On the top of the Howth tram alone crying to the rain: naked women! What about that, eh? (3.36)

In "Proteus," Stephen is remembering the Stephen that we knew in Portrait. That Stephen was deeply religious, striving to be good, but was also tempted by prostitutes and sexual desire. How does Stephen's memory of being such a religious young man shape the man that he is today? How do the values instilled him by religion make him so stubborn in his current beliefs against religion?



Haines detached from his underlip some fibres of tobacco before he spoke.

"- I can quite understand that, he said calmly. An Irishman must think like that, I daresay. We feel in England that we have treated you rather unfairly. It seems history is to blame." (1.306-307)

Haines, an Englishman, is here exposed to Stephen's feeling that the Irish are oppressed by the English (they were). In what way is Haines response a failure to empathize with the situation of the Irish? What does it mean that "history is to blame?" Who is actually responsible if "history" is to blame?"


"- I knew you couldn't," he said joyously. "But one day you must feel it. We are a generous people but we must also be just."

"- I fear those big words," Stephen said, "which make us so unhappy." (2.121-122)

Mr. Deasy has just asked Stephen if he could say that he has paid his way. Stephen admits that this is not true, and Mr. Deasy makes his call for justice. Why does Mr. Deasy's invocation of justice threaten to make Stephen unhappy? What does "justice" mean when it comes out of the mouth of an Englishman versus an Irishman?


"A woman brought sin into the world. For a woman who was no better than she should be, Helen, the runaway wife of Menelaus, ten years the Greeks made war on Troy. A faithless wife first brought the strangers to our shore here, MacMurrough's wife and her leman O'Rourke, prince of Breffni. A woman too brought Parnell low. Many errors, many failures but not the one sin. I am a struggler now at the end of my days. But I will fight for the right till the end." (2.167)

Here, in "Nestor," Mr. Deasy is looking for another scapegoat; this time it's women. We later learn that Deasy's wife treats him horribly and goes and pawns their furniture on the weekends. How does anger over a personal incident turns into a real prejudice? Why would Deasy hide his personal anger with prejudice?



Bag of corpsegas sopping in foul brine. A quiver of minnows, fat of a spongy titbit, flash through the slits of his buttoned trouserfly. God becomes man becomes fish becomes barnacle goose becomes featherbed mountain. Dead breaths I living breathe, tread dead dust, devour a ruinous offal from all dead. Hauled stark over the gunwale he breathes upward the stench of his green grave, his leprous nosehole snoring to the sun.
A seachange this, brown eyes saltblue. Seadeath, mildest of all deaths known to man. (3.87-88)

Here, in "Proteus," Stephen imagines the body of a man that he has heard was pulled out of the sea. Why does Stephen think of death so graphically? How might his need to think of death in such graphic terms be related to the death of his mother? To his own artistic temperament? Is he just being morbid? Is it true, as John Keats once said, that those who love life the most also long for death?


A cloud began to cover the sun wholly slowly wholly. Grey. Far.

No, not like that. A barren land, bare waste. Vulcanic lake, the dead sea: no fish, weedless, sunk deep in the earth. No wind would lift those waves, grey metal, poisonous foggy waters. Brimstone they called it raining down: the cities of the plain: Sodom, Gomorrah, Edom. All dead names. A dead sea in a dead land, grey and old. Old now. It bore the oldest, the first race. A bent hag crossed from Cassidy's clutching a noggin bottle by the neck. The oldest people. Wandered far away over all the earth, captivity to captivity, multiplying, dying, being born everywhere. It lay there now. Now it could bear no more. Dead: an old woman's: the grey sunken cunt of the world.

Desolation. (4.59-61)

Look closely at this scene in "Lotus Eaters." How does the external scene suddenly turn Bloom's thoughts in such a morbid direction? In contrast to Joyce's letters, which are quite explicit, this is also the only place in the novel where the word "cunt" appears. What do you make of the fact that he reserves this for a description of the Dead Sea? That the female organ of reproduction is here related to death?


He ceased. Mr. Bloom glanced from his angry moustache to Mr. Power's mild face and Martin Cunningham's eyes and beard, gravely shaking. Noisy selfwilled man. Full of his son. He is right. Something to hand on. If little Rudy had lived. See him grow up. Hear his voice in the house. Walking beside Molly in an Eton suit. My son. Me in his eyes. Strange feeling it would be. From me. Just a chance. (6.29)

In "Hades," Simon Dedalus is complaining about Stephen, which gets Bloom thinking about his son Rudy. What hopes does Bloom hang on the head of his son Rudy? How does Rudy's death accentuate Bloom's sense of his own mortality?

Freedom and Confinement


"Yes, of course," [Mulligan] said, as they went on again. "Either you believe or you don't, isn't it? Personally I couldn't stomach that idea of a personal God. You don't stand for that, I suppose?"

"You behold in me," Stephen said with grim displeasure, "a horrible example of free thought." (1.294-295)

What is Haines misunderstanding here? Stephen also has trouble stomaching the idea of a personal God, but what is the difference between his free-thinking and that of Haines and Mulligan? Why does Stephen have so much trouble with the idea of being a free thinker? What personal cares and connections does he have that the other two lack?


"After all, I should think you are able to free yourself. You are your own master, it seems to me.

I am the servant of two masters," Stephen said, "an English and an Italian." (1.299-300)

In "Telemachus," Haines is trying to understand why Stephen feels so oppressed. Here, Stephen refers to English oppression and the Roman Catholic Church (the "Italian" masters). Both were extremely dominant in Dublin life, but why should a free thinker like Stephen still feel that they are his masters? Educated as he is, couldn't he just break from their influence?


"History," Stephen said, "is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." (2.158)

What control does one have over one's actions in dreams and nightmares? Why would Irish history seem like a nightmare to Stephen? How, as an individual, might he awaken from the history of his nation?



How To Deal With Potential Symbols in Ulysses

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

If you pick up Don Gifford's Ulysses Annotated, you'll quickly realize just what an absurd number of symbols and allusions there are in Ulysses. Most of these are not just toss-off allusions either; they are only one element in a complete network of imagery. For example, each episode in the novel not only corresponds to a specific time and episode from the Odyssey, each episode also corresponds to a particular organ of the body, to a given art form, to certain colors, to one dominant symbol, and to a certain type of literary technique. The epigraph to Gifford's book is a quote from Joyce: "I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of insuring one's immortality." Over 80 years later, Joyce's immortality seems insured: professors are still arguing and students are still pulling their hair out as they try to understand the book.

So, what can be done? Do we just throw up our arms in despair? Well, that's one option. The other is to make a go at figuring out some symbols in Ulysses, but to take notice of a few caveats first. We'll list some of them here:

1. No symbol is an island unto itself. Meaning that as you narrow your focus down to a particular symbol or image in Ulysses, you will also need to acknowledge that you can zoom out and see how it comes into play with several other symbols from the book. Don't worry about all the other symbols it interacts with because then you'll feel like a fly caught in a spider's web, but do try to take into account a few.

2. A symbol is not just a symbol. The most famous literary example of this comes from Shakespeare's King Lear, when the Earl of Gloucester is betrayed and has his eyes gouged out. The temptation is to say: "that's definitely a symbol." The Earl didn't see the betrayal coming, and thus his blindness is a symbol for his naiveté. But in that play the sheer violence of the scene forces you to say: "wait, that's a real thing and it looks like it really hurt." The message being: symbols are real things, and their role as symbols is only one aspect of what they are.

To take an example from Ulysses. Leopold Bloom corresponds to Odysseus, but you can't just read his story as a re-making of the Odyssey because Leopold Bloom also corresponds to Leopold Bloom. Believe it or not, Ulysses is actually an extremely realistic novel, and Joyce is careful not to let the storyline be constrained by allegory. The story comes first, and ideally all of the symbols and allusions just spring up out of it organically.

To reduce all this to an imperative: Make sure that whenever you analyze a symbol, your analysis has something to say about what is happening on the day June 16th, 1904.

3. The Magic 8 Ball Problem. We don't know if you've ever consulted an 8 Ball to help you make an important life decision, but if you have you'll notice that there's a problem with it. Namely, if you shake it up more than once you get back a different and often contradictory answer. Well, the same thing happens with symbols in Ulysses. There's never just one way to read them. You may think you have all the holes plugged in your argument that Stephen's ashplant is reminiscent of a blind's man stick and is emblematic of Stephen's blindness to human relations. But if you step back and re-think it, you'll no doubt find another way of looking at it.

One way to deal with the 8 Ball Problem is to have one dominant argument and then spend some time acknowledging other interpretations and explaining why yours is better. But the cool way to deal with the Problem is to argue two different contradictory interpretations of a symbol. Here, what you can do is find the discontinuities and the gaps between them, and then you can think about how the two different interpretations come into dialogue and comment upon one another. Ideally, the tension produced as you try to reconcile a contradiction will reveal something that neither symbol could have on its own.

And on to the symbols. Here are a few of the major symbols and allegories in Ulysses:

The Odyssey

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Fun fact: Why is Joyce's novel named Ulysses? Answer: Because it's based on the Odyssey. Specifically, the novel is structured using Homer's epic as a framework. Each of the eighteen episodes of Ulysses corresponds to a different adventure from the Odyssey, and almost all of the main characters can be aligned with characters from the epic tale The three big correlations are: Leopold Bloom to Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus to Ulysses's son Telemachus, and Molly to Ulysses's wife Penelope.

With the help of our episode analyses (which accompany the episode summaries), you can peg down pretty much all of the parallels between the books. But often, even once you've identified the parallels, you might still wonder what the point is. We say that in "Circe," Bloom's potato corresponds to the talisman that Ulysses takes into the witch Circe's palace to keep him from falling under her spell. Clever enough, but so what? When first reading this book, we remember thinking that most of the similarities to the Odyssey were pretty simple and far-fetched. It seemed like Joyce was just trying to show off and bring importance to his book by comparing it to Homer's.

But there's something else going on here. The more that Joyce read, the more he began to notice a disparity between literature and life (Ellmann, James Joyce). Books seemed to operate by their own rules, which were very different from the rules of the world. A character like Ulysses is held up as a hero, someone to emulate, but most of us don't find ourselves lost at sea because we've angered the god Poseidon, and most of us don't find ourselves doing battle with one-eyed monsters. The question is: does this mean that our lives aren't heroic?

By naming his book Ulysses, Joyce was attempting to lasso Homer's epic. He wanted to pull it down to earth, to reveal the way that ordinary people make heroic quests in their daily lives. In Joyce's novel, our epic hero is an average Jewish ad salesman who has been feeling a bit dumpy lately because he hasn't been doing Sandow's Exercises. On top of that, his wife is cheating on him, he has a head full of sexual neuroses, he has bad gas, and at one point he even decides to masturbate in public. Leopold Bloom is one average guy. The point, though, is that no matter how average we think we are, we are living lives worthy of literary epics.

Now, a lot of people joke about how Ulysses is like Seinfeld: it's a book about nothing. That's not quite true. In the course of the day, Bloom goes to a funeral, tries to secure an ad, bumps into his old fling Josie Breen, gets in a fight with an Irish bigot, masturbates, goes to the maternity hospital where a woman is giving birth, follows Stephen Dedalus into the red light district, and then saves him from getting arrested. But admittedly, for almost 800 pages, that sure doesn't feel like a lot.

The reason is that one way Joyce turns a day in a man's life into a heroic epic is by opening up his thoughts, by moving the epic from the realm of action to the realm of the mind. In the 20th century, he seems to be saying, our odysseys take place between our ears. And it is there that we battle despair, jealousy, self-loathing, ignorance, lack of understanding, and boredom.

A last point, which we borrow from critic Hugh Kenner's excellent guide to Ulysses. You'll remember that in "Calypso," Molly wants to know what metempsychosis is. Bloom has trouble explaining it, but the basic idea is that it is reincarnation, your soul coming back again in another form. Kenner takes the idea of metempsychosis and argues that Bloom is not just an imitation of Ulysses. He is Ulysses. That's not to say that the book presupposes that reincarnation is possible and that Bloom is Ulysses reincarnated in the flesh. But in the sense that both Ulysses and Bloom came from the creative minds of authors with similar purposes, they are very much one and the same, albeit in different circumstances.

Omphalos & Pregnancy

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

According to Greek legend, Zeus sent two eagles flying off in different directions to meet at the center or the navel – the omphalos – of the world. The idea of the world having a navel, and more specifically, of there being an umbilical cord that runs back through time to connect to that navel, is one that recurs throughout Ulysses. The omphalos idea is part of a bigger network of thoughts in the novel – all having to do with pregnancy, motherhood, and reproduction.

In "Proteus," Stephen thinks, "The cords of all link back, strandentwining cable of all flesh. That is why mystic monks. Will you be as gods? Gaze in your omphalos. Hello. Kinch here. Put me on to Edenville. Aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one" (3.6).

Though brief, the thought is quite dense and complicated. First, Stephen thinks of mystic monks trying to have an experience of the world itself. The whole mystical idea (in a nutshell) is that there is a certain experience that cannot be put into words, and after you have that experience you realize that up until then your existence had been quite superficial. It is as if there is an ideal metaphysical (fancy philosophical word meaning having to do with the nature of existence) world that most of us do not have access to.

Sometimes, the mystical idea gets conflated with the notion of a simpler way of life, as if there was a time when man's existence was much more pure and in tune with the world. In Christianity, this is Eden before the fall of Adam. Now, Stephen thinks of himself as an over-educated guy staring into his navel (as the saying goes), but then imagines the umbilical cord as a telephone cord that will allow him to call back to Eden – this simpler way of life – using the Greek letters "Aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one."

Stephen's omphalos thought is only one of many images having to do with pregnancy, motherhood, and the female form. Think of the Dead Sea being compared to a vagina in "Lotus Eaters," or Mulligan joking about being pregnant in "Oxen of the Sun," or "Circe" where Bloom actually gives birth to eight children.

But to get to the crux of the matter: The book seems to suggest that there is a disconnect between the male and female experience of life. The disconnect mainly has to do with birth and the process of procreation. Whereas men simply have to donate their sperm and then are removed from the birthing process, women have to let the child grow inside their womb for nine months and then go through very painful labor before the child is born. The result is that women feel in touch with the reproduction process while men feel left out. In terms of bodily experience, the father is so removed from reproduction that it takes a great act of imagination for him to conceive of what it must be like to have a child.

So the idea is that men have to find some way to compensate for being left out of the creative process. Whereas Freud says that women are envious of men's penises, Joyce flips that around and says, "No, actually men are jealous of women's ability to give birth." This is all quite simplified, but let's simplify it further: women give birth; men write books.

In terms of symbolism and imagery, the result is that the creative process is compared to the gestation period a woman goes through as she prepares to give birth. This is nowhere as apparent as in "Oxen of the Sun," when all of the men are gathered at the maternity hospital waiting to hear news of Mina Purefoy giving birth. In the episode, Joyce stylistically re-enacts the development of the English language from direct translations of early Latinate prose up to modern Dublin slang. In the words of a drunken Stephen Dedalus, "In a woman's womb word is made flesh but in the spirit of the maker all flesh that passes becomes the word that shall not pass away" (14.21). Let's dub it fetus-envy.


Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

In our "Writing Style" section, you'll notice that we kind of go head over heels for Joyce's style. And not just because it's beautiful. We have included Language here again in "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" because it's important that you think of the language in the book the same way that you think of, say, the book's correlations to the Odyssey.

In "Proteus," Stephen is walking along Sandymount Strand, and as he looks down the beach, he thinks, "These heavy sands are language tide and wind have silted here" (3.62). It's a very important quote to Ulysses. Namely, language has a physical presence in the book: it's the material of Joyce's world. And you thought that the world was made of atoms? Well, in a piece of literature, words are your atoms.

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein was notoriously difficult to understand, but one of the things he said was: "The limits of your language are the limits of your world." Joyce was a student of languages (he was fluent in four or five), and was absolutely obsessed with words. It was like the larger his vocabulary got, the more material he had to work with. But the idea gets a little more complicated because the way Joyce thought, language mediates our relationship with the world. It determines what we are capable of thinking and experiencing. For example, if we didn't know the word for "love," we wouldn't be able to think about the idea of love. Love would just be a physical thing, a certain intensity in the chest, but we wouldn't be able to think of it as anything beyond that, to speculate on its nature and so on and so forth.

If this idea is correct that language defines the limits of your world, then Joyce's world was more unbounded than perhaps any writer before or since.

But why is it that it's the "heavy sands" that are language. Well, Joyce's other idea was that our language had become rigid and calcified (think of it turning hard like bone). People had said the same things over and over again so many times that they had ceased to express anything, to carry any feeling. In a language full of clichés and stock turns-of-phase, Joyce felt that words themselves had become flat and powerless.

A great way to think of this is that language is one great big organ (the instrument). Joyce sits down to play it, and though not too many other people notice, he can't help but feel that it's horribly out of tune. So Joyce uses all of his talent to try to tune and re-tune the organ until it plays to his satisfaction and can create beautiful music once more.

Darkness and Lightness

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

You may have seen this in a book or a film before, but every so often an artist will use lightness and darkness as symbols.

And Joyce does the same thing. Except in his formulation, the central heroic characters – Stephen and Bloom – are actually associated with darkness instead of the light. Stephen is dressed in black because he is still mourning for his mother, and Bloom is dressed in black because he is mourning for Dignam. In a way, this darkness pairs the two of them from the very beginning. Aside from turning the traditional light is good, dark is bad analogy upside down, darkness also comes to stand in for a number of things that make Stephen and Bloom unlikely heroes. For example, darkness is associated with Bloom's Jewishness, Stephen's uncertainty and doubt, and both of their statuses as alienated men. Stephen and Bloom get left out of the spotlight, so to speak.

By contrast, lightness becomes associated with superficiality. Boylan, for example, is dressed in light clothes and has what you might call a shining persona in town. But we get little evidence in the novel that he is a very deep and substantive man. It's almost as if the "lighter" characters are simply reflecting light that is not their own, whereas the "darker" characters absorb that light within themselves.

In "Proteus," Stephen is watching his shadow on the beach, and he wonders why it doesn't stretch to the stars. It being day, he wonders where the stars are in the sky, and in the process gives us a great image for the way that darkness functions in the novel. He says, "His shadow lay over the rocks as he bent, ending. Why not endless till the farthest star? Darkly they are there behind this light, darkness shining in the brightness, delta of Cassiopeia, worlds" (3.78). Stephen and Bloom are like stars during the day, "darkness shining in the brightness," and it is not until night falls that they will be fully revealed.


Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

In "Lestrygonians," Bloom considers trying to get an introduction to professor Joly so that he can imagine asking him about the astronomical idea of parallax (8.130). As a reader, our personal professor Joly is Don Gifford's annotations. What Gifford has to say is that parallax is "the apparent displacement or the difference in apparent direction of an object as seen from two different points of view." In astronomy, the term refers specifically to the perceived difference in direction of a celestial body (say, a star) when perceived from two different points in space.

To get your own personal idea of parallax, hold your right hand up in front of your face. Stick up your ring finger and then close your left eye. Without moving your finger, close your right eye and then open your left. Go back and forth, back and forth, and you'll realize that it seems like your finger is moving. As your vision switches from eye to another and back again, your finger seems to be displaced. This is a small and simple example of a parallax.

Parallax is a good guiding image for what Ulysses forces us to do as readers. In the course of the novel, we are exposed to three main points-of-view: Leopold's, Stephen's, and Molly's. But there are also a number of minor points-of-view that we get exposed to for brief periods of time: Father Conmee, Patrick Dignam Jr., Gerty MacDowell, and the narrator of "Cyclops," to name just a few.

The result of constantly moving from one point-of-view to another is that we can never get a handle on events and characters. We rush to come to an understanding or a judgment, and then we find ourselves re-assessing over and over again as we move through the novel. Characters offer markedly different and contradictory thoughts and opinions. If there's anything like objectivity in the novel, it is simply this accumulation of incompatible subjective personas.

One example is Bloom's affair, which we hear about first from Bloom, and then through the gossip of a number of men about town, and finally in Molly's own words. It looks different from each perspective, and it's impossible to come to any one judgment on Bloom. It's a constantly unfolding process of re-evaluation. Our opinions are always being displaced in the same way that your stable finger seems to be moving back and forth right before your eyes.


Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

From the time that Bloom picks up a religious throwaway paper in "Lestrygonians", he is compared to the prophet Elijah. In particular, at the end of "Cyclops," as Martin Cunningham's carriage pulls away from Barney Kiernan's pub and the citizen yells angrily after Bloom, Joyce invokes biblical imagery of the ascent of Elijah into heaven.

The passage goes:

When, lo, there came about them all a great brightness and they beheld the chariot wherein He stood ascend to heaven. And they beheld Him in the chariot, clothed upon in the glory of the brightness, having raiment as of the sun, fair as the moon and terrible that for awe they durst not look upon Him. And there came a voice out of heaven, calling: Elijah! Elijah! And he answered with a main cry: Abba! Adonai! And they beheld Him even Him, ben Bloom Elijah, amid clouds of angels ascend to the glory of the brightness at an angle of fortyfive degrees over Donohoe's in Little Green Street like a shot off a shovel. (12.561)

Elijah was a prophet in Israel about 900 years before Christ. He appears in both the Hebrew and the Christian Bibles, and is reported to have warned King Ahab that he would suffer great misfortune because he was the last of a line of Israelite kings that had upset God by worshipping other pagan gods. Like Moses, God parts a sea for him, except in Elijah's case it's the Jordan. And then halfway through his passage, a flaming chariot appears and Elijah ascends up to heaven in a whirlwind. In another similarity to Moses, Jesus actually appears to both Moses and Elijah during a Biblical episode that is known as the Transfiguration. To this day, some people hold that the return of Elijah will precede Jesus' own return to earth.

The Elijah correlation gets into the earth that is tilled by literary scholars, but on a basic level it emphasizes the interplay between the Jewish and the Christian faiths. In the "Cyclops" episode, where Bloom is being persecuted by a narrow minded Irish Catholic, the imagery undermines the citizen's attacks and shows how foolish it is to be prejudiced against Bloom on the basis of his faith.

To an extent, you could also argue that Bloom functions as something of a prophetic figure. After all, it is Bloom, not Stephen, who first preaches the importance of love, which is so central to Ulysses


Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

In the Odyssey, usurpation is a major theme. Ulysses is out there for seven years trying to make his way back to Penelope, and meanwhile a bunch of suitors have taken over his home in Ithaca and are impatiently waiting for Penelope to choose a new husband among them. When Ulysses finally returns home, he does so in disguise and slaughters the suitors one by one.

In Hamlet, another important text for Ulysses, usurpation is, once again, central to the story. According to the ghost of Hamlet's father, it was his brother Claudius that killed him and is now sharing the bed of Hamlet's mother. Hamlet is either driven insane by the news or feigns it for his own purposes, and like Homer's epic, the play ends with bodies everywhere.

Now if the only reason you plugged through nearly 800 pages of Ulysses was to read the bloodbath at the end – where Bloom stabs Boylan with a pair of antler's horns and throws him out the second story of 7 Eccles Street, and Stephen impales Mulligan with his ashplant – then you're going to be disappointed. This never happens.

But usurpation is a major theme in the novel. Mulligan is jealous of Stephen's genius and tries to cut him down to size by constantly poking fun at him. Stephen's last thought as he looks at Mulligan at the end of "Telemachus" is "Usurper" (1.356). For the hyper-literate Stephen, the usurpation theme makes him consider himself a Hamlet figure. Thinking of his Latin Quarter hat, he says, "God, we simply must dress the character;" later he thinks of it directly as his Hamlet hat (3.98). As we see in "Scylla and Charybdis," much of Stephen's theory on Hamlet comes out of his own family troubles. Like Hamlet, he wants to escape the fate of his father (drink and misfortune), and like Hamlet, he seems half-mad as he tries to find a way to get out from under the thumb of his usurper (the jealous Mulligan).

In Bloom's case, the usurpation is more obvious; Boylan is usurping Bloom's marriage bed by carrying on an affair with Molly. Yet whereas Ulysses is constantly trying to make his way home, Bloom is careful to avoid going home too soon in case Boylan has not yet left. When Bloom does arrive home, he finds that Molly and Boylan have made little effort to disguise their affair. Boylan's betting tickets are torn up in the kitchen, and their furniture is re-arranged so that Boylan and Molly could sit next to each other and play Love's Old Sweet Song. Unlike Ulysses, Bloom lets all of this happen (and unlike Penelope, Molly is a very willing adulteress). Instead of trying to stop the affair, Bloom searches for a way to reconcile himself to it and make his love for Molly compatible with the fact that she must go elsewhere for sexual satisfaction. In this case, Ulysses is more notable for its deviations from the Odyssey than its similarities.

Gold Cup

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

After its first appearance in "Lotus Eaters," the Gold Cup race pops up again and again. When Bloom runs into Bantam Lyons, he offers him his "throwaway" paper. Lyons thinks it is a tip on the race, though Bloom doesn't even realize that there is a horse named Throwaway involved. Well, as luck would have it, Throwaway comes out of nowhere and wins the race, beating out the horse that Blazes Boylan and Matt Lenehan bet on – Sceptre. The first sign of Boylan that Bloom sees when he returns home in "Ithaca" is Boylan's torn up betting tickets in the kitchen. Later, in "Penelope," we learn that Boylan was extremely upset about losing the race.

The use of the Gold Cup as an allegory for what happens in Ulysses is made explicit in "Cyclops." After Lenehan shares his mistaken belief that Bloom has placed a bet on Throwaway and won at five to one odds (which makes the narrator wonder why Bloom didn't buy them drinks), Joe Hynes says, "He's a bloody dark horse himself" (12.453). We wouldn't overdo the interpretation, but just as Throwaway is a dark horse, Bloom is not a very well-respected man in Dublin and today he happens to be wearing black for Dignam's funeral. The name Sceptre can't help but evoke all sorts of super-male phallic imagery, which makes it seem like Boylan corresponds to the favorite horse in the race. Yet Bloom, the dark horse, comes from behind and defeats him. The fact that Molly's last thoughts in the novel are for her husband instead of for Boylan might be taken to suggest that Bloom still holds the highest place in her heart.

Ulysses Setting


Ulysses was written between the years 1914 and 1921. During this time, Joyce was in self-imposed exile from Ireland, first in Trieste, then in Zürich, then in Paris. Yet all of his work is set in his native Dublin, and he is absolutely fanatical about the details of the city. In a chapter like "The Wandering Rocks," as the viceregal cavalcade (horse-drawn procession carrying the earl of Dudley to a charity gathering) moves through the city, we get so much detail that we could practically draw a map of Dublin based on the procession of the cavalcade. In other episodes, such as "Lestrygonians," we find that Bloom's thoughts are constantly woven into the sights and sounds of Dublin. If he passes a butcher's shop, his thoughts turn to meat. If he passes a soap shop, his thoughts turn to hygiene. If you ever spend time in Dublin, you'll no doubt see a couple of zealous Joyce fans wandering around the city with the text trying to figure out different correspondences. In fact, on June 16 every year, there's a holiday called "Bloomsday" where people wander around the city and re-trace Bloom's steps in honor of Joyce.

It is rumored that Joyce bragged that he wanted his picture of Dublin to be so complete that if the city were to disappear from the earth, it could be entirely reconstructed based on his book. That may be going a bit far, but beyond the simple geography of the city, it's important to note the extent to which the book is drenched in Dublin culture, life, and slang. As is noted in the "Character" section, a number of characters are based on actual Dublin figures. Buck Mulligan is a stand in for Oliver St. John Gogarty, Lenehan for Matt Lenehan and Matt Hart, Simon Dedalus for Joyce's father, John Stanislaus Joyce. Other characters are plucked right out of Dublin life – Richard Best, George Moore, Davy Byrne, the Hely's sandwichmen, the madman Farrel. In fact, after the book was released, people would go around Dublin asking one another whether or not they were in it. Similarly, there is much real-life gossip worked into the book. If you move through Gifford's annotations, you'll find that some of the confusing references in the book are simply elliptical bits of Dublin gossip. The book throws its threads right out into the real world, and thereby weaves itself into it.

Ulysses is also full of the social issues that were prevalent in Dublin at the time. The two major political issues were land reform and Home Rule. Land reform dealt with the fact that much of Ireland's land was controlled by wealthy land-holders but worked by peasants who lived in dire poverty. The reform sought ways to increase the rights of the peasants that worked the land. Home Rule, the dominant question for Joyce, had to do with whether or not Ireland could become independent from English colonization. Charles Stewart Parnell (see his "Character Analysis") had set up a strong coalition of the Irish members of parliament in the 1880s and nearly succeeded in passing a Home Rule bill. Yet hopes of independence vanished when Parnell's affair with Katherine O'Shea was out'ed; his popularity greatly decreased. In 1904, many Dubliners were still experiencing a political hangover from the hopes that they had hinged on Parnell's success. Resentment of the English ran deep, and fanatical nationalism was common.

Reading Ulysses, it sure doesn't hurt to know a bit about Aristotle or Goethe, but there's really no better guide to the book than Dublin itself. Unfortunately, most of us can't just hop on a plane and check it out, but if you have some free time get up on Google images and look up pictures of the Liffey and the Customs House and the National Library – it might go a long way toward helping you imagine the world of the book.

Narrator Point of View

Ulysses Narrator:

Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?
Third Person Omniscient
Point of view is something that is extremely important to Ulysses. Namely, the point of view is unconfined, and we are exposed to myriad perspectives in the course of the book. Language and voice can seemingly go anywhere or do anything in the novel. Some chapters are more traditional, but we constantly see evidence of the narrator at play: the headlines in "Aeolus," the play-dialogue in "Circe," the way that the language can soak up the setting and the time of day through its style.

In a more traditional sense, the narrator of the story has access to the most intimate thoughts of Leopold Bloom, Stephen Dedalus, and Molly Bloom, as well as somewhat more limited access to the minds of other characters. When we get inside a character's head, we are exposed to stream-of-consciousness style that attempts to follow that character's thoughts as closely as possible no matter how fragmentary and disjointed they may be. Yet there is always the freedom to zoom out, to stray from one mind to another, to re-focus from a different perspective.

Ulysses Genre


Ulysses was released in the same year as T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland (1922). In the way that Eliot's poem is treated as the modernist poem, Ulysses is generally regarded as the modernist novel.

So what is modernism? Well, historically, modernism is usually linked with the First World War and the rise of industrialization. The basic contention was that modern life was fundamentally different than the life of the past. People's lives had become increasingly complex, and they were forced to play a number of different societal roles on a daily basis. The result was that life came to seem fragmented and disjointed. In the wake of the most destructive war the world had ever seen, it also seemed as if there was somehow a basic failure of communication between people. In the modern world, language was being strained as people tried to empathize and understand one another.

Aesthetically (fancy word for an artistic style), the dictum of modernism comes from Ezra Pound's imperative: "Make it New." Modernist writers tended to realize their place in a long literary tradition. Eliot and Joyce felt the need to master this tradition, to achieve a level of scholarship that began with the Greeks and moved all the way up to modern day novels. It was as if the present moment was something to be achieved, as if one had to understand everything that came before in order to understand what was happening now. The flipside, however, was that modernist artists tended to feel that art had become stale and clichéd, and they sought different styles and artistic modes to express their ideas. A big tenet of modernism is difficulty, forcing the reader to work hard to realize what you are saying, the idea being that the harder they have to work, the more fully the idea will be communicated once they realize it.

A lot of writers get lumped in as modernists – Virginia Woolf, Henry James, William Faulkner, Ford Madox Ford, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Mann, Robert Musil, Samuel Beckett, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, etc. Our disclaimer is that you have to realize that modernism is a vast category that all of these artists have been lumped into by critics, and that different critics have different reasons for calling people modernists. You might read about modernism as if it were one coherent theory and once someone says the word "modernism" everyone knows what they're talking about. That's simply not the case. There is a lot of contention about what exactly modernism is, but at least in contrast to "postmodernism," many of these artists did view themselves as part of a broader literary movement. And, inarguably, James Joyce was the center of this literary movement.

Ulysses is a modernist novel in that it focuses on something seemingly ordinary – a day in the life of Leopold Bloom – and then portrays it as if it were unfamiliar, extremely strange and special and bizarre. Joyce summons his immense erudition on subjects literary, philosophical, historical, linguistic, religious, scientific, etc., and he brings it all to bear on the day of June 16th, 1904. The past is alive in the novel, and you realize that for Joyce, the present is not like a bead being pushed along a string; the present is simply the cusp of a great wave that is the past.

And aside from the allusions themselves, Joyce's stylistic play in the novel was revolutionary. He had an incredible gift for mimicking other styles, and an episode like "Oxen of the Sun," you see that he has – on a stylistic level – digested pretty much the whole of Western literature. Joyce's style has been imitated by a number of artists after him, but it's never been matched. In our opinion, whenever you realize that Joyce is an influence on someone, it's hard not to read their writing as watered-down Joyce.

Ulysses is one of those rare books that you can make grand claims about without sounding ridiculous, but the book really did create a genre. It changed the way that people think about what genre is and what it means to classify a book in one way versus another.

Ulysses Tone

Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?

Playful, Parodic, Compassionate

We remember reading Ulysses in a course in college, and about halfway through the book (after the "Nausicaa" episode), kids began to get extremely frustrated with it. One kid in particular had been commenting on how beautiful the prose of "Nausicaa" is, and the professor, with a sly smile, pointed out that Joyce is actually parodying sentimental romantic literature for young girls (see Gifford's annotations on "Nausicaa" for more on this). The kid continued to say that that Joyce never shows his cards, that there's something to be said for laying it all on the table. Joyce appears in one stylistic guise after another, but he never (so the angry kid contended) wrote honestly and from the heart.

The frustration at feeling duped is a pretty normal feeling when you read Ulysses. It is a book that, on many levels, makes you feel dumb. But the more time you spend with it, the more you can get into Joyce's spirit of play. It's like being let in on an extremely sophisticated inside joke, and as you let up on your desire to understand the book, you start to get a kick out of his wordplay and his constant mocking of other literary forms.

And the whole point isn't just to mock – it's to make you realize what assumptions you bring to a book. Presumably, a lot of people read books to learn something, to try to find something that is instructive about their way of life. Often, a few months after you've read a novel, you'll forget most of it except for a few key moments or lines and a general sensation – the "thrust" of the book. What Joyce is doing with all of the parodying is that he's intentionally toying with this desire to get the general thrust of the book. He's throwing down one gauntlet after another, and by doing so he's making you realize that what we tend to pull from a book is often determined by our own desires and preconceptions: we get from it what we want to get from it. By inviting us into a spirit of play, he's forcing us to think harder about the book, to constantly re-evaluate it and to question our own role in relation to what the book means.

When Ulysses came out, most people didn't get it (not that most people do now). A big point of confusion was that people thought the whole thing was a satire and that Joyce was making fun of ordinary people like Bloom by comparing them to Greek heroes. But that's one point Joyce is absolutely sincere on. He's trying to elevate everyday people to the level of epic heroes – to make us realize how our pedestrian little lives are a part of the literary world, and to make us realize that they are worthy of admiration and literary attention. Despite all his parodying, Joyce writes with incredible compassion for his characters. One place we feel it in particular is in "Ithaca," when Joyce suddenly produces an extensive list of every last item in Bloom's cabinet. The compassion is there in the details, and you have to take a second and think: Look how much he cares.

Ulysses Writing Style

Various, Stream-of-Consciousness

Joyce is a stylistic sponge. From the time when he was very young, he consumed libraries' worth of books, and after reading one author or another he found that he could easily soak up their style and write in their own voice. That's actually one reason some of his early critics dismissed him as more of a mimic than an artist.

Joyce brings this skill to bear in Ulysses, where we are exposed to an enormous number of different styles within the covers of one book. In "Aeolus," we find Joyce pulling newspaper headlines from the speech-stream. In "Cyclops," we get 33 parodies of different styles of writing, each picking up on things the characters are speaking or thinking about in the scene. In "Nausicaa," Joyce satirizes sentimental literature for young girls, and in "Circe," he writes a surrealist play using the dreamscapes of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus. In "Ithaca," he employs the form of a catechism as he describes Stephen and Bloom having cocoa in Bloom's kitchen. But perhaps nothing is quite as impressive as "Oxen of the Sun," in which Joyce literally re-enacts the development of the English language from early translations of Latin verse to contemporary Dublin slang by moving fluidly from one style to another.

So what's the point of all the stylistic play? Well, Joyce had this idea that what you say is absolutely inseparable from how you say it. As Samuel Beckett wrote in his essay on Joyce (he was referring to Finnegan's Wake, but the comment is also applicable to Ulysses), "form is content, content is form." In a chapter like "Oxen of the Sun," where we get a number of different styles, Joyce, while still depicting the main scene in the maternity hospital, lets each style gravitate toward its natural subject matter. Thus, when he writes in the style of early Latin prose, he finds himself talking about the importance of procreation to the greatness of the nation. When he writes in the style of the 18th century satirist Junius, he finds himself talking about Bloom's hypocrisy in extremely scathing terms. When he writes in the sentimental style of Dickens, he praises the doctor's treatment of Mina Purefoy in hyperbolic terms. All of this, aside from being a virtuoso performance, is also a vast demonstration of the importance of style in determining content.

To knock the point home a bit harder, people generally think that you have this thing to express – say, the feelings that you are happy. Then you have to find the words to express that thing, and you could no doubt express it in a myriad of different ways. You could say "I am happy" or "Oh my God, I'm thrilled," or "Happiness has broken the dam of my despair" or "Right on" or "Happiness has come slanting into my thoughts like a ray of sunlight." Joyce's point is that you are saying different things with each of these statements. The first might convey contentment, the second might convey over-exuberance, the third might convey sentimentality, etc. In each case, the style isn't just a transparent medium by which you convey the thing that you are trying to say. Instead, the style is linked with what you are trying to say. Once again: how you say something determines what you can express.

So when Joyce isn't busy parodying other people's styles, his own tries to soak up the scene and the character's feeling as much as possible. If the characters are tired (as they are in "Eumaeus"), he makes the prose bored and simple. If Bloom is having an orgasm (as he does in "Nausicaa"), Joyce tries to make the words themselves come to a climax. If the characters dance (as they do in "Circe"), Joyce tries to make the language dance. One of our favorite examples, though, comes from "Lotus Eaters." Bloom wanders about Dublin, hungry and tired. As a cloud comes across the sky, he begins to think of the Dead Sea and falls into the depths of depression. His words become despairing, halting and hesitating, trying to build into complete sentences, but actually becoming more and more sparse and fragmented.

Check it out:

"A cloud began to cover the sun wholly slowly wholly. Grey. Far.No, not like that. A barren land, bare waste. Vulcanic lake, the dead sea: no fish, weedless, sunk deep in the earth. No wind would lift those waves, grey metal, poisonous foggy waters. Brimstone they called it raining down: the cities of the plain: Sodom, Gomorrah, Edom. All dead names. A dead sea in a dead land, grey and old. Old now. It bore the oldest, the first race. A bent hag crossed from Cassidy's clutching a noggin bottle by the neck. The oldest people. Wandered far away over all the earth, captivity to captivity, multiplying, dying, being born everywhere. It lay there now. Now it could bear no more. Dead: an old woman's: the grey sunken cunt of the world.Desolation." (5.59-61)

Up until now we've been emphasizing the variety of styles Joyce uses, but there's a particular style Joyce made famous and that has now become more or less inseparable from Ulysses: stream-of-consciousness (or interior monologue).

Joyce himself traced it to Édouard Dujardin in Les Lauriers sont coupes. He said, "In that book the reader finds himself established, from the first lines, in the thought of the principal personage, and the uninterrupted unrolling of that thought, replacing the usual form of narrative, conveys to us what this personage is doing or what is happening to him." In simpler terms, the interior monologue is a radically new way of capturing character's inner thoughts. Instead of writing in complete well-punctuated sentences, the goal is to more accurately capture the disjointed free-associating way that people think (as in the passage above). Five pages into "Telemachus," we are suddenly plunged into Stephen's inner thoughts without any sort of indication, and from that point on the book never really looks back. One of many effects of the style is that we get a greater intimacy with the thoughts of the novel's characters than we ever could have before. Joyce follows their twists and turns even into incoherence.

A last point on the style. Something we'll call the what factor. The point is that some of Joyce's sentences can be quite hard to process. You read the same sentence over and over again and you really have no idea what he's saying. Frustrating as these may be, you have to realize that as you struggle with the sentence, Joyce has forced you to bring much more attention to his words than you would have otherwise. Your eyes can't just move idly over the page in Ulysses. It's an active book, and as a reader you have to put in a great deal of effort in order to figure out what the sentence is saying. One way to think of these sentences is as Gordian knots, seemingly impenetrable riddles. But once you undo the knot and make the sentence go flat, you'll often find that the realization inside is pretty remarkable and probably couldn't have been communicated any other way.

If you don't believe us, here's one we'll help you along with. The lines come from "Ithaca:"

"From outrage (matrimony) to outrage (adultery) there arose nought but outrage (copulation) yet the matrimonial violator of the matrimonially violated had not been outraged by the adulterous violator of the adulterously violated." (17.292)

Later, the narrator comments on the "natural grammatical transition by inversion involving no alteration of sense" from the active to the passive voic". (17.294). Believe it or not these lines are moving toward Bloom's acceptance of Molly's affair. He has ceased to consider the situation as a perpetration, as a question of what Boylan did to Molly or what Molly did to Bloom. Instead, he has come to see it in terms of what was done to Molly, what was done to Bloom. As a result, Bloom manages not to be overcome by anger and jealousy because he can acknowledge that Molly was not outraged by what was done to her, that in fact she needed it and deeply enjoyed it. Coupled with the fact that he could not provide it for her, Bloom manages to achieve a mood of equanimity. It seems that Bloom's ability to reconcile himself to his wife's affair actually relies heavily on the grammatical form of the English language. A switch from the active to the passive voice (to an extent) allows him to accept Molly's adultery.

What’s Up With the Title?

Let's start with the simple facts before we get into all the swirling connotations. "Ulysses" is the Latin name for the Greek hero of Homer's epic, the Odyssey, on which Joyce's novel is based. As you read through the book and this guide, you'll learn that each of the eighteen sections in Joyce's book corresponds to a specific episode in Homer's. Why would Joyce do this? Well, there are a bunch of explanations for it, but we'll try to give the simplest and most straightforward of them. The Odyssey is the classic "epic poem." From the Western point of view, it marks the beginning of literature. By titling his novel, Ulysses, Joyce was harkening back to the start of literature and staking his place in it.

But he was also challenging Homer. With his novel, Joyce changed the way people thought of the concepts of "epic," and "hero." Instead of Ulysses experiencing adventures as he navigates his way home to Penelope, Joyce gives us an ordinary Jewish man by the name of Leopold Bloom, trying to make his way through a (relatively) normal day in Dublin, Ireland. By doing so, Joyce moves the genre of epic from wild globetrotting adventures into the mind of an average man. The Odyssey becomes a mental journey through the perils of everyday life: embarrassment, boredom, despair, lust, pride, etc. Making the journey a mental one allows Joyce to elevate the everyday to Homeric levels; he re-invents the epic by treating Leopold Bloom as a hero.

A last point to ponder: why did Joyce choose the Latin name, "Ulysses," over the Greek one, "Odysseus?" In actuality, Joyce first encountered Ulysses as a child and he happened to be exposed to the Latin name first. Thinking beyond that simple point the choice of "Ulysses" over "Odysseus" can raise some interesting questions.

In Homer's work, Odysseus is treated as a hero, renowned for his cunning and his sly intelligence. Yet in the first great Latin epic, the Aeneid, Virgil often refers to Ulysses as "the cruel Ulysses." It seems that Odysseus's deceitful tricks didn't correspond to Roman notions of honor. So then why choose the latter name, the one that is so often tied to an epithet? Does it simply sound better? Or is there some sort of turn-of-the-century equivalent to "Roman honor" in Dublin that Leopold Bloom does not meet?

What’s Up With the Ending?

We're going to make a bold assertion here because we can't help it: the last several pages of Ulysses are some of the most breathtaking prose in the English language. In other words, if you can't truck through the other 780 pages, at least read these.

The last 50 pages of the book are written with no punctuation as the swirling thoughts of Molly Bloom. She is lying beside her husband Leopold in bed (they sleep head to foot) and thinking about her day and their life together. While most of the book has been focused on the minds of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus, this is the first major move to a female point of view. Leopold has thought extensively about Molly's affair with Boylan, and we glimpse some justification for it beforehand (namely, that Leopold has not made love to her for ten years, since the death of their son Rudy). Here, though, we are pushed through Molly's thoughts and feelings and come to see her in a sympathetic light.

Molly was modeled on Joyce's wife, Nora Barnacle, to whom he was married all his life and with whom he was passionately in love. Nora was from the west of Ireland, and in contrast to Joyce's historic erudition, she was a down to earth woman who didn't even think Joyce was much of a writer. As she famously put it, James should have stuck to music (source).

At one point, there was a rumor going around Dublin that Nora had slept with an acquaintance of Joyce's early on in their relationship and that it drove Joyce nearly mad with jealousy. More likely than not, it was nothing but a rumor, but for Joyce it became an incredible neurosis. For all of his genius, one thing Joyce couldn't imagine was having the person he loved most make love with someone else.

One way to think of the end of Ulysses is to understand it as Joyce's attempt to imagine his wife's point of view, to imagine how a woman could cheat on her husband and still love him. Whether or not he succeeds in blowing open a female perspective is a matter of critical debate, but this is an honest try. While many other points in the book parody other types of prose and can't be separated from ironic self-awareness, here Joyce elevates his writing as much as he is able.

The end of Molly's monologue focuses on the day that Bloom proposed to her at Howth's head. This might be seen as a sort of victory for Bloom. Despite the fact that Molly slept with Boylan earlier in the day, her last thoughts before she sleeps are for her husband. Bloom asks her to marry him and her mind rushes back to her youth and to former lovers and to a thousand things that a man may never imagine a woman thinking about before agreeing to his proposal. But then Molly asks Bloom to ask her again, and the novel ends on a resounding note of affirmation:

"…then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes." (18.783)

This statement is a re-affirmation of Bloom and of life itself in spite of all the burdens we have seen throughout the novel: the death of a son, the suicide of a father, a sex-less marriage, the resignation of middle age, and life in a demoralized city held under the thumb of British rule. It is, you might say, happiness in view of all else.

Ulysses Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation

Part 1: The Telemachiad, and "Calypso"

By the end of "Calypso," our two main characters have been introduced, and we have been given a sense of some of the main conflicts that will drive the novel. In The Telemachiad, we get a picture of Stephen as he has matured since the end of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. We learn that Stephen's mother died and that he is wracked with guilt over her death. In "Proteus" we also get our first really daring stylistic chapter, and begin to get a sense of the intense stream-of-consciousness and stylistic play that will come to dominate the book. "Calypso" is our first peek into the mind of Leopold Bloom. We also get a feeling for the Blooms' troubled marriage, which will come to underlie much of the book's plot.


Part 2: The Wanderings of Ulysses, in particular that Molly is going to sleep with Boylan

Along one plot line (that of Molly's adultery), the main conflict in the novel is that Bloom knows that Molly is going to sleep with Boylan before the day is out. Along another, say, Stephen's, the main conflict is that ever since the death of his mother he has been isolated from the world. Stephen needs a way to get back into the human fold. There are a number of different conflicts that arise in The Wanderings of Ulysses as Bloom confronts death at Dignam's funeral, Stephen presents his Hamlet argument, and Bloom speaks out against prejudice and shortsighted Irish nationalism. In terms of a classic plot, the main conflict is Molly's affair, but realize that much of the conflict is in the realm of ideas rather than of events themselves. The conflicts are between moderation and extremism, between religious orthodoxy and nihilism, between independence and communal feeling, between subjugation to English oppression and narrow-minded Irish nationalism, between happiness and despair.


Part 2 The Wanderings of Ulysses, in particular the fact that Bloom is going to let Molly sleep with Boylan

Along that main plot line, the complication begins to develop when we realize that Bloom has no real intention of stopping Molly from sleeping with Boylan. His passivity can be maddening, and we are forced to alter our sense of the conflict. Rather than wondering how Bloom is going to prevent the thing from happening, we have to start wondering how he is going to come to terms with it. As we noted in the "Conflict" above, there are a number of other conflicts at play in the novel, and on that level it's hard to separate those conflicts from their complication. In terms of the ideas that the book struggles with, it's really just one complication after another.



The action reaches a peak in 'Circe' when Stephen has a vision of his dead mother, knocks over Bella Cohen's chandelier with his ashplant (cane) and screams Non Serviam before running out of the brothel and getting in a fight with an English constable. In terms of our understanding of the characters, "Circe" is also a climax because we approach something like full disclosure. Their subconscious thoughts seem more liberated than they are anywhere else in the novel. In the long dreamscapes that make up "Circe," we see into Leopold Bloom's most base neuroses and his most absurd vanities. On another level, it's here that the subconscious of the book itself is let loose – all the things that were percolating between the lines of earlier chapters but could not be said are here given voice.


"Eumaeus" and "Ithaca"

There is still a great deal of unresolved conflict after "Circe." Namely, we still don't know what Leopold Bloom is going to do about his wife's affair, if anything. We also don't know whether or not Stephen and Leopold will get along as well as we would like them to (they don't). Through much of the novel, we have been made to anticipate a sort of reunion between the two in which Bloom fills the role of surrogate father for Stephen and Stephen fills the role of surrogate son for Bloom. Now that they've actually met, we have to wait and see how things play out.



"Ithaca" is, to many readers, the most satisfying episode in the entire book. Stephen and Bloom have been united, and it is here that they begin to get along and have a long discussion in Bloom's kitchen before he shows Stephen out. It is after 2am and for both of them, it is clear that the action of their day has passed and that things are now winding down.



Bloom's day concludes at the end of "Ithaca," when he kisses his wife Molly on the butt and nods off to bed. But throughout the book we have constantly been re-evaluating Bloom, looking at his situation in a number of different lights. Molly's perspective has been missing from the rest of the book, and here we get it in full force. New tension arises as we wait to see what her final judgment on Bloom will be. Will she affirm her love for her husband or deny it?

Ulysses as Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis: The Quest Plot

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type:

The Call

Part 1: The Telemachiad

Now, you'd think that since Ulysses is modeled on the Odyssey, which is pretty much the classic quest story of all time, this should be easy to map out. The fact of the matter is that it's not. There are a number of different ways to do this plot analysis. We just picked one, but there are other valid ones as well. Though Bloom (the Odysseus figure) does not even appear until after The Telemachiad, we here have another hero, Stephen Dedalus (the Telemachus figure) for whom life has become nearly intolerable in Dublin. Without even knowing it, he sets out to wander through Dublin with the hope of meeting someone like Leopold Bloom, someone that can give him some guidance, help him put things in perspective, and make him feel a little less cut-off from the world.

The Journey

Part 2: The Wanderings of Ulysses

The majority of the book consists of Bloom's (and Stephen's) wanderings through Dublin where they encounter a number of different challenges: Bloom must undergo an encounter with death and the underworld at Dignam's funeral. Stephen must navigate between the Scylla of Aristotelian literary philosophy and the Charybdis of Platonic philosophy. Bloom must confront the one-eyed nature of prejudice in "Cyclops." Both Stephen and Bloom must resist the spell of the Circe-like prostitute madame, Bella Cohen. Their journeys are decidedly more meandering than in the Odyssey. One critic joked that whereas Odysseus spends the entire epic fighting to get back to his wife, Bloom spends the whole book looking for reasons not to go home to his wife. Yet, though they aren't quite sure what they're looking for, both Bloom and Stephen are searching for something. For the latter it might be called human-connectedness, and for the former it might be called the spirit of resignation or forgiveness.

Arrival and Frustration

Part 3: Homecoming: Eumaeus, Ithaca

The last part of the book is named Homecoming, so we get the sense that after "Circe," the majority of the day's challenges have passed. For Bloom, in particular, saving Stephen from the English constable has put him in a good mood and he is eager to get to know his knew companion. Stephen, though safe from serious legal trouble, is still quite drunk and is in a foul mood as Bloom tries to get a real conversation going. The two of them go to Bloom's home together, but as Stephen leaves, Bloom gets the sense that this won't actually be the blossoming of an ideal friendship. Inside, he sees how his house has been re-arranged by Boylan and Molly, and he becomes glum as he thinks of his father's suicide. Whatever he is looking for, he hasn't quite found it.

The Final Ordeals

Part 3: Homecoming: Ithaca, Penelope

The final ordeals might be said to come at the end of "Ithaca," after Stephen leaves for the night. Bloom is here confronted with unmistakable evidence of his wife's affair, and realizes that he has been avoiding the thought for most of the day. Thinking of his father's suicide, he again is brought to the brink of despair, but he gradually begins to sort through his feelings and come to a sense of equanimity that allows him to mount the stairs and crawl into bed with his wife. Yet the perspective that is missing in the Odyssey is Penelope's, and we here end with Molly's thoughts on Bloom. We are forced to re-evaluate the character we thought we had come to know, and wait to see how he will fare in her judgment.

The Goal

Part 3: Homecoming: End of Penelope: Memory of Bloom's Proposal

Bloom's day ends after "Ithaca," as he kisses his wife's rump and nods off to sleep. He has come to some sense of understanding about his wife's affair and his role in it, and has found a way to live with it (at least for this evening). Yet Molly's long stream-of-consciousness soliloquy seems to again put Bloom at risk, and it is unclear whether or not Molly will ultimately approve of her husband or not. In the final pages, however, we see a triumph for Bloom. Molly's last thoughts of the day are for her husband. On a broader note, we see a ray of happiness come into the novel. There is real empathy between husband and wife, and despite all its perils, the novel ends with a resounding affirmation of married life: yes I will Yes.

Three-Act Plot Analysis

For a three-act plot analysis, put on your screenwriter’s hat. Moviemakers know the formula well: at the end of Act One, the main character is drawn in completely to a conflict. During Act Two, she is farthest away from her goals. At the end of Act Three, the story is resolved.

Act I

The Telemachiad. This part consists first three episodes, which focus on Stephen Dedalus.

Act II

The Wanderings of Ulysses. This part is comprised of Episodes 4 through 15, which focus on the daily goings-on of Leopold Bloom.


The Homecoming. This part is made up of the last three episodes of the book, and consists of Bloom escorting Stephen back to his home, and getting ready for bed after Stephen leaves. The last episode is comprised of Molly's thoughts before she goes to bed.

Ulysses Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

At one point in Ulysses, Stephen looks at Mulligan and thinks, "He fears the lancet of my art as I fear that of his." Well, it turns out that Mulligan is based on Joyce's real-life tempestuous friendship with a man named Oliver St. John Gogarty. Gogarty actually did have reason to fear the lancet of Joyce's art, as he was forever immortalized in the extremely faulted character of Buck Mulligan. (Source: Richard Ellman's James Joyce, 291.)

If you don't dig on Ulysses, you'll enjoy hearing this. Richard Ford, a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner and one of the fore-most American writers living today, recently said in an interview that he finds no book quite as disappointing as Joyce's Ulysses. He said that it's too long, it's not interesting enough, and that Joyce should have stuck to short stories. (Source: Frank Magazine, Interview with Richard Ford. September, 2008.)

Joyce once estimated that he spent nearly 20,000 hours in writing Ulysses. In the same letter, he speaks of "enthusiastic expressions about my (unread) masterpiece." (Source: Richard Ellman's James Joyce, 510 – 511.)

If Joyce wasn't one of the greatest literary writers of all time, he might have made a good living at writing pornography. The 1909 letters to Nora are famous for their vivid sexual detail, and in won we find that Bloom's fantasy of being flogged by Mr. Bello didn't just spin out of nowhere. Joyce writes to Nora, "Tonight I have an idea madder than usual. I feel I would like to be flogged by you. I would like to see your eyes blazing with anger. I wonder is there some madness in me. Or is love madness? One moment I see you like a virgin or a madonna the next moment I see you shameless, insolent, half naked and obscene!" (Source: Richard Ellman's James Joyce, 287.)

Joyce was something of a mentor to a young Samuel Beckett. He dictated part of Finnegan's Wake to him, and later they had a temporary falling out when Nora thought that Beckett had been making advances on their daughter Lucia. It turns out Lucia was infatuated with Beckett and he didn't realize it. (Source: Richard Ellman's James Joyce, 649 and elsewhere.)

Ulysses Steaminess Rating

Exactly how steamy is this story?

When Ulysses was first published, it was widely banned. There was an international debate about whether or not it was an obscene and pornographic book. The debate was somewhat settled when American Judge John M. Woolsey argued otherwise, but it remained contraband in Ireland for many years after that.

So what's the fuss? Ulysses is not for those with delicate sensibilities. Throughout the novel, we see Bloom eying women around Dublin and thinking dirty thoughts about them. Joyce takes this to a new level in the "Nausicaa" episode when Bloom observes Gerty MacDowell on the beach and begins masturbating. The language is veiled, but here's a hint: all those fireworks shooting up in the air and the O's and A's aren't just Bloom's enthusiasm for pyrotechnics. Later on, in the "Circe" episode, when Bloom follows Stephen into a brothel, he engages in an elaborate fantasy where he is tried in a surreal court for being a lewd man. Bloom imagines some bizarre masochistic sexual experiences, both enjoying them and feeling guilty about them at the same time. But the real reason we gave the book an "R" rating is because of the final episode, "Penelope." Molly Bloom is extremely frank about sexual matters and thinks back to her afternoon with Boylan in enormous detail, imagining different positions, the pros and cons of oral sex, etc.

Sex is important to Joyce, as evinced by Ulysses as well as Joyce's 1909 letters to his wife Nora Barnacle. One of Joyce's problems with the Catholic Church was that he thought it made people ashamed of their bodies. In his letters and in Ulysses, Joyce proposes what he terms a "pornosophical philotheology." The quadruple entendre hints at how Joyce loves to juxtapose what is thought of as sacred with what is thought of as profane. In his letters, he tells Nora that she is like a Madonna to him, and then segues right into his desire to lick her. You get the idea.

Of course, sex in Ulysses is always tinged with sadness. The center of conflict in the novel is the fact that Molly Bloom is having an affair with her manager, Blazes Boylan. As the novel goes on, this becomes more and more understandable. Bloom has not been able to sleep with her for ten years: ever since their son Rudy died. Plus, Bloom himself is exchanging lewd letters with Martha Clifford and masturbating to Gerty MacDowell. Still though, when we get Molly going on about how big and vigorous Boylan is, it's easy to imagine how such thoughts could drive a husband insane. The struggle here is between love and sex. Bloom still loves Molly and she still loves Bloom, but he has to come to terms with the fact that he is not able to please her sexually. It was a neurosis of Joyce's and one that, whether or not they admit, many men share.

Ulysses Allusions & Cultural References

When authors refer to other great works, people, and events, it’s usually not accidental. Put on your super-sleuth hat and figure out why.

Literature and Philosophy

There are far too many literary and philosophical references to be listed here. Some of the key texts to be familiar with as you approach the book are Homer's the Odyssey and Shakespeare's Hamlet (you might check out our Shmoop guides on these two books to get basic familiarity). Much of the philosophy is early Christian philosophy – St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and others. We've tried to help you out in the line-by-line summaries, but the main place to look is Don Gifford's annotations to Ulysses, which make an effort to track down every allusion in the book.

Historical Figures

Again, there are too many historical references to be listed here. Though many of the references are to Irish history (in particular to the long-time struggle for Irish Home Rule), Joyce also draws on European and world history at World War II. If you go through our episode summaries, we try to help you with a number of the references, but after that the place to look is Don Gifford's annotations to Ulysses.

Pop Culture

Joyce's book is also drenched in Dublin popular culture. It's full of bits of music that were popular at the time; it has references to sporting events going on around 1904. Beyond that, Ulysses has quite a bit of local gossip that it's sometimes hard to understand without looking at the annotations. As always, we've tried to help you out in our line-by-line summaries, but the first place to look is Don Gifford.

Ulysses Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

1 - Why is Ulysses known as the most influential novel of the 20th century? What is so revolutionary about it?
2 - Can you discern any specific "message" or philosophy from Ulysses? If not, do you think there is some lesson to be learned from the numerous juxtapositions and conflicting philosophies presented in the novel?
3 - Does Ulysses succeed in its goal of elevating the common man or does it come across as literary pandering to lower class people?
4 - Are there any benefits to be gained from the difficulty of Ulysses? How would it be a different book if it were easier?
5 - What do you make of the fact that the people Ulysses is about probably could not understand the book?
6 - How does Ulysses re-work the Odyssey? Thematically, how is it similar to the earlier epic, and how does it challenge and re-evaluate early ideas of Homer's?
7 - What do Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus have to offer one another? In what ways do they form a surrogate father surrogate son pair, and in what ways does the comparison not work?
8 - What is the affect and seeming purpose of the stylistic play in the novel? Is it simply maddening or enthralling or can you discern some reason why Joyce moves through so many different styles?
9 - Why is Stephen such an impossible character? What forces make him feel so isolated from the people around him?
10 - How does Stephen re-work his intense religious beliefs within an artistic framework?
11 - How do Stephen and Bloom address the problem of English oppression in Ireland, and the paired problem of narrow-minded Irish nationalism?
12 - Why would Joyce make the protagonist of his book Jewish? What role does Bloom's Jewishness play in the story?
13 - With a particular focus on Molly Bloom's adultery, what is the relationship between love and sex in the novel?
14 - Why are Stephen and Bloom so passive?
15 - Is Molly's soliloquy at the end of the book a piece of feminist writing or not?
16 -What is the purpose of all the literary references and allusions in the novel? Does it come across as Joyce showing off, or do you think that the allusions actually contribute to the story in some way?
17 - Why is the book so drenched in the particular details of Dublin life? Do these details date it and make it inaccessible to later readers?


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