Ulysses: Novel by James Joyce - Summary and Analysis

Also Read

      James Joyce (1882-1941) is the most exciting and fascinating of the twentieth century novelists. In him, the twentieth century passion for experiment in literary form reached its climax, Joyce, an Irishman, began his literary career by writing short stories published in the name of Dubliners in 1914. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) is an auto-biographical novel remarkable of analytical detachment, use of images and ephiphonies to illuminate the inward life of Stephen who develops to his avocation as an artist. The next six years after the publication of A Portrait were spent by Joyce in writing Ulysses, which first appeared in serial form in 1919 and then as a book in 1922.

Ulysses is the most controversial piece of literature in the twentieth century. The novel by James Joyce encompasses events during a single calendar day in Dublin, 16 June, 1904


      Ulysses (1922) is the most outstanding illustration of the stream of consciousness technique in the novel. It is the story of a day, in Dublin from early in the morning of June 16, 1904 until about 2.30 the following morning. The actual events of the story are simple enough. Stephen Dedalus has returned to Dublin from his studies in Paris to be at the death-bed of his mother. He is haunted by a sense of guilt. In the first section of the book, we are largely in the mind of Stephen. In the middle section, we move in and out of the stream of consciousness of Leopold Bloom who is preoccupied with his wife's infidelity, and in the very last chapter we are wholly in the mind of Mrs. Bloom. Through the awareness of existence of these three people, Joyce builds up a composite image of Dublin. The motley fancies of Stephen's brain leap from remembered erudition to actual experiences in quick confusion; Bloom's half-thoughts, the common-place workings of his mind, the imperfect expressions, the sequence of free association - in short, all the fruits of his observation and mentally uninhibited desires - are poured pell mell on to the pages.

      Thus Joyce presents the interior world of the characters through the 'stream of consciousness every sense impression from the outer world sets off a string of associated thoughts and memories, highly imaginative and creative in Stephen's case, quiet physical and sensual from Molly. Joyce's mastery of language, his range of vocabulary, his power to create words and to use them to render the impact of sensation of the nerves, and above all his unique virtuosity are everywhere manifested. The title of the book shows the mythological framework of the novel. Odysseus is the parallel of Ulysses; Telemachus is the parallel of Stephen Dedalus while Milly Bloom parallels Penelope. The apparently trivial experiences of these characters of June 16,1904 constitute the entire universe of human impulses in the modern bourgeois world.


      Ulysses is the most controversial piece of literature in the twentieth century. The novel by James Joyce encompasses events during a single calendar day in Dublin, 16 June, 1904 (now known as Bloomsday). Its main characters are Leopold Bloom, a Jewish advertisement canvasser, his unfaithful wife Molly, a concert singer, and Stephen Dedalus, a young poet. The principal action follows Bloom and Stephen as they wander separately around Dublin until they eventually meet, and each episode loosely corresponds with an episode in Homer's Odyssey. Bloom represents Odysseus, Latinised as Olysses, while Molly is Penelope, and Stephen is Telemachus. Their mundane and occasionally sordid lives are therefore ironically framed within an epic dimension. At the end of the novel Bloom and Stephen return to their starting point, and neither has found any answer to the bewildering sense of futility, frustration and loneliness within them. The style is highly allusive parodying numerous literary forms. The stream of consciousness technique captures some moments of Bloom's life in a fragmented and disorderly manner. The language is also fragmented and disordered. Life has no pattern, no consistency and so the structure has no order and coherence. To create the effect of the chaotic stream that we recognise in reality, the writer presents the seemingly random mingling of thoughts, feelings and sense impressions of a character at a specific time. Joyce first describes objectively an action of his hero, Leopold Bloom; then abruptly presents his character's inner feelings and thoughts which are centred on his wife's lover, Blazes Boylan whom he has just seen.

      "Mr Bloom reviewed the nails of his left hand, then those of his right hand. The nails, yes. Is there anything more in him that they she sees? Fascination. Worst man in Dublin. That keeps him alive". To give the sense of the flux of experience, Joyce reduces his sentences to fragments freed of linguistic logic, but held together by psychological association, the pervasive technique is the interior monologue.

Previous Post Next Post