Gilbert Stuart - James Joyce's Ulysses

Author : Gilbert Stuart
Title : James Joyce's Ulysses
Year : 1955

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Ulysses is the record of , a single day, june 16,1904. That day was very much like any other, unmarked by any important event and, even for the Dubliners who figure in Ulysses, exempt from personal disaster or achievement. It was the climax of a long drought and the many public-houses of the Irish capital claimed most of the Dubliners' spare time and cash; the former, as usual, abundant, the latter scarce, as usual. In the morning a citizen was buried; a little before midnight a child was born. At about the same hour the :weather broke and there was a· sudden downpour, accompanied by a violent clap of thunder. In the intervals of imbibing Guinness, Power or "J.J. & S." the Dubliners discoursed with animation on their pet topic, Irish politics, happily bemused themselves by the singing of amorous or patriotic ballads, lost money over the Ascot Gold Cup. At about 4 p.m. an act of adultery was consummated at the residence of one Leopold Bloom, advertisement-canvasser. A perfectly ordinary day, in fact. The structure of the book as a whole is, like th~t of all epic narratives, episodic. There are three main divisions, subdivided into chapters or, rather, episodes, each of which differs from the rest not only in subject-matter but also by the style and technique employed. The first part (three episodes) serves as prelude to the narrative of Mr Bloom's day, the main theme, and may be regarded as a ".bridge-work" between the author's earlier work, the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Manl and Ulysses. The three, episodes which compose this part are concerned with Stephen Dedalus, the hero of the Portrait, and his doings from 8 a.m. till nOon. Stephen is still the arrogant -young man who entered in his diary (the concluding lines of the Portrait): "I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my ,soul the uncreated conscience of my race ..• . Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead." In the interval between this invocation of the first artist' of the Hellenic world, maker of the labyrinth of Cnossos and the honeycomb of gold, and his participation in the Odyssey of Mr Bloom, Stephen has passed a year or so at Paris, but it is evident that his knowledge of the "reality of. experience" has been little enlarged, in so far as such knowledge implies a capacity for self-adaptation, or acquiescence with one's surroundings. He is still an intellectual exile, proudly aloof from the mediocrity of his contemporaries, and he still displays an ironic disdain for their shoddy enthusiasms, combined with a predilection for the "abstruosities" inculcated by his Jesuit upbringing, the scholastic habit of dialectic .lDd exact definition. In the first episode we discover him living in a disused Martello tower, overlooking Dublin Bay, in the company of Buck Mulligan, a cynical medical student with a taste for blasphemy, and a somewhat ridiculous Oxford man named Haines. Next we find him (at 10 a.m.) giving a Roman History lesson at Mr Deasy's school, where, as Mr Deasy correctly anticipates, he is not destined to remain very long; and, finally, we see him walking on the Dublin strand, hear his musings on things seen and unseen and follow the restless current of his associative thoughts, symbolized by the upswelling tide. There is, as will be shown later, an intimate connexion between the personalities cjf Stephen and Mr Bloom, the Ulysses of this modem Odyssey; the spiritual relationship of these two, apparently poles apart, is one of the leitmotifs of the book; thus this detailed presentation of Stephen's· mental make-up is an integral part of· the psychological background of Ulysses. Mr Bloom's day begins, like Stephen's, at 8 a.m., when he is preparing his wife's morning tea at their house, No. 7, Eccles Street. He goes out for a few minutes to buy a kidney for breakfast, after having set the kettle on the fire. On his return he bands his wife her letters in the bedroom and presently brings up the tray with the tea-things. Mrs Bloom is better known in Dublin as Madame Marion Tweedy, the singer. An over-ripe, indolent beauty of· a soutllern type (she is of mixed Spanisb, Jewish and Irish extraction), this lady is admirably fitted· to the taste of Mr Bloom, who also is of Jewish descent. Unfortunately, however, for him, Marion Bloom is not satisfied by the exclusive attentions of· her mature husband, who tolerantly imputes her frequent infidelities (which, nevertheless, he deplores) to the call of her "Spanish blood". Amongst the letters which Mr Bloom hands her is one from a certain "Blazes" Boylan, a young Dublin man-about-town, who is acting as her impresario in a coming concert tour and is the most recent of her lovers; in his letter he tells her that he is coming at four that afternoon to show her the programme. Throughout Mr Bloom's day the thought of this interview will weigh on his mind. Each time he· encounters Boylan or hears his name mentioned, the comfortable Bow of his silent monologue is checked; he tries to concentrate his attention on the first object that meets his eye, but can never wh01ly rid himself of his obsession. At 10 o'clock Mr Bloom star.ts his day's work. He is naturally sociable and anxious to please, and his metier of advertisement-canvasser requires that he should keep in touch with many -classes of Dubliners, business-men, editors, potential clients of all kinds. For in Dublin, as in most small capitals, bonhomie brings business, and the man who is known as a good fellow, a "mixer", and cultivates relations willi as many of his fellow-citizens as possible,. has a pull over an unsociable rival, even· though the latter be more competent. His first visit, however, has a romantic object. ...

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