Ulysses James Joyce
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About the Book
A modernist novel
One of the most important works of modernist literature
A demonstration and summation of the entire movement
Author: James Joyce
According to Declan Kiberd, "Before Joyce, no writer of fiction had so foregrounded the process of thinking".
Read the Book
All the action of Ulysses takes place in and immediately around Dublin on a single day (June 16, 1904). The events of the novel loosely parallel the major events in Odysseus’s journey home after the Trojan War
3 central characters
Stephen Dedalus (the hero of Joyce’s earlier Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man)
Leopold Bloom, a Jewish advertising canvasser
Molly, Leopold's wife—are intended to be modern counterparts of Telemachus, Ulysses (Odysseus), and Penelope, respectively
The book begins at 8:00 in the morning in a Martello tower (a Napoleonic-era defensive structure), where Stephen lives with medical student Buck Mulligan and his English friend Haines.
They prepare for the day and head out. After teaching at a boys’ school, Stephen receives his pay from the ignorant and anti-Semitic headmaster, Mr. Deasy, and takes a letter from Deasy that he wants to have published in two newspapers. Afterward Stephen wanders along a beach, lost in thought.
Also that morning, Bloom brings breakfast and the mail to Molly, who remains in bed; her concert tour manager, Blazes Boylan, is to see her at 4:00 that afternoon.
Bloom goes to the post office to pick up a letter from a woman with whom he has an illicit correspondence and then to the pharmacist to order lotion for Molly. At 11:00 AM Bloom attends the funeral of Paddy Dignam with Simon Dedalus, Martin Cunningham, and Jack Power.
Bloom goes to a newspaper office to negotiate the placement of an advertisement, which the foreman agrees to as long as it is to run for three months.
Bloom leaves to talk with the merchant placing the ad. Stephen arrives with Deasy’s letter, and the editor agrees to publish it. When Bloom returns with an agreement to place the ad for two months, the editor rejects it.
Bloom walks through Dublin for a while, stopping to chat with Mrs. Breen, who mentions that Mina Purefoy is in labour. He later has a cheese sandwich and a glass of wine at a pub. On his way to the National Library afterward, he spots Boylan and ducks into the National Museum.
In the National Library, Stephen discusses his theories about Shakespeare and Hamlet with the poet AE, the essayist and librarian John Eglinton, and the librarians Richard Best and Thomas Lyster.
Bloom arrives, looking for a copy of an advertisement he had placed, and Buck shows up. Stephen and Buck leave to go to a pub as Bloom also departs.
Simon and Matt Lenehan meet in the bar of the Ormond Hotel, and later Boylan arrives. Leopold had earlier seen Boylan’s car and followed it to the hotel, where he then dines with Richie Goulding.
Boylan leaves with Lenehan, on his way to his assignation with Molly. Later, Bloom goes to Barney Kiernan’s boisterous pub, where he is to meet Cunningham in order to help with the Dignam family’s finances.
Bloom finds himself being cruelly mocked, largely for his Jewishness. He defends himself, and Cunningham rushes him out of the bar.
After the visit to the Dignam family, Bloom, after a brief dalliance at the beach, goes to the National Maternity Hospital to check in on Mina.
He finds Stephen and several of his friends, all somewhat drunk. He joins them, accompanying them when they repair to Burke’s pub.
After the bar closes, Stephen and a friend head to Bella Cohen’s brothel. Bloom later finds him there. Stephen, very drunk by now, breaks a chandelier, and, while Bella threatens to call the police, he rushes out and gets into an altercation with a British soldier, who knocks him to the ground.
Bloom takes Stephen to a cabman’s shelter for food and talk, and then, long after midnight, the two head for Bloom’s home.
There Bloom makes hot cocoa, and they talk. When Bloom suggests that Stephen stay the night, Stephen declines, and Bloom sees him out. Bloom then goes to bed with Molly; he describes his day to her and requests breakfast in bed.
Ulysses is divided into the three books (marked I, II, and III) and 18 episodes
The episodes do not have chapter headings or titles, and are numbered only in Gabler's edition.
Joyce divides Ulysses into 18 episodes that "roughly correspond to the episodes in Homer's Odyssey".