Top 10 Notes: Ulysses

Born in 1882 in Dublin, Ireland, James Joyce started writing when he was a boy. While attending university, he started to write plays and magazine articles. Joyce also spent time teaching, singing and living in various European cities. Though his experimental style earned him popularity, his deteriorating health eventually led to his death in 1941. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and in this installment of Mojo Notes, we’ll be exploring ten things you should know about James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”
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This important novel of modernist literature parallels Homer’s Odyssey. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and in this installment of Mojo Notes, we’ll be exploring ten things you should know about James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”

#10: About the Author

Born in 1882 in Dublin, Ireland, James Joyce started writing when he was a boy. While attending university, he started to write plays and magazine articles. Joyce also spent time teaching, singing and living in various European cities. Though his experimental style earned him popularity, his deteriorating health eventually led to his death in 1941.

#9: Influences and Inspirations

Since Ulysses is Latin for Odysseus, Joyce took inspiration for his novel from the mythological Greek king in Homer’s epic “Odyssey” poem. That poem’s hero is the King of Ithaca, who is known by the name of Odysseus in Greek and Ulysses in Roman. Homer’s tale follows the King’s return to Ithaca in search of his wife Penelope and son Telemachus after fighting in the Trojan War. This is demonstrated by the various parallels between the poem and Joyce’s characters. Meanwhile, various real-life people in the writer’s life influenced the character of Leopold Bloom.

#8: Settings and Era

“Ulysses” is set in Dublin, Ireland and takes place on June 16, 1904. The novel is divided into 18 episodes or chapters. Because it’s set in the early 20th century and features a stream-of-consciousness writing style, the novel is considered a work of modernist literature. Joyce also uses humor and wordplay.

#7: Plot

Narrated by an all-knowing third person, “Ulysses” follows Leopold Bloom’s life through a single day. We’re first introduced to Stephen Dedalus, who listlessly moves around Dublin after an argument with his friend Buck Mulligan. The novel then switches to Leopold Bloom, who goes on with his day as though everything was normal, even though his wife is having an affair. He attends a funeral, attempts to place an ad in the paper and has lunch, all while pondering life. After a Citizen verbally assaults him, Leopold encounters Stephen. After Stephen gets into an altercation with an English soldier, Leopold tends to him and offers him a place to stay. However, they part ways and Leopold joins his wife instead.

#6: Leopold Bloom

As the novel’s hero and protagonist, Leopold is Molly’s half Jewish husband and father to Milly and the late Rudy. During his daylong odyssey through Dublin, we discover he’s ruled by the basic human instincts. He knows his wife is having an affair but he takes no action due to his accepting and pacific nature. However, he does admit to jealousy. Despite his creative imagination, Leopold also acts like a know-it-all. However, he also has a protective and compassionate side as demonstrated by his encounter with Stephen. He represents Ulysses or Odysseus.

#5: Stephen Dedalus

Stephen first appeared in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” as Joyce’s alter ego. He is a deep thinker who’s still trying to figure out what he’s going to do with his life. He doesn’t have many close friends and lacks confidence when it comes to his ideas and theories. After distancing himself from his past religious beliefs, he makes his ambitions about becoming an artist a priority and cares about little else. Despite his mother’s death, he chooses not to take care of his sisters. Instead, he’s preoccupied with his own world, and acts selfishly, almost to cover up his fear of failure. After meeting Leopold, Stephen begins to change his ways, but he hasn’t matured entirely. He represents Telemachus, who is Odysseus’ son, though he also shares some similarities with Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

#4: Marion “Molly” Bloom

Molly is Leopold’s beautiful and charming wife. She’s also a singer who is cheating on her husband with her concert manager Blazes Boylan. Despite this, Leopold still thinks highly of her and even thinks her actions justified since they lack intimacy. Though Molly suspects her husband may be unfaithful to her as well, she stays with him.

#3: Values and Themes

“Ulyssses”’ main theme is love and the problems it entails. Other themes the novel explores include the past versus the present and life’s big questions, such as existence and death. Through its characters, we also learn about the effects of religion, prejudice and independence.

#2: Modern Popularity

Despite initial controversy about its themes and graphic imagery, “Ulysses” is now viewed as one of the most significant writings in Modernist literature. Joyce’s unique style and the novel’s connection to Homer’s “Odyssey” have had a great impact on later writing.

#1: Adaptations

While it’s been alluded to in music and adapted for radio and the stage, “Ulysses” has also been explored on screen. The most notable of these is the Oscar-nominated 1967 British-American drama.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite piece of “Ulysses” trivia? With new top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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