About the Book

Book Protagonist: Leopold Bloom
Publication Date: 1922
Genre: Literary Fiction



By James Joyce

'Ulysses' is packed with lots of poignant quotes with deep philosophical undertones.

James Joyce is a master of dialogue and language. In ‘Ulysses’, Joyce furnished his Western masterpiece with interesting think-pieces and quotables among others.

Musings on Love and Maternity

 It lay beneath him, a bowl of bitter waters

Stephen imagines the harbor to be a bowl as he surveys it from the Martello Tower. Buck Mulligan used the Homeric term “the wine-dark sea” as an epithet (nickname or phrase) for the ocean. However, Stephen notices that the sea is green this morning and it reminds him of two things. The first uses the phrase “love’s bitter mystery” in a song from a play by Irish author W.B. Yeats. The second incident was his dying mother, who cried over his atheism before throwing up green bile into a basin. Stephen muses on love, bitterness, and mourning while gazing over the sea.

Amor matris: subjective and objective genitive.

In Episode Two, Stephen uses this quote as part of his inner monologue. Amor matris, which means “mother love,” is a concept Stephen muses about while he provides extra assistance to his pupil Sargent. Stephen is reminded by Sargent of himself when he was that age; he was similarly filthy and untidy, a child that only a mother could adore. In ‘Ulysses,’ Stephen repeatedly considers “mother love,” contrasting the tangible, physical truth of a mother’s affection with the estranged, tense relationship between a father and a kid.

On Manhood and Paternity

What is home without Plumtree’s Potted Meat? Incomplete. With it an abode of bliss

Bloom’s reaction is his deliberate opinion that the advertisement is improperly placed because it is right below the obituaries, indicating an unjust relationship between dead people and “potted meat.” But on a subliminal level, Bloom starts to associate Boylan’s usurpation of his wife and home with the image of Plumtree’s Potted Meat. Boylan and Molly’s sexual relationship is bluntly suggested by the picture of meat inside a pot. The phrasing of the advertisement also alludes to Bloom’s misgivings as a man; he fears that he is not the master of an “abode of happiness,” but rather a servant in a house that is “incomplete.”

…each contemplating the other in both mirrors of the reciprocal flesh of theirhisnothis fellowfaces

This passage from Episode Seventeen describes the silent exchange between Stephen and Bloom in Bloom’s garden immediately before Stephen leaves. Their encounter is far from perfect; no mention of a father-son relationship is made, Stephen declines to spend the night, and Bloom is most likely the last person he will ever see. However, the episode’s script succeeds in portraying their relationship as having symbolic significance by drawing on several themes.

On Freedom, Nationhood, and Self-determination

History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake

Stephen sees Ireland’s history as a protracted string of invasions, uprisings, betrayals, and lamented heroes that enthrall the populace with the fantasy of freedom. Stephen would prefer to be rid of the illusion than cling to this dream.

You will not be the master of others nor the slave

Stephen made a promise in ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ that he would neither obey authority nor worship idols he did not believe in. In the “Proteus” episode, Stephen goes even further with this declaration and swears off both controlling people and being controlled.

What is it? says John Wyse. —A nation? says, Bloom. A nation is the same people living in the same place. —By God, then, says Ned, laughing, if that’s so I’m a nation for I’m living in the same place for the past five years.

This conversation takes place in Episode 12 during the altercation at Barney Kiernan’s pub. The guys at Barney Kiernan’s, led by the citizen, publicly label Bloom as an outsider since his Jewish-Hungarian roots conflict with their essentialist view of Irishness as a “racial” and Catholic category. However, Bloom’s view on nationality as a self-selected category is a part of the victory of Bloom’s compassionate humanism over the violent essentialism of the citizen and others. Bloom’s conception of a nation may appear overly vague in this passage (especially when he backs up several lines later to qualify, “Or in different places”).

Linguistic Mastery and Sensualism

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:

Introibo ad altare Dei.

With the serpentine letter S, ‘Ulysses’ begins and ends. ‘Ulysses’ is a closed circle that ends where it started; this has been compared to serpent figures with tails in mouths in the ‘Book of Kells.’ Joyce accomplished a similar result in ‘Finnegans Wake’ by connecting the opening and concluding phrases so that the former completes the latter.

The three sections of ‘Ulysses’ that Joyce breaks apart begin with important letters:

  • The Telemachia, Part I: S
  • Section II of The Odyssey: M
  • The Nostos, Part III: P

The three main characters of the book are Stephen Dedalus, Molly (Marion) Bloom, and Poldy (Leopold) Bloom, and these letters stand for their initials. This represents one of the many ways James Joyce stretched the concept of linguistic and literary depth to create a masterpiece.

Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls.

Leopold Bloom is introduced to the reader in the opening sentence of the “Calypso” episode. Bloom frequently expresses “relish” in nasty foods; for example, he enjoys kidneys with a “tang of pee.” Bloom frequently delves into sensory perception, whereas Stephen frequently delves into intellectual reasoning. James Joyce used Bloom’s absurd sensual proclivities as a metaphor for making the extraordinary seem commonplace. A technique Gabriel García Márquez made the hallmark of his oeuvre.


What is the difference between Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ and Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’?

Unlike Odysseus, Stephen does not leave the Martello Tower with the intention of looking for a father. Instead, he gives Mulligan the key to the tower voluntarily. In addition, his intent is less firm than Telemachus’. When Stephen leaves Sandycove at the end of the episode, he has made up his mind not to go back to the Tower, but it is not until Mulligan and he gets into a heated argument late that night at the Westland Row Station that Stephen realizes it is impossible to go back, unlike Odysseus who sailed back to Ithaca.

What is ‘Ulysses’ most popular quote?

“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”

What did James Joyce mean by ‘Parallax’ in ‘Ulysses’?

According to Joyce, providing a variety of viewpoints on reality is the greatest way for writing to accurately depict it. He typically illustrates this point using the astronomy term parallax, which describes the phenomenon whereby various viewers would perceive the same object as being situated at different locations. Simply put, parallax refers to the fact that various observers perceive the environment differently. This conveys the idea that a single literary style or viewpoint can never provide a complete picture of the universe.

What was the main point of ‘Ulysses’?

‘Ulysses’ was written to explore the stream of mind. With this method, Joyce aimed to illustrate how even mundane things might be attractive. He reasoned that a deeper examination of how the mind responded to and conversed with these objects would help us understand humanity.

Charles Asoluka
About Charles Asoluka
Charles is an experienced content creator, writer, and literary critic. He has written professionally for multiple reputable media organizations. He loves reading Western classics and reviewing them.
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