‘Ulysses’ is notorious for being too long, inaccessible, and difficult to understand. James Joyce famously joked that he intentionally misrepresented various sections of the book to confound readers and critics alike for his amusement. Behind these layers of literary complexity, Joyce crafts a riveting modernist tale that pays homage to Homer’s ‘Odyssey.’
Style of Prose
James Joyce is renowned for his innovative use of language and pursuit of fresh literary techniques in ‘Ulysses’ which featured internal monologue, a sophisticated web of symbolic connections, and coined terms.
While the Irish theme permeated ‘Ulysses’, Joyce’s literary style varied from one to the next. He frequently experimented with diction, solo speeches, and soliloquies. Using intricate concepts and creative symbolism was another typical tactic. In ‘Ulysses’, Joyce frequently used Irish slang, but he also frequently used puns, allegories, and euphemisms to give his characters a more contemporary and genuine feel.
When Joyce first started writing, art was more grounded in reality than in fantasy. He aimed to apply realistic principles to his works. Joyce incorporated the idea of stream of consciousness into his realist style. He thought that people underestimated the significance of simple chores. One subject that runs across many of his works is that even something so simple and uncomplicated can be considered to be a significant art. This approach was frequently used by Joyce in the monologues and soliloquies of his characters.
Symbolism in Ulysses
James Joyce repeatedly used seemingly innocuous symbols to give depth to the story of ‘Ulysses’. An example of this is Episode 15. In Episode 15, Bloom’s potato serves the same purpose as Odysseus’s use of “moly” in Circe’s den: it shields him from enchantment, which Bloom falls prey to when he momentarily lends it to Zoe Higgins. The now-shriveled potato is a keepsake from Bloom’s mother, Ellen. It alluded to Bloom’s worries about reproduction and his family line as an organic product that was once both a fruit and a root but is now withered. The potato’s association with Ireland, though, is what matters most; Bloom’s potato talisman represents his largely disregarded maternal Irish lineage.
Joyce also plays with this literary device with crossed keys. In ‘Ulysses’, crossed keys serve as a metaphor for both paternity and the stability of one’s own home or country. Bloom wants to be Stephen’s father to get back with his son, Rudy. In addition, he desires control over his house and the love of his wife. Stephen and Bloom both leave the house without their keys on June 16. Bloom forgets his latchkey as Buck nags Stephen for the Martello Tower key. The symbol of the interlocked keys denotes their unfinished union as father and son. Usurpers have taken over both of their homes: Haines has snuck into Stephen’s home, and Boylan will infiltrate Bloom and Molly’s bed.
James Joyce’s use of Intertextuality in Ulysses
Being a profoundly intertextual novel, ‘Ulysses’ meaning is heavily reliant on its frequent allusions to other literary works. Numerous additional novels are cited in ‘Ulysses’, but because Joyce hardly ever makes explicit mention of them and because the majority of them are somewhat subtle, it is simple to miss the great majority of these allusions. (Frequently, they only contain one important word or image.) In particular, Joyce concentrates on some of the literary classics like ‘Hamlet’ and the ‘Odyssey’ which are regarded as the best examples of Western literature.
The ‘Odyssey’ serves as a framework for Joyce’s novel, but he doesn’t adhere to it exactly. For instance, while Gerty MacDowell closely resembles the princess Nausicaa, Molly Bloom’s resemblance to Penelope is ironic,^ given that Penelope goes to great lengths to remain faithful to Odysseus for years, whereas Molly casually cheats on her husband. Joyce uses these classics for his objectives to examine how they are relevant to modern life rather than attempting to merely duplicate the tried-and-true formulae that make literary classics successful.
The Unconventional Narrative of Ulysses
Joyce also deliberately defies literary conventions to demonstrate their subjectivity and malleability. He sometimes takes his allusions to the point where they are parodies. For instance, Stephen Dedalus offers a complex interpretation of ‘Hamlet’ that doesn’t make sense and that even Stephen Dedalus doesn’t hold. Joyce undermines the use of canonical texts as sources in Stephen’s theory. He makes fun of both the temptation to try too hard to apply literature to everyday life and the endeavor to understand the original meaning of a piece of art. Most crucially, he makes the argument that literature shouldn’t be bound to any particular norms and standards by using a range of diverse styles and points of view.
What is James Joyce’s writing style in ‘Ulysses’?
James Joyce employed the use of stream-of-consciousness writing style in ‘Ulysses.’ It is a style associated with the modernist movement of questioning and experimenting with the preexisting style of the 19th century and prior. ‘Ulysses’ also features an incredible trove of literary references to other works of Western literature, particularly Homer’s ‘Odyssey.’
Who Influenced James Joyce in writing ‘Ulysses’?
Only three authors, Flaubert, Ben Jonson, and Ibsen, according to Joyce. He adored Shelley and Tolstoy as well. He wrote him a fan letter and learned to read Ibsen in the original as a young man because he was his hero (‘Exiles’ shows a strong influence). Joyce cited Aquinas, Vico, and Giordano Bruno as philosophical influences for his use of the stream-of-consciousness technique in his 1888 novel ‘Les Lauriers sont Coupé’ by Dujardin. Previously, he said “Almost as much as I love the Bible, I adore Dante. The rest is ballast; He is my spiritual food.”
What writers did ‘Ulysses’ influence?
‘Ulysses’ influenced writers like Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett, and William Faulkner. William Faulkner’s ‘The Sound and the Fury’ borrowed significantly from ‘Ulysses’, stylistically. The stream-of-consciousness style, and internal monologues, among others. Nearly every modernist writer of the 20th century points to the work of ‘Ulysses’ as a major source of inspiration.
What made James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ a difficult read?
Joyce disregarded accepted grammar conventions. Many of his characters speak in run-on phrases and ramble. Joyce thought that the intellect does not speak in terms of formal grammar or punctuation. Joyce used this psychological realist aesthetic to promote character development in his subsequent writings. Due to his ongoing study of linguistics, he was able to speak nearly twenty languages with ease. Joyce came up with the idea of bending and changing languages to describe how the mind sounded. This made his writing very difficult to comprehend, especially by the average reader.
Lasting Effect on The Reader
‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce narrates the events of June 16, 1904 concerning the lives of Leopold Bloom, Molly Bloom, and Stephen Dedalus.
- It is very rich in details.
- It incorporates various literary styles.
- It is very captivating.
- It is a very long read.
- It is very difficult to understand at first.