Essay on An Analysis Of James Joyce 's ' Ulysses '

Essay on An Analysis Of James Joyce 's ' Ulysses '

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The chapter of James Joyce 's Ulysses entitled "Nacissa" tells the story of a young, beautiful girl named Gerty McDowell, who has fantasies of her perfect life with her perfect husband. She thinks that she has found this man in the novel 's protagonist, Leopold Bloom, with whom she has a sexual encounter on the beach. It is only until after this encounter that the reader learns Gerty is physically disabled. Before this point, Gerty is the epitome of physical beauty, which Joyce shows through describing her beauty as regal and otherworldly; She exemplifies the idea of the Victorian era beauty queen—who participates in pageants and become a spectacle to be viewed—and often times exaggerates it to overcompensate for her disability. However, Gerty cannot escape this because when someone finds out she is disabled she is stripped of her beauty and made a freak. In this way, Joyce places her at the opposite ends of the beauty spectrum—extraordinarily beautiful and freakish disabled—so that he can show the status of Ireland at this time.
Disabled characters in Victorian era novels are commonplace. Whether they are "lame, tubercular, dying of AIDS" or "mentally ill," but they are always there (Laird 729). They are not, nevertheless, at the center of the story. Instead, they are "usually consigned to the margins of the text" (729). There only function in the text is to "establish the typicality of the non-disabled central character and thus to enforce a 'hegemony of normalcy '" (729). The disabled character is a secondary one, whose sole purpose, in essence, is to show how normal the protagonist is. Gerty is the antithesis of this stereotype.
Gerty is the centerpiece of the first half of chapter. It revolves around her and her thoughts;...


... middle of paper ...


...body” (729). This the disabled body disrupts normality and Ireland does this too, by disrupting binaries: “Ireland is simultaneously both oppressor and oppressed, both white and non-white, both a participant in the imperial projects of Western Europe and the very object of many of those projects” (qtd. in Laird 730). Like Ireland, Gerty disrupts binaries.
Gerty’s body is also described as perfectly Irish: Her eyes are “the bluest Irish blue” (XIII. 108) and she is seen as the “specimen of winsome Irish girlhood” (XIII. 81), so much so that there is no one in “God’s fair land of Ireland” that is her “equal” (XIII. 122). In this perfection, there is something a little off kilter, just like Ireland itself.
In Gerty, Joyce finds a metaphor for Ireland, which is free and not free, beautiful and ugly, showing that these things do not have to separate or contradictory.

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