Ulysses: Agenbite of Inwit

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James Joyce is, to put it simply, a very difficult and pretentious writer. His style is varying within each novel and he is constantly challenging formal writing norms even in his afterlife. Agenbite of inwit is translated from Middle English as “Remorse of Conscience,” Joyce uses this term in several places throughout Ulysses to show introspection of principle characters in relation to guilt. Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus portray agenbite of inwit in the chapters: Telemachus,Wandering Rocks and Circe.

The Ayenbite of Inwyt(original spelling) is a confessional style prose translated from the French Somme le Roi into a Kentish dialect of Middle English. Due to the incredibly poor work of the translator it is viewed more as a reference to Kentish pronunciation in the mid-14th century than as a work of literature. The Ayenbite of Inwyt is a treaty on Christian morality and was translated so that is would be accessible to laymen who weren’t familiar with French or Latin. The book and the term never gained much popularity. After Joyce’s use of the term in Ulysses, agenbite of inwit saw limited exposure that has been maintained through his lasting influence on modern literature.

The principle characters of Ulysses are Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. Stephen is a young man, lost in life. Dedalus is moody, pretentious, and self-conscious; he is like many young adults of today's generation. Stephen Dedalus deals with remorse of conscience in context to the death of his mother. Dedalus comes back to Ireland after vowing to never return and sits at his mother's deathbed until she passes. Stephen refuses to pray at his mother's deathbed having denounced his religion in Portrait of the Artist as Young Man. His refusal to pray leave...

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...ter Bloom has another hallucination where he is Mayor of the New Bloomusalem which reinforces the fact that he is Leopold Bloom first and a Jew second. In terms of his sexual guilt there really isn’t one hallucination that stands out. He has several that bring the women in his life to a forefront and where he is depicted as feminine. As a cumulative the hallucinations help him to come to terms with his sexual guilt. He is able to later make the decision to stay with Molly through the things he saw and thought that night.

Agenbite of inwit, or remorse of conscience, is another way of saying guilt. Throughout Ulysses, James Joyce uses guilt to provide a closer look into his main characters. The remorse of conscience in Joyce's two principle characters allows readers to see that there is more to them and the novel than a background, there is more than just a surface.

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