Literary and Character Analysis of Ulysses by James Joyce, Specifically Episode 18: Penelope

Literary and Character Analysis of Ulysses by James Joyce, Specifically Episode 18: Penelope

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. What does Joyce seek to accomplish through his portrayal of Molly Bloom?

In a 1922 interview with Vanity Fair, James Joyce said this about Ulysses, "I simply sought to record what a man sees, says, and thinks, and what that saying, seeing, and thinking does to what you 'Freudians' call the subconscious". I think this is important to keep in mind when considering the aforementioned question.

The first thing most people observe when reading "Penelope" is the indelicate and plain-spoken way Molly "thinks", particularly in regards to sex. This type of language could be considered coarse or vulgar by today's standards, so one can only imagine how inflammatory it was in the early 20th century. Molly reminisces about former lovers, considers future suitors and reflects on the anatomy of Blazes Boylan and compares it to that of her husbands. Molly thinks of her daughter and her deceased son,of Stephen Dedalus, and who is responsible for her adultery. Her stream-of-consciousness is unfiltered, and unabashed, but what point was Joyce trying to make?
I believe Joyce was tackling antiquated notions about women, marriage, and femininity. Joyce enjoyed challenging the extreme prudishness of a very Christian society, and he chose Dublin as his setting to do so. Women were held to very strict standards, and only marriage or a vow of celibacy would likely secure the reputation of a woman. It could be argued that Joyce sought to open up this perspective and introduce a marriage and more importantly a woman 'who defied these standards. Joyce presents Molly as someone who is guilty of several sins by the standards of her society but he portrays her as a victim and a human being as well. Joyce assigns mutual accountability in the...


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...deliver these inevitable aspects of life, and asked the reader to say yes to the whole package, just as Molly did. Through the stream-of-consciousness narrative, Molly considers leaving Bloom and running away with Boylan. She considers several other alternatives to the life she has now, and ponders what life would be like if she had made different decisions. Ultimately, Molly is able to summon happiness not through her fantasies but from her memories, and finds solace directly from her individual experiences. Joyce is credited for his involvement in creating a new national identity for Ireland. I believe he placed great value in an identity that begins with understanding the importance of the individual human experience. One that has the capacity to extend outwards and grow from there. I think one could argue that Molly's final thoughts are a reflection of this.

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