Many novelists directly reflect their life stories and personal circumstances in their works, so closely that the works may seem autobiographical. Although there are autobiographical parallels between James Joyce's life and that of his characters in Ulysses, the novel's scattered autobiographical details are more in the line of delightful puzzles to be ferreted out, rather than direct insights into Joyce's life. What is really important in Ulysses is not the ties to Joyce's personal experience; it is the way he uses his distinctively Irish experience to comment on the human condition in general. We think of Joyce as an Irish writer, and it may be surprising to learn that he left his native land as a relatively young man, feeling that its religion was constricting and its politics futile. He concluded, in short, that his country had given him nothing of value, and that he could only gain what he personally needed as a writer by ruthlessly divorcing himself from his Irish past. Ironically, however, every book Joyce wrote throughout his life would be set in the Dublin of his childhood, and Ulysses, in particular, is permeated with the sights, sounds, flavor and smells of Joyce's Irish boyhood. In the process of showing us his Ireland, Joyce taught us more about the Irish mind than any other writer before or since. In Ulysses, the reader follows the hero, Leopold Bloom, as he circumnavigates Dublin, eventually making his way out in the morning and home at the end of the day. We meet Leopold's wife Molly and his friend Stephen Dedalus, as well as "hundreds of other Dubliners as they walk the streets, meet and talk, then talk some more in restaurants and pubs. All this activity seems rando...
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...t the book ends with Molly's great life-affirming "yes". Leopold Bloom goes out on June 16, 1904 to discover the world, and finds it all in on the streets of Dublin before returning home safe and sound. Set amidst the dissonant and strident sounds of the modern city, Ulysses is a novel that could not take place any time or any place else.
Delaney, Frank. James Joyce's Odyssey: A Guide to the Dublin of Ulysses. (New York : Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1981).
Gray, Paul. "James Joyce: His 'Ulysses' Baffled Readers and Challenged Aspiring Fiction Writers; It Also Revolutionized 20th Century Fiction." (1998). Time, June 8, Vol. 151, No. 22, pp.102.
Joyce, James. Ulysses. (New York : Vintage Press Edition, 1961).
McCoy, Kathleen, and Judith Harlan. English Literature From 1785. (New York : HarperCollins, 1992).
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