James Joyce's Ulysses is a novel of epic proportions that has been proclaimed the greatest piece of literature of the twentieth century. Ulysses takes place in Dublin, Ireland on June 16, 1904. The book is full of parallels, metaphors, and experimental literary techniques. However, a dominant theme is that of epiphany. Not necessarily religious in meaning, the Joycean idea of epiphany is a sudden discovery of the essential nature or meaning of something.
In Ulysses, Joyce describes the pursuits of two main protagonists, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus, both individuals yearning for something more. As the day progresses the two characters unknowingly cross paths until, as a result of their day, they finally meet. In doing so, they find in each other humanistic ideals, in the form of individual epiphanies, that are needed to complete their yearnings. Joyce uses these epiphanies to represent his theme of the ability of a single day to act as a microcosm of the many facets of human society.
Stephen Dedalus is first introduced in a tower in Sandycove that he is renting and sharing with "friend" Buck Mulligan. While going about their morning routines it becomes evident that Stephen is upset, with Mulligan and the situation, and after a conversation filled with mockery and annoyance, Stephen vows not to return to the tower that night. Stephen, now homeless, takes to the street hoping to find solace in the city.
Stephen is recently back in Dublin from a self-exile in Paris. He has completed his bachelor degree and is very educated, especially in language and the humanities. However, as he has grown in learning and experience, he is still lacking essential characteristics ...
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...shows not just Stephen has grown that day.
By showing in full the transpiring of one single day and the effect it has on two distinct yet dynamic character, James Joyce has made Ulysses a book about the success of humanity. It is hard to believe that a novel that has had such a battle with censors due to its "obscenity" can portray society in a moral, positive manner. But in the less than 24 hours of action, almost 800 pages of language, can be found many things. One is the struggle of the family, shown through Stephen (son), Bloom (father), and Molly (mother). More importantly is the power of one day, with its events and epiphanies, and the fact that that day could be any day or every day.
Joyce, James. Ulysses. Modern Library Edition, 1934.
Tindall, William York. A Reader's Guide to James Joyce. Syracuse University Press Edition, 1959
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