Ulysses

by: James Joyce

Important Quotations Explained

3
—What is it? says John Wyse. —A nation? says Bloom. A nation is the same people living in the same place. —By God, then, says Ned, laughing, if that’s so I’m a nation for I’m living in the same place for the past five years.

This dialogue occurs in Episode Twelve, during the confrontation scene at Barney Kiernan’s pub. Led by the citizen, the men at Barney Kiernan’s explicitly identify Bloom as an outsider, his Jewish-Hungarian roots being incompatible with their essentialist conception of Irishness as a “racial” and Catholic category. Here, Bloom’s conception of a nation may seem excessively loose (especially when he backs up several lines later to qualify, “Or in different places”), but Bloom’s position on nationality as a self-selected category is part of the triumph of Bloom’s compassionate humanism over the violent essentialism of the citizen and others. Ned Lambert’s sarcastic response to Bloom here is an example of another way in which Bloom is repeatedly marked as an outsider—the Dublin men with whom Bloom associates are skilled in using mockery and sarcasm to establish authority over others, while Bloom does not use humor in this way.