Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  Ulysses

author  James Joyce

type of work  Novel

genre  Modernist novel; comic novel; quest novel

language  English

time and place written  Trieste, Italy; Zurich, Switzerland; Paris; 19141921

date of first publication  Individual episodes were published serially starting in 1918; as a novel, it was first published in 1922

publisher  First serially in The Little Review; as a novel by Shakespeare & Company

narrator  Episodes One, Two, Four–Twelve, Sixteen, and Seventeen feature anonymous narrators. Episode Three features Stephen’s thoughts. Episode Thirteen features an amalgamation of anonymous narrator, Gerty MacDowell, and Bloom. Episode Fourteen features a variety of narrators, meant to be representative of the prose styles of historical English authors. Episode Fifteen has no narrator. Molly Bloom is the first-person narrator of Episode Eighteen.

point of view  Episodes One, Two, Four–Eleven, Sixteen, and Seventeen are told from the third-person viewpoint. Episode Three features interior monologue. Episode Twelve is told from the first-person. Episode Thirteen is told from the third and first person. Episode Fourteen is told variously in the third-person and first-person. Episode Fifteen is in play-script form. Episode Eighteen features an interior monologue.

tone  The narratives of Episodes One through Eight have a straightforward tone. Episodes Nine through Eleven have a self-conscious, playful tone. Episode Twelve has a hyperbolic, belligerent tone. Episode Thirteen has a sentimental tone. Episode Fourteen has an extreme variety of tones, including pious, sensational, and satiric. Episode Fifteen has no narrator and therefore no dominant narrative tone. Episode Sixteen has a tired tone. Episode Seventeen has a scientific tone.

tense  Present

setting (time)  8:00A.M., June 16, 1904–approximately 3A.M., June 17, 1904

setting (place)  Dublin, Ireland, and its surrounding suburbs

protagonist  Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom, Molly Bloom

major conflict  Molly Bloom’s infidelity with Blazes Boylan; Stephen Dedalus’s search for a symbolic father; Leopold Bloom’s desire for a son (his only son died eleven years ago several days after his birth)

rising action  Bloom leaves his house for the day, sees Blazes Boylan on the street several times, and becomes anxious about Blazes and Molly’s four o’clock rendezvous. Bloom is convinced they are going to have sex. Stephen and Bloom go about their day. They pass by each other several times and coincidentally meet at Holles St. Maternity Hospital.

climax  The first climax could be when Bloom looks after Stephen during Stephen’s argument with Private Carr (at the end of Episode Fifteen). The second climax is Bloom’s return home to his bedroom to discover evidence of Molly’s infidelity and to mentally overcome the threat of Blazes Boylan (Episode Seventeen).

falling action  Bloom and Stephen rest at a cabman’s shelter (Episode Sixteen), then return to the Bloom residence and have cocoa and talk (Episode Seventeen). Bloom tells Molly about his day and asks her to serve him breakfast in bed (Episode Seventeen). Molly lies awake considering the events of the day and a happy memory from her and Bloom’s past.

themes  The quest for paternity; the remorse of conscience; compassion as heroic; parallax or the necessity of multiple perspectives

motifs  Lightness and darkness; the home usurped; the East

symbols  Plumtree’s Potted Meat; the Gold Cup horserace; Stephen’s Latin Quarter hat; Bloom’s potato talisman

foreshadowing  Stephen’s and Bloom’s compatible dreams set in an Eastern marketplace street