Leopold Bloom, a middle-aged Dubliner, leaves his home at eight o’clock on a Thursday morning in June. He spends the whole day wandering about Dublin, meeting people, thinking to his past life, to the unfaithfulness of his wife, Molly, and to the death of their little son. In a brothel he meets a young artist, Stephen Dedalus, who is completely drunk, and rescues him from a fight. He takes Stephen home with him, at two in the morning. In a short time Stephen leaves. Molly, who’s trying to get asleep, does not even hear them coming.
The events are narrated in the chronological order, but flashbacks and anticipations continually occur in the characters’ minds
Characters•Leopold Bloom: he represents Common Man, and so humanity, he’s a parody of the wandering Ulysses of the Odyssey and also a parody of the wandering Jew.
•Molly Bloom: she represents the flesh, as she’s totally dependent on her sensuality, and stands ironically for Penelope.
•Stephen Dedalus: he represents every young man in the search of maturity, but also the alienated artist, and stands for Telemachus, as he is momentarily adopted by Leopold Bloom.
Third person unobtrusive and impersonal.
Dublin: Joyce describes houses, streets, pubs, shops he knew, so the setting becomes a faithful photograph of the real Dublin.
Ulysses is divided intro three parts:
each section focuses on one of the three main characters.
Each of the eighteen chapters parallels an episode of the Odyssey, each has a dominant color and each focuses on an organ of the body. According to T. S. Eliot, creating this structure Joyce substituted the “narrative method” with the “mythical method”.
•The expression of the universal in the particular: the people of Dublin become symbols of humanity.
•The journey: like the Odyssey, the novel deals with a journey away from and then back home, after having symbolically faced death.
•The quest: the journey is also a quest symbolizing human life, so suffering, falling, raising again.
•Incommunicability: Leopold and Molly do not communicate any more; Leopold and Stephen are too tired to communicate when they come home.
•The relationship between the artist and the common man: they exist in mutual need, as the artist needs the common man as material for his work, the common man needs the artist to raise him from his everyday life
•Indirect interior monologue: the flow of thoughts is reported, disregarding grammar, without punctuation or capital letters.
•Direct interior monologue: the flow of thoughts is reported, but retaining punctuation.
•Dialogue and description.
Language is characterized by variety of vocabulary and register and experimentation. There are puns, contrasts, juxtapositions. In each episode the language is suited to the characters and the situation. There are foreign words, literary quotations and allusions to other literary works.