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Critical Reading Of James Joyce Ulysses English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1526 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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James Joyce’s Ulysses, is generally regarded as a modernist novel. At the time when Joyce was: “…writing Ulysses he had set himself the ‘task’ of writing a book from eighteen different points of view and in as many styles” [1] . Historically, modernism is frequently linked with the rise of industrialization. The basic conflict was that modern life was different than the life of the past. People’s lives had become increasingly complex at the time, and they were forced to play a number of different societal roles, the result was that life came to be fragmented and disjointed. In the modern world, language was being stressed upon as people tried to identify with one another. This essay will determine the modernistic ideas that James Joyce’s Ulysses presents, and the relation of it with Homer’s Odyssey. The essay will focus on the literary devices Joyce uses in his writing, and the effect of them on the readers and characters within the stories.

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In Ulysses, Leopold Bloom corresponds to Odysseus, however it is not easy to just read the story as a re make of the Odyssey as Leopold Bloom also corresponds to Leopold Bloom. Ulysses is in fact a particularly realistic novel, and Joyce makes sure he does not let the storyline be forced upon by allegory. Joyce turns a normal day in a man’s life into a heroic tale by opening and analyzing his inner thoughts in depth. He attempts to bring in the motion of the story beginning with the sphere of conflict, and swiftly moving to the sphere of the mentality. There are many differences than similarities in the two stories of Ulysses and The Odyssey. “While Odysseus goes from place to place, Joyce goes from style to style” [2] . In many ways, Telemachus is simply a less formed version of Odysseus. He is shown to be a tad misogynist, while Odysseus is in many ways more womanly. He possesses several traits which only Homers female characters share, and he identifies with women in a way that no one else can, mainly with Penelope.

In the Odyssey, Telemachus, the son of the hero Odysseus, grows up in a world of greed and disregard; he is one of the most significant characters throughout the whole story. During Telemachus’ journey to search for the news of his father, he is shown going through the development of growing up as an adult. From the start of the text he is conveyed as a simple silhouette of his father, however towards the end he is shown to become more like his father in terms of compassion and initiative. Although he comes into his adolescence at the beginning of the book, growing up without a father still makes Telmachus to some extent wretched without initiative.

Telemachus was evidently younger than Odysseus, and he had less patience.

Odysseus however, being older, had a more knowledgeable outlook to most things therefore he knew he had time. Telemachus is the first to attack without a thought, whereas Odysseus thought hard through his attack, and was better at protecting himself. There are many similarities and differences between both characters. Ulysses is a book in which countless characters are brought out and developed through a number of disparate ways. The most momentous development that occurs in the story is the development of Telemachus. Joyce illustrates his character as an incredibly complex person, and continues to develop his personality from beginning to end int he story. At the start of the text he is shown to be a mere shadow of his father whereas towards the end he is considered just as audacious as his father use to be. Many factors influence Telemachus as he grows into a man, his name signifies ‘far from battle’, this name in many ways can be seen and revealed to be ironic in the book as Telemachus ends by taking part in two battles. Not having any fatherly figure in his life as a child persistently affects Telemachus’ character in the book.  He develops into an apprehensive, withdrawn and weak individual who is to the uppermost scale spoiled by his one and only mother. 

A number of literary techniques are evidently used in Telemachus. It is shown to be a journey of manhood, which through the use of a various number of literal devices transmits the significance of a respective society. The story is a narrative poem which presents us the readers with a traditional journey that the character undergoes. Joyce uses the method of using the flashback technique in order to portray readers when there is a change in the setting or when there is a change in the time frame. This technique is widely used by authors in modern day society to illustrate a surprising yet easier to understand storyline. The imperative change on the chain of events that takes place in the text adds to the complexity of the story. When this method is used it gives us the readers the power of time travel, allowing us to view events out of their given time structure. Flashbacks in many ways can help to make the story more interesting and help draw the reader in. They are normally used to give us the readers a better view and understanding of the overall story. Important information about the protagonists and elements of the story are revealed to the reader through the use of flashbacks. Homer makes use of this device in The Odyssey when King Nestor repeats the story of the Trojan War. This flashback in particular allows readers to grasp and identify with the character of Odysseus. This method is also used to tell the story of Odysseus’s adventures as he fought his way home through a various number obstacles.

The structure of the story is a narrative poem; it presents the storyline in a style which proves to be very flexible. This type of literary constitution allows for a difficult or even a straight forward poem to be either long or short. Narrative poems are normally passed down to the next generation by the continuous retelling of stories. Children in today’s society grow up hearing different stories as a tradition; they then pass those stories down to their own children. Joyce presents his, “stylistic diversity…towards the ‘truthful’ depiction of reality” [3] . The Odyssey on the other hand, is a story in structure of a classical journey, the male protagonist in the story is shown to be on a mission suffering from encounters with supernatural beings, consisting of monsters and gods.

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Repetition is also a technique which is used in Ulysses to emphasize the descriptions, dialogues, and verbal communications in the story. The fact that repetition is used allows the story to be much easier told. By only having one narrative in the story really cuts down on the amount of things that need to be remembered by the readers. It also provides itself as a benchmark style that helps the narrator act it out, or even improvise on the spot. The use of repetition helps add to the exhilarating effect of the story. Repeating certain things over and over again allows readers to be familiar with the repetition and what is going on. When this repetition is presented, our minds as the readers begin to wander leaving our thoughts and imaginations open for submission. The Odyssey is a text that makes use of similar passages; however the main repetition Homer uses is in the portrayals of the images presented in the text. For example, Pallas Athena is continuously referred to in relation to her eyes. She is usually referred to as the beautiful eyed goddess. In this case reiteration is used in order to highlight a specific point that Homer tries to put across about her character. The Odyssey makes use of brutal imagery to convey the theme of reprisal. This staggering imagery in reality catches the reader’s interest and is a great means of expression for the theme of revenge.

In conclusion Joyce uses different characters in order to bring out a more modernist meaning and feel to his story. It is clear to identify the differences and similarities both Ulysses and The Odyssey possess, Joyce tries to convey a new adaptation by altering and modifying his characters, whereas Homer’s Odyssey exists only in the past. Joyce evidently brings out a more modernistic experience and surrounding to the text in order to relate it to the modern world, this therefore allows readers to relate to it and allows it exist in a more contemporary world. The literary devices Joyce chooses to use create enigmatic and realistic settings to his story, he specifically uses for example techniques such as ‘flashbacks’, and ‘repetition’ in order to bring across a captivating setting by leaving an attractive impression on the readers.

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