Ulysses Ulysses question

What Does This Book Mean
Jamie Ashworth Jamie Jun 03, 2018 01:33PM
I tried reading this book and didn't understand any of it except for the last two pages.

I think an apt description of its most important theme (of which there are MANY big themes throughout the book) is that life isn't flawless, but it's perfect. The quote during the second to last chapter whereby Bloom asks himself to list the imperfections of a perfect day is really the most straightforward communication of this theme, but it plays throughout the book, including the finale whereby Molly finally says yes to making him breakfast; their marriage is flawed and the love simply isn't quite what it used to be, but it is still there. Molly lists all of Bloom's imperfections and yet she still loves him enough, knowing he forgave her of her adultery, and makes him breakfast in bed. Joyce himself said, "in the particular is contained the universal," likely implying how his ambition to communicate the rich spectrum of human interaction and thought is put into novels such as Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. Another important theme is that of the relationship between an artist, their art, and the real circumstances they must encounter. which is namely built up through the conversations on Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' and especially explored in Chapter 14. We also find social, psyhological, and historical themes continuously at play. Much of what goes on metaphysically is left implicit, which is why most people have a tough time trying to crack Ulysses open with meaning. People will also try to attach themselves to one overhanging idea or concept that drives a work, because that is normal for people to do with other books. Finally, Ulysses is filled to the brim with countless references to art, history, and the setting of Dublin, Ireland in 1904. The fact that Ulysses is covering too much ground for it to be all under a single idea-umbrella, that it communicates many of its ideas implicitly (with just enough explicit hints for the reader to pick up on), and that it requires the reader to already be familiar with other artworks and some general world history makes the book so difficult to read for many, but is also why it is so beloved by many others who find great joy in figuring out something difficult. That feeling of "that was difficult, but I did it!" applies to how people that love Ulysses (or Finnegans Wake) find meaning in it; it's difficult, but the richness of the exploration of ideas and the path one has to take to see it makes it satisfying. Complement this rich and difficult book with a generally large volume of actual pages to be read, and the book seems like it could last a devoted reader a lifetime... and it probably will. I hope this helps. I could never possibly exhaustively list everything that goes on in Ulysses, but I hope this general scaffold and reasoning I provided explains how people consume Ulysses and extract meaning from it :)

This book is unfit for reading.

It is really written to be read aloud as Joyce employs different accents and a dramatic form. Have a listen before rushing to judgement, it brings a totally refreshing take on the printed page.


I read this book on a tablet in 30 minutes slots. These equated to flights to and from Glasgow from Belfast. It was monumentally strange and it took me ages.
Some of it makes some sense as an individual standalone story, some doesn't. Most is simply bizarre. He mixes his styles around all the time which breaks the experience up into a jumble.
I have found there is a legitimate 'emperor's new clothes' reaction to this but my bigger question is who had the courage to publish it back in the day.
My favourite part is also the ending with Molly.

U 25x33
Renee Williams published by Shakespeare & Company, Paris - Slyvia Beach 1922 - made her famous & bankrupt
Aug 08, 2020 04:23PM

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