Ulysses: Notes

Ulysses: Notes

Ulysses: Notes

Ulysses: Notes


The original CliffsNotes study guides offer expert commentary on major themes, plots, characters, literary devices, and historical background. The latest generation of titles in this series also feature glossaries and visual elements that complement the classic, familiar format.

In CliffsNotes on Ulysses, you explore James Joyce's fascinating literary masterpiece. This novel, written in stream of consciousness and unfolding over a 24-hour period, follows "everyman" Leopold Bloom as the 20th-century version of Homer's Odysseus, as he goes through the most normal of days.

Chapter summaries and commentaries take you through Joyce's novel, and character analyses help you understand the main characters of the novel. Other features that help you study include

  • A section on the life and background of James Joyce
  • A review section that tests your knowledge
  • A selected bibliography

Classic literature or modern modern-day treasure - you'll understand it all with expert information and insight from CliffsNotes study guides.


Joyce, of course, did not divide the novel into numbered or titled
chapters, but for the sake of reference and clarity, these Commentaries
have been labeled according to the standard divisions of Stuart Gilbert

At about eight o’clock in the morning of June 16, 1904, on the stairhead of the Martello Tower on the beach bordering Dublin Bay at Sandycove, about seven miles south of Dublin, Stephen Dedalus has just awakened. He is living in the Tower (which he rented from the government) with Buck Mulligan, a Dublin medical student, and with Haines, an Oxonian, who is residing in Ireland while studying Irish folklore. Stephen is about to leave the Tower, and Joyce will liken Stephen’s leaving to that of Homer’s Telemachus, the son of the Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses). Parallels with the Greek Odyssey are loose throughout Joyce’s novel, but they serve as structuring devices which permit Joyce to carry through his mock heroic purpose in Ulysses. In the Odyssey, Telemachus decides to leave Ithaca to seek his long-lost father so that he and Odysseus (Ulysses) might return to drive away the suitors who are despoiling the kingdom while courting Penelope. In “Telemachus,” Stephen Dedalus feels that he is being forced out of the Tower by Haines and Mulligan; and, in the last word of the chapter, he sees Mulligan as a “usurper.”

Some important differences, however, emerge between Joyce’s Ulysses and the Odyssey. Stephen does not leave the Martello Tower with the intention of searching for a father, even though his thoughts are about paternity, both physical and spiritual, and he voluntarily surrenders the key to the Tower to Mulligan. Also, his purpose is less firm than is that of Telemachus; when Stephen leaves Sandycove at the end of the episode, he has decided not to return to the Tower, but it is only after an argument late that night with Mulligan at the Westland Row Station, in which he almost certainly came to blows, that Stephen realizes the impossibility of going back. When Mulligan deserts him, Stephen ends up in the brothel district at midnight, shepherded by Bloom.

Central to this chapter is the contrast between Mulligan and Stephen: the cynic vs. the idealist, the scientist vs. the artist, and the robust extrovert vs. the contemplative introvert. Buck offers . . .

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