Ulysses Paper Essay Example
Ulysses Paper Essay Example

Ulysses Paper Essay Example

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  • Published: November 30, 2017
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While no major events take place in the opening chapter of Ulysses, it remains an important one because it introduces the elements that will play out as the novel continues. In relation to the rest of the novel, the opening chapter raises a series of questions that the reader expects the remainder of the novel to build on. The full significance of many of these events are not apparent in the opening chapter, but they reveal their importance as the novel progresses. These elements introduced include the characters of Buck Mulligan and Stephen Dedalus, the major problem of Stephen Dedalus, and the setting.

Each of these will now be considered in turn, both describing how they are presented in the opening chapter, and how this links to the remainder of the novel. Joyce also highlights the relationship between Mulligan a


nd Stephen: In the opening chapter of Ulysses Mulligan links his arm in Stephen's.... both listed as characters for the Telemachus episode on one of the Ulysses note-sheets, an indication of the importance Joyce attached to Stephen's association of the two companions. 1

Buck Mulligan is the first character introduced in the Telemachus episode, he is the flatmate of Stephen and in many ways, represents an opposite to Stephen. He is extroverted, has little self-awareness or conscious, and appears to be much better off with this character than Stephen is with his own. He describes himself in the opening chapter where he refers to his name saying, "My name is absurd too: Malachi Mulligan, two dactyls. But it has a Hellenic ring, hasn't it? Tripping and sunny like the buck himself. "2 This statement is a significant representatio

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of his character for two reasons.

Firstly, a name can be considered as representing a person's own identity. Mulligan referring to himself as "tripping and sunny" shows his carefree attitude, while also showing that he has an outward focus. These are both characteristics that represent how he appears to others, and do not represent his inner character. This suggests that appearances matter most to Mulligan, he also has little self-awareness. Secondly, Mulligan describes himself this way after describing a fault of his. He refers to his name as "absurd" but then goes on to suggest that it also has positives.

This denotes his ability not to dwell on negatives, but to move on to positives. While Mulligan seems to view his character as positive, the reader has a different view. Just after he describes himself this way, he offers a description of the ocean saying, "Isn't the sea what Algy calls it: a grey sweet mother? The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea. "3 These are crude images and suggest that Mulligan has a crude view of the world. This is especially relevant with Stephen's view contrasted with it. Stephen appears to recognize the beauty in these sights and has an appreciation of them.

This reinforces that Mulligan is not a person with real depth or insight and suggests that he has little appreciation. This is expanded to suggest that he has little appreciation for other people. Speaking to Stephen, Mulligan says "The Aunt thinks you killed your mother"4 and then goes on to say, "But to think of your mother begging you with her last breath to kneel down and pray for her. And you refused. There is

something sinister in you. "5 With Stephen's character so far presented as introspective, the reader has a sense that Stephen is not sinister, but had a reason for his actions.

As Frank Budgen states in his book, James Joyce and the Making of 'Ulysses', "He has a theologian's logic and a churchman's conscience. To pray or not to pray is a grievous question. "6 Therefore, this view presented by Mulligan does not become what the reader accepts. Instead, this view emphasizes that Mulligan does not have any empathy or care for others. This is seen again when Mulligan refers to Stephen saying, "Etiquette is etiquette. He kills his mother but he can't wear grey trousers. "7 The reader can imagine that Stephen is suffering from some form of guilt.

Yet Mulligan appears to have no awareness of this and makes these direct and cruel statements. It is also relevant that during this entire conversation Mulligan is staring into a mirror shaving. Firstly, he is focusing on his appearance, which reinforces that his views do not extend past considering appearances. Secondly, he is looking at himself but cannot see himself clearly. This emphasizes that he has little self-awareness. The character of Stephen is presented in contrast to that of Mulligan. He is introspective, with high self-awareness, and also appears unhappier than Mulligan.

The contrast of their introspective and extroverted characters are presented by the way they are described. When Mulligan speaks he is described as having a "gay voice," and he is also described "laughing with delight. " When Stephen speaks, he speaks "quietly," "gloomily," and "with bitterness. " It is clear that there is an outward energy and

vitality in Mulligan's character, while there is a solemness in Stephen's. At one point, Mulligan refers to Stephen's appearance describing him saying, "The plump shadowed face and sullen oval jowl recalled a prelate, patron of arts in the middle ages. 8 This is significant for several reasons.

Firstly, it suggests his unhappiness. Secondly, it presents Stephen as an artist. The artist is a classic character in many works of literature and suggests various character traits. Most importantly, it suggests an emotional and introspective approach to life. The artist is not just a character who paints pictures. Instead, the artist is a person who really observes, examines, and tries to understand life. At the same time, there is often an angst associated with the artist. This is the classic character of the artist as a tortured soul, which is exactly what Stephen is.

The emotional side of Stephen is captured in his being an artist and is then emphasized by the way he is described. One good example is in the line "Pain, that was not yet the pain of love, fretted his heart. "9 This line is written so poetically that it contrasts clearly with the speech of Mulligan. It also captures the image of Stephen as a tortured soul. However, as Declan Kiberd suggests in Inventing Ireland, "Stephen's weighty self-consciousness has often intimidated readers, who may not appreciate that the portraiture is largely satiric.

Joyce is dramatizing a consciousness suffering the over-effects of a recent university education, and immobilized accordingly. "10 Overall, the chapter could be considered as belonging to Mulligan. Mulligan's character is clearer than Stephen's and Mulligan does remain the centre of attention, with Stephen

seeming secondary to him. However, even with these factors, it is Stephen who emerges as the central character for the reader. This is partly because Mulligan's character is so clear that there is no mystery associated with him. In contrast, Stephen has depth and clearly has issues.

Stephen's problems are presented in this opening chapter, setting him up as the character that will work through the problems in the remainder of the novel. The other important point regarding the two characters is what they represent. It has been noted that Mulligan appears happier than Stephen. This suggests that Mulligan's character is what works in modern society. He is extroverted, selfish, and lacks self-awareness. And yet, he appears to be succeeding in society. He is happy, he is training to be a doctor, and he has money. In contrast, Stephen is presented as being quite unsuccessful.

He is unhappy, he has personal issues to deal with, he has no money, and he is treated with little respect. Yet, for the reader, he appears to have a better character than Mulligan. This suggests that Joyce is raising questions about what is valued in Irish society. The question that is raised is who will succeed in the end, with this answer saying a lot about the nature of society. This chapter is also important because it illustrates the major problem for Stephen, which is his lack of a family. This is presented via the information about his mother.

While it is not made clear why Stephen would not pray at the request of his dying mother, it is clear that he continues to suffer from the guilt of this. The dilemma

he endures is presented by Frank Budgen, "It is recored that Jesus Christ was offered a choice between inclining to his mother's wish and following his own spiritual welfare and that he chose the latter. "11 During the chapter, it also becomes clear that Stephen is finding less and less satisfaction in living with Mulligan. At one point he tells Mulligan he will leave the tower if Haines does not leave.

Mulligan replies by telling Stephen to "scutter", saying it in an offhand way as if it makes no difference to him what Stephen does. Stephen stating that he will leave can be considered, not as a real threat, but as a way for him to test Mulligan. In Mulligan's reply, Stephen sees that Mulligan does not care for him at all. At the end of the chapter, Stephen then decides that he cannot return to the tower. This decision represents the beginning of his quest to find what is missing in his life. With the issue of his mother presented, this suggests that his quest is based on family.

In this way, this first chapter sets up the major problem that the novel will eventually resolve. This begins in later chapters when the character of Leopold Bloom is introduced. Bloom is a middle-aged man whose only son died. This leaves Bloom with a hole in his life that can be filled by taking on a fatherly role; making Bloom what Stephen is looking for, and Stephen what Bloom is looking for. The central plot of the novel then revolves around these two individuals meeting and the eventual bond that forms between them. The setting of the

novel is also introduced in the first chapter.

This is especially important because the novel offers criticism on Irish society at that time. As noted earlier, Mulligan and Stephen are opposites in terms of their characteristics and in terms of how successful they are. While Mulligan has the lesser character, it is Mulligan that is more successful in life. This offers a criticism of society by raising questions about why those of lesser character should be the ones succeeding. At the beginning of the first chapter, Mulligan is introduced with the following paragraph:

Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned: Introibo ad altare Dei. 12 This description offers an image of Mulligan as a king. Coming from the stairhead, creates an image of Mulligan descending from the stairs in a palace. The dressinggown "sustained gently behind him" creates an image of the royal robes of a king. 13 Holding the bowl aloft and speaking creates an image of a king addressing his subjects.

The language in this paragraph also has a distinguished tone that suggests royalty. For example, he is not carrying a bowl of lather, he is "bearing" a bowl of lather. The dressinggown is not just flowing behind him, but is "sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. "14 He is not just holding the bowl up, he is holding it "aloft. " Finally, he did not just speak, he "intoned. " Overall, this creates the image of Mulligan as

the king in this situation. Therefore, while the setting is really just an apartment in Dublin, it becomes clear that Mulligan is the individual with power in this setting.

While these royal aspects are present, the author also makes it clear that the setting is in contrast to these aspects and that the events presented are just average people getting ready for the day. This implies that Joyce is transferring the quests generally associated with royal and political figures and applying them to everyday life. Enda Duffy states in The Subaltern Ulysses: The political force of the first two episodes of Ulysses in particular comes from the way the characters' poses are undermined by making visible the discourses-within-discourses as the narrative unfolds in time.

Further, this unfolding is continued into the later episodes of the text. 15 Joyce recognizes that the same power plays occur at the everyday level. In modern society, real power is not maintained in the hands of royalty, but in the hands of the people. Mulligan can be considered as the king of poor character, while Stephen is the subject of higher character that suffers at the hands of the king. This is a criticism of society, where the main point is that the shallow and careless find what they need in society, while the intellectual and artistic individuals do not.

Stephen eventually does find what he needs in Bloom, which is essentially, fatherly support. In regards to setting, this represents what is missing in modern society. Modern society does not provide the support structures that people with depth require and so forces them to fail, while those with weaker characters prosper. One of

the important aspects of the first chapter is the comparison of the two characters Mulligan and Stephen. The differences between the two characters, and especially the implied value of the two characters, is enhanced by the language used.

A good example of Mulligan's spoken language is seen in the following dialogue where he complains about Haines: He thinks you're not a gentleman. God, these bloody English. Bursting with money and indigestion. Because he comes from Oxford. You know, Dedalus; you have the real Oxford manner. He can't make you out. O, my name for you is the best: Kinch, the knife-blade. 16 The language in this dialogue lacks any poetic quality. The short sentences seem stagnated, giving Mulligan's speech an uneducated quality. The use of words like "bloody" and "indigestion" give the speech a base quality.

The effect of this must be compared with the language used to describe Mulligan to see its effect. The following narration is a good example of this language: Solemnly he came forward and mounted the round gunrest. He faced about and blessed gravely thrice the tower, the surrounding country and the awaking mountains. 17 In this passage, the language is elegant and the description has a poetic quality. The sentences are long and have a formal quality, a major contrast to the stagnated sentences of the dialogue.

The use of words and phrases like "faced about," "blessed gravely," and "awaking mountains" suggests a beautiful image that is a major contrast to the base quality seen in Mulligan's dialogue. If Mulligan's character was constructed on narration and not on dialogue, it might be concluded that Mulligan is a person of high character and

someone who should be respected. However, the dialogue of Mulligan works against this effect and presents him as a person of low character. The most important point about this quality of the language is that it shows the difference between how Mulligan appears and how he really is.

The positive view presented by the narration describes how he is perceived, while the dialogue describes how he really is, "by contrast, Stephen Dedalus emerges as a multiple enigmatic as he attempts to understand aspects of himself. "18 The effect of the language is also important in presenting Stephen's character. One good example of this is seen when Stephen's dream about his mother is described: Silently, in a dream she had come to him after her death, her wasted body within its loose brown grave-clothes giving off an odour of wax and rosewood, her breath, that had bent upon him, mute, reproachful, a faint odour of wetted ashes.

Across the threadbare cuffedge he saw the sea hailed as a great sweet mother by the wellfed voice beside him. 19 This narration has an elegant quality. The sentences are long, the images have a beauty about them, and there is a lot of depth to the passage. This highlights a depth to Stephen's character that Mulligan does not possess. It also represents that Stephen has an emotional awareness that Mulligan does not. Comparing the two examples of language, Stephen appears as the more intelligent and educated individual.

This is in contrast to how he seems to appear to everyone else, since he is the least successful of the two characters, illustrating that there are two levels of reality in the world.

There is what appears real from what can be seen. However, this is just perception and does not represent truth. There is also real reality, which is what lies beneath the surface of a person but cannot necessarily be seen. The language used effectively makes this distinction, which is an important point in recognizing the difference between Mulligan and Stephen.

Imagery is also important to the first chapter, with the major images presented religious in nature. This begins in the opening section where Mulligan is described coming down the stairs "bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. "20 This sign of the cross is a reference to religion, where religion can be considered as a part of society that helps direct people's actions. The mirror and the razor forming the cross, suggests that appearance has taken the place of religion. Mulligan does not believe in religion as important, but believes in his appearance as important.

The problem is that an appearance does not represent the truth about an individual. Mulligan's lack of respect for religion is then seen where he mocks religion, saying in a preaching tone, "For this, O dearly beloved, is the genuine Christine: body and soul and blood and ouns. "21. The main point made is that this perspective views religion only based on what it appears to be, and not on what it really means. For Stephen, who does not live based only on his appearance, it can be seen that praying when he did not mean it was not something he was able to do.

Looked at in this way, religion in the novel can be

considered as representing how the elements of society have lost their real meaning. Instead, individuals act based on appearances, with no greater meaning existing. This is a major part of Joyce's criticism on modern society. This criticism is something which Joyce faught to show Irish society in Dubliners, Joyce is on record as saying, "I seriously believe that you will retard the course of civilization in Ireland by preventing the Irish people from having one good look at themselves in my nicely-polished looking-glass.

The other religious image presented occurs when they go bathing. This clearly represents the process of baptism. Interestingly, Mulligan washes often, while Stephen does not. Mulligan does not have any depth to his thought and so can bathe without any regard for what it represents. Stephen has a depth of thought and cannot bathe without being aware of what it represents. Instead, he must actually work through his issues. This also means that Stephen is the only one capable of being cleansed, since the process is an introspective one.

Mulligan can bathe as often as he likes, but will never be cleansed unless he achieves an introspective outlook and is able to see beyond appearances, suggesting that the hope in society lies with the character of Stephen and what his character represents. The final aspect introduced in the first chapter is the mood. The novel is about everyday life for average people in society, and this brings with it many depressing images. Even the major characters of Bloom and Stephen have major flaws that are not resolved. The characters do achieve a suitable resolution, but they remain far from perfect. This creates a depressing

image of society.

This aspect of the novel is balanced by the comic mood that persists throughout the novel. This begins in the first chapter, with the distinction between what is being described and how it is being described adding the comic element. For example, Mulligan is described as if he is a king emerging in the morning and descending to speak to his subjects. In reality, he is walking down the stairs with his shaving utensils and speaking to his flatmates. This mood continues throughout and is important for its ability to even out the depressing nature of the material. The elements presented in the first chapter have now been described in some detail.

It has been seen that the first chapter introduces various elements and raises many questions. These questions then become a driving force, leading the reader to an exploration of the questions and to an eventual answer. In addition, the first chapter introduces the style elements of the novel, with these establishing the mood of the novel, and also contributing to the themes. Overall then, it can be seen that the first chapter is a crucial part of Ulysses, not because any major events happen, but because it introduces all the elements that the remainder of the novel will build on.

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