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MonkeyNotes-Ulysses by James Joyce
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PLOT (Synopsis)

At the beginning of Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus has been back in Dublin a year. He had been summoned home from Paris by a telegram that his mother was dying. And now, a year after her death, the Dedalus family, already reduced to poverty, has become completely demoralized and disintegrated. Stephen’s young sisters and brothers have hardly enough to eat. Simon Dedalus himself makes the rounds of the pubs. Stephen, who has always resented his father, feels now that in effect he has none. He is more isolated in Dublin than ever. He lives with Haines, an English man from Oxford and his friend, the medical student, Buck Mulligan, in an old tower on the coast. Mulligan believes himself to share Stephen’s artistic tastes and intellectual interests. He really humiliates him by patronizing him and turns to ridicule his abilities and ambitions. Now that Stephen has returned to Dublin baffled and disinherited-his life with Mulligan is dissolute and unproductive. So Stephen is reminded by the old woman who brings the milk for breakfast in the tower of that Ireland whose uncreated conscience it is still his destiny to forge. Stephen is next seen teaching a class. When the class breaks up, Stephen stays behind to explain some extra mathematical lessons for the boy Sargent. Mr. Deasy, the headmaster, seeks Stephen’s help in publishing a letter in a newspaper. He prophesies that Stephen will not long remain a teacher. As Stephen walks down to the sea, he recollects the various forms of his own past and present existence.

The scene now shifts to the house of a Dublin Jew, an advertisement canvasser named Bloom. Like Stephen he dwells among aliens. He is the son of a Hungarian father. He is still more or less a foreigner among the Irish. He is a man of something less than mediocre abilities, but of real sensibility and intelligence. He has little in common with the other inhabitants of the lower-middle-class world in which he lives. He has been married for sixteen years to the buxom daughter of an Irish army officer, Molly. She is a professional singer, of prodigious sexual appetite. She has been continually and indiscriminately unfaithful to him. They have had one daughter, who is already growing up. She is apparently going the way of her mother. They had a son, but he died eleven days after he was born. Things have never been the same between the Blooms since the death of this son. It is now more than ten years since Bloom has attempted complete intercourse with his wife. He is aware that his wife has lovers. But he does not complain or try to interfere. He is even resigned to her accepting money from them.


We now follow Bloom’s adventures on the day of June 16, 1904. The whole of Ulysses takes place within less than twenty- four hours. Bloom leaves the house on a brief errand to the butcher. After breakfast he decides to attend Dignam’s funeral. At 10 a.m. on the way to the funeral he greets several acquaintances and performs several errands. Bloom and his fellow mourners travel by coach behind Paddy Dignam’s coffin to Prospects Cemetery. On the way he sees Stephen and talks to his father who manages to get a glimpse of his son. Noting Dedalus’ concern for his son, he remembers his dead son Rudy. He has melancholy recollections of the early years of his marriage. As the carriage moves along, he thinks of Milly too. Various scenes on the way remind him of various things in his life.

During the noon Stephen and Bloom come together in the newspaper office. Stephen has come there to present Mr. Deasy’s letter to the editor. At 1 p.m. Bloom continues his wanderings through the streets of Dublin. He meets Stephen’s sister Dilly in the street. He is filled with compassion and sympathy for the motherless and poor Dedalus family. Then he meets Mrs. Denis Breen, one of his old lady friends. At Burton’s restaurant he enjoys a light vegetarian snack. He sees Blazes Boylan, Molly’s lover, although Boylan does not see him. At 2 p.m. he enters the office of the director of the national library. There he meets Stephen, Lyster, the librarian, and A.E. (George Russell) the poet and John Eglinton. Stephen emphasizes the importance of Shakespeare’s love for Anne Hathaway. Mulligan joins the group at one stage. He has been working on a play of his own. He speaks throughout in a jumble of parodied styles.

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