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MonkeyNotes-Ulysses by James Joyce
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THEMES

Major

Quest as a Theme

The major theme of Ulysses is a youth’s search for a father figure. In the hunt of Telemachus for his father, Joyce found a symbol for man’s search, for social support and for the artist’s search for maturity and humanity. Finding his father, Telemachus fulfilled the wish of every man and every artist. Exile, home, humanity and art are Joyce’s concerns in Ulysses. They were also Homer’s concerns in The Odyssey.

Another version of the quest theme is to be found in Bloom’s quest for a son figure. He sees in Stephen the grown-up son Rudy might have become, if he had not died when he was a few days old. When he sees Simon Dedalus’ concern for Stephen during the funeral of Paddy Dignam, he is haunted by memories of his dead son Rudy. Memories of Rudy haunt him again and again in the novel. At the end of the novel it is suggested that Molly and Bloom, as a result of Bloom’s meeting with Stephen, will resume normal marital relations. Bloom’s meeting with Stephen undoubtedly fortifies his morale to share confidences with the bearer of higher cultural values than those he has encountered during a major part of the day in the newspaper office, thoroughfare, pub and brothel.


Minor

Charity and Kindness as a Theme

The theme of Ulysses is simple. It is stated by Richard Ellmann in the sentence: "Casual kindness overcomes unconscionable power". In Ulysses Bloom plays the role of an impossible savior. He justifies Joyce’s description of him as "a good man". He reveals himself as patient, considerate, dependable and charitably inclined. He executes a number of charitable deeds and acts of kindness. He extends practical assistance to Stephen in a number of ways. He saves Stephen from being exploited by Bella Cohen. He requests the soldier not to beat the drunken and weak Stephen. When Stephen is knocked down, he takes him home. He is present at Paddy Dignam’s funeral, although he is unacceptable to fellow-mourners. He helps Dignam’s widow with the Insurance policy. He has sympathy for the poor daughters of Simon Dedalus. He helps a blind youth to cross the road. He visits Mrs. Purefoy at the maternity hospital.

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