Comparing Homer's Odyssey and Joyce's Ulysses
This essay will analyze the style, genre and plots of the "Hades" episodes found in Homer's Odyssey and Joyce's Ulysses. Before entering this small treatise, it is important to understand the etymology of the word Hades, since it is the setting for both Joyce and Homer (of course in Homer's case, he was speaking of the literal aidhs and Joyce was referring to the graveyard, where Bloom attends the funeral of Paddy Dignam and "broods about the death of his only son "). Homer's use of the word Hades was to refer to the abode of the dead or the unseen nether world; where we find Odysseus searching for Tiresias, to find out how to return to Ithaca safely. The Homeric Hades is not the modern view of Hell, mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. In fact, C.S. says "In real Pagan belief, Hades was hardly worth talking about; a world of shadows, of decay. Homer . . . represents the ghosts [in Hades] as witless. They gibber meaninglessly until some living man gives them sacrificial blood to drink. "
Comparing the style: Objective vs. Existential
Eight months prior to the first publication of Ulysses , Joyce penned: "If you want to read Ulysses you had better first get or borrow from a library a translation in prose of the Odyssey of Homer. " Joyce's recommendation is a must in order to get the full meaning of his work. A good commentary would also be found useful in exegesis. Most people, ". . . opening Ulysses at random are easily scarecrowed away by the first shock of [its] queer mixture of vulgar slang and metaphysical obscurity. " I must admit that my first reading of Ulysses was horrifying. I am a lover of the western classics and am particularly fond of the writings produced in the Mediterranean world and so when I first read Joyce: I was deeply disturbed. With Homer, we find narration (when needed), good sentence structure, understandable plots, proverbial wisdom, Greek history, Greek mythology, and true heroines. In Joyce, we don't find an omniscient narrator; nor a consistent sentence structure but rather a 'stream of consciousness'; we don't really find a clear plot; we don't have any true heroines as defined by the standards of the Western world because the two main characters (Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus) don't accomplish any feats or beat any obstacles in the nineteen hours Joyce gives them . Among the eighteen episodes in Ulysses, little happens; however, in the eighteen episodes of the Odyssey, adventure is at its best, as far as Greek literature is concerned.
It's funny though, even though Joyce's writing is cluttered with 'streams of consciousnelss' there is an ironic structure that can only be understood while wearing the spectacles of Homer. In Joyce's Voices, Kenner, professor of Humanities at Johns Hopkins University, writes that "Joyce was Homer's scrupulous apprentice. It was Homer, we've seen,...