The Role of Loneliness in James Joyce's Ulysses
Have you ever had one of those days when the world seems cold and unfeeling? Where the people that surround you are far away and uncaring? Ulysses is about one of those days, and two people who are stuck within it, searching desperately for a way out. Loneliness runs like a thread through Ulysses, a novel by James Joyce. It constantly tugs at the character's minds, and drives their lives in subtle ways. Joyce drives the point home by giving a drab, grey description of the character's lives.
Ulysses is set in 1904, Dublin, Ireland. Joyce's book was first published in 1922. The plot of Ulysses is fairly simple. The novel re-creates the days of two Irishmen, Leopold Bloom, the main character, and Stephen Dedalus, the son of Bloom's good friend, Simon Dedalus. The story starts with both characters waking up, and follows their lives through a single day. Stephen is a school teacher, and Leopold works as an advertizing canvasser for the local newspapers. For Stephen, it's only a partial day of school, so after receiving his pay, he goes and visits a nearby relative and then goes for a walk on the beach. Meanwhile, Leopold has woken up, and prepared breakfast for himself and his wife. After going to the butcher's and the post office, he goes to the funeral of an old friend, Paddy Dignam. After the funeral, he goes about business in town, and comes across Stephen twice. Finally, as Bloom visits a friend in the hospital, he sees Stephen, extremely drunk with a group of medical students. All of them go to a pub. At the pub, they all get bombed, and Bloom takes Stephen on a drunken rampage through town. When Bloom realizes the state Stephen is in, he takes him home, and offers to let Stephen stay at his house. Stephen refuses and returns to his own apartment, and both go to bed.
From the beginning of Ulysses, the reader understands that Bloom's life is dull, and his family is slowly falling apart. A series of events lead to this unhappiness, and during the day that the book takes place, Bloom, although he leads a comfortable life, is quite miserable. The blow that hit him the hardest was the death of his one year old son. Now, his daughter is away, and he spends much of his time serving his wife, who does not respect him, and is even having an affair with her employer. When Bloom receives a letter from his precious daughter, his mood only worsens, and his mind drifts into the thought of separation. "Fifteen yesterday." Bloom muses, "Curious, fifteenth of the month too. Her first birthday away from home. Separation" (66). Bloom is also plagued by a gnawing worry that his daughter, Milly, might become like his wife. When Bloom goes to the funeral of Paddy Dignam, an old friend, his thoughts lead to a remembrance of his father's suicide. Bloom also...