The Theme of Epiphany in Ulysses
James Joyce's Ulysses is a novel of epic proportions that has been proclaimed the greatest piece of literature of the twentieth century. Ulysses takes place in Dublin, Ireland on June 16, 1904. The book is full of parallels, metaphors, and experimental literary techniques. However, a dominant theme is that of epiphany. Not necessarily religious in meaning, the Joycean idea of epiphany is a sudden discovery of the essential nature or meaning of something.
In Ulysses, Joyce describes the pursuits of two main protagonists, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus, both individuals yearning for something more. As the day progresses the two characters unknowingly cross paths until, as a result of their day, they finally meet. In doing so, they find in each other humanistic ideals, in the form of individual epiphanies, that are needed to complete their yearnings. Joyce uses these epiphanies to represent his theme of the ability of a single day to act as a microcosm of the many facets of human society.
Stephen Dedalus is first introduced in a tower in Sandycove that he is renting and sharing with "friend" Buck Mulligan. While going about their morning routines it becomes evident that Stephen is upset, with Mulligan and the situation, and after a conversation filled with mockery and annoyance, Stephen vows not to return to the tower that night. Stephen, now homeless, takes to the street hoping to find solace in the city.
Stephen is recently back in Dublin from a self-exile in Paris. He has completed his bachelor degree and is very educated, especially in language and the humanities. However, as he has grown in learning and experience, he is still lacking essential characteristics of the artist he hopes to become. He is egocentric and unable to see the entire spectrum of humanity needed to rightfully portray it in literature. Only, when he encounters Bloom and his fatherly charity can Stephen find the aspects of a grown man in himself.
"Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls," (55) and is the main focus of much of the novel. Bloom is an advertisement salesman for an Irish paper and is quite ordinary. Although an everyman, Bloom is elevated to hero status by Joyce's direct representation of inner monologue. Experiencing the thoughts and fantasies straight from Bloom's unconscious, the reader befriends the bourgeois man and comes to know well his many quirks.
But Bloom is not without his own yearnings. Bloom's life is centered around his wife Molly. He brings her breakfast in bed and buys her gifts of lotions and erotic lingerie, despite his knowledge of her adulterous lifestyle. Though they have a fifteen year old daughter who is away at school, Bloom is without son and heir. His son Rudy died at an early age and Bloom thoughts always return to him. This image of youth and a second chance Bloom eventually finds in Stephen.
After teaching a class and...