synopsis of the book ulysses

James Joyce

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James Joyce’s famously dense and unconventional modernist novel Ulysses follows the advertiser Leopold Bloom as he goes about his day in Dublin, Ireland on June 16, 1904. Although the novel’s plot is deceptively simple, its structure, style, and literary and historical references are incredibly complex. Leopold Bloom’s quest through Dublin is loosely modeled on Homer’s Odyssey —each of the novel’s eighteen chapters (or “episodes”) roughly corresponds to a book from the Odyssey . But it would be misleading to take this parallel too far and assume that every character, event, and theme in the Odyssey maps directly onto Ulysses (or vice-versa).

The novel’s first three chapters deal not with Leopold Bloom, but with Stephen Dedalus , the twenty-two-year-old starving artist who was the protagonist of Joyce’s previous novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man . Similarly, the Odyssey opens with the story of Odysseus’s son Telemachus, rather than Odysseus himself—in fact, the first episode of Ulysses is called “Telemachus.” In this episode, Stephen has breakfast with his roommates, the annoying students Buck Mulligan and Haines . They live in a Martello tower , which Stephen has been renting since he returned from Paris to Dublin to see his dying mother a year ago. He still feels guilty for refusing to pray at her deathbed after losing his faith in God, and his roommates are so intolerable that he decides to find another place to sleep that night.

In the next chapter, “Nestor,” Stephen teaches at a nearby school and collects his monthly wages from Mr. Deasy , the schoolmaster. Deasy loyally defends England’s imperial rule over Ireland and convinces Stephen to help him get a letter about cattle foot and mouth disease published in the local newspaper. In the third episode, “Proteus,” Stephen goes on a long stream-of-consciousness soliloquy as he walks on the Sandymount Strand beach. He contemplates the nature of perception, history, courage, and much more.

The reader first meets Mr. Leopold Bloom in the fourth episode, “Calypso.” Bloom wakes up, buys himself a pork kidney for breakfast, and serves tea and toast to his wife, the concert singer Molly Bloom . In episode five, “Lotus Eaters,” Bloom strolls through Dublin, retrieves a love letter from his secret pen pal Martha Clifford , and wanders into a Catholic service (even though he’s Jewish). In the following chapter, “Hades,” Bloom attends the funeral of his acquaintance Paddy Dignam . While riding through town in a carriage with Martin Cunningham , Jack Power , and Simon Dedalus , Bloom sees the “worst man in Dublin”— Blazes Boylan , his wife’s concert manager, who is probably sleeping with her. He also notices a funeral procession for a child, which reminds him of his son Rudy , who died as an infant. During the funeral, Bloom contemplates the nature of death and tries to identify an unfamiliar man in a macintosh raincoat .

In the lively seventh episode, “Aeolus,” Bloom visits Dublin’s newspaper offices to try to set up an ad for a client. The men he meets mostly ignore him, preferring to joke about the day’s news, Irish history, and the Ascot Gold Cup horserace. Stephen Dedalus also visits the offices with Mr. Deasy’s letter, but he narrowly misses Bloom. In episode eight, “Lestrygonians,” Bloom wanders around Dublin, looking for lunch. His mind also wanders: among other things, he contemplates modern technology, advertising strategies, and the meaninglessness of human existence. He pops into Burton’s restaurant, but he can’t stand the beastly sight of men devouring their lunches, so he has a cheese sandwich and glass of wine in Davy Byrne ’s pub instead.

In episode nine, “Scylla and Charybdis,” the novel returns to Stephen Dedalus, who is explaining his complex theory about Shakespeare ’s Hamlet to the poet George Russell and the librarians Lyster , Eglinton , and Best in the Irish National Library. Stephen insists that Hamlet was really an expression of Shakespeare’s bitterness at his adulterous wife Ann Hathaway and his despair at the death of his young son Hamnet. But the librarians reject his theory, and then Buck Mulligan shows up to interrupt Stephen with a series of absurd jokes. Stephen portrays Shakespeare as a vicious Jewish manipulator and declares that fatherhood is meaningless, but he eventually admits that he doesn’t even believe what he’s saying. Stephen and Buck pass “the wandering jew” Leopold Bloom on their way out of the library, narrowly missing him for the second time.

In the second half of Ulysses —episodes ten through eighteen—Joyce takes a series of daring risks with perspective and style. This shift is immediately clear in the tenth episode, “Wandering Rocks,” which consists of nineteen short vignettes set at exactly the same time, in different places around Dublin. Episode eleven, “Sirens,” opens with a sixty-line onomatopoetic overture and is written entirely in a rhythmic, musical style. This reflects its setting: the Ormond Hotel bar, where Simon Dedalus and Ben Dollard are singing parlor songs. Blazes Boylan meets his lowlife friend Lenehan in the bar, and Leopold Bloom wanders in to watch them from across the room. At four o’clock, Boylan leaves, and then the novel depicts his car jingling its way through Dublin to meet Molly. Leopold Bloom enjoys the music while writing back to Martha Clifford, then he leaves the bar and runs into the prostitute who took his virginity.

In episode twelve, “Cyclops,” a group of men are drinking and talking about politics in Barney Kiernan’s bar when Leopold Bloom wanders in to meet Martin Cunningham. This chapter introduces an entirely new narrator, a nameless Dublin debt collector . But new voices also repeatedly steal the show from this narrator, taking over the narrative for a page or two at a time. These voices all represent exaggerated stereotypes of different kinds of writing, ranging from ancient Gaelic epics and children’s books to legal contracts. The debt collector and his friend, an aggressive and outspoken Irish nationalist named the citizen , take issue with Bloom’s intelligence, pacifism, and Jewishness. Lenehan adds fuel to the fire by falsely declaring that Bloom won a fortune on the Ascot Gold Cup horserace by betting on the longshot horse, Throwaway . The citizen attacks Bloom, who narrowly escapes in Martin Cunningham’s car.

Episode thirteen, “Nausicaa,” begins with a completely different tone: a young woman named Gerty MacDowell is sitting on the rocks at Sandymount Strand, daydreaming innocently about meeting the perfect man and becoming the perfect housewife. She notices an older man standing nearby, staring at her, and moving his hand around in his pocket. She starts to fantasize about falling in love with him, and when fireworks start going off overhead, she passionately lifts her skirt and shows the man her legs. In fact, the man is Leopold Bloom, and he’s been staring at Gerty and masturbating. In the second half of the chapter, Bloom sees Gerty limp away down the beach and realizes that she’s lame. He thinks about all the women he knows and falls asleep on the rocks.

The novel’s difficult fourteenth episode, “Oxen of the Sun,” is written in a series of different literary styles that represent the whole development of the English language from prehistory to the early 20th century. Joyce closely imitates the prose of more than a dozen major writers, ranging from the 15th-century knight Sir Thomas Malory to the Victorian novelist Charles Dickens. In this chapter, Bloom goes to the hospital to visit the family friend Mrs. Purefoy , who is giving birth. But he ends up partying with a group of drunk medical students instead. These students—including Buck Mulligan, Stephen Dedalus, and their buddy Vincent Lynch —drink, sing, and boisterously debate about fertility and abortion. This disturbs Mrs. Purefoy, who is giving birth upstairs.

The fifteenth and longest episode of Ulysses , “Circe,” is actually structured as a play. Set in “ nighttown ,” Dublin’s red-light-district, this chapter mixes reality, fantasy, and nightmare to the point that it’s often impossible to tell what is real and what is imagined. At the beginning of this chapter, Bloom follow Stephen and Lynch into nighttown out of a feeling of fatherly responsibility. Bloom has visions of his mother , father , wife, and ex-girlfriend Josie Breen berating him, and then he fantasizes about the women he’s sexually harassed (or thought about harassing) taking him to court over his perversions. In a third fantasy, he becomes “emperor-president and king-chairman,” rebuilds Ireland in his own image, and is received as the Messiah by his people.

Back in the real world, Bloom follows the prostitute Zoe Higgins into Bella Cohen ’s brothel, where Stephen and Lynch are lounging around with two more prostitutes, Florry Talbot and Kitty Ricketts . Stephen spouts philosophical nonsense about music, Bloom has more visions of friends and family, and Bella Cohen arrives and acts out a domination fantasy with Bloom. When Stephen has a vision of his mother’s corpse, he breaks down and smashes Bella’s chandelier. The men escape the brothel, but outside, Stephen gets into a fight with two English soldiers, Privates Compton and Carr . After he’s knocked to the ground, Bloom helps him to his feet and takes care of him.

In the sixteenth episode, “Eumaeus,” Bloom takes Stephen to rest in a nearby cabman’s shelter, where a sailor named Murphy tells tall tales about his travels. Bloom admires Stephen’s intelligence, shows him a picture of Molly, and tries to offer him fatherly advice (which Stephen ignores). The seventeenth chapter, “Ithaca,” presents Bloom and Stephen’s conversations in the form of a catechism—a detailed series of questions and answers, which are often used to clarify religious teachings. Bloom invites Stephen over to his home, and they chat about music, women, and religion on the walk over. Since Bloom forgot his keys, he has to jump over the fence and enter through his basement. Inside, Bloom and Stephen chat about family and philosophy over cocoa. Bloom offers Stephen his guest room for the night, but Stephen refuses. Bloom closes up the house and goes to bed. He kisses Molly on the butt and they chat about his day. He falls asleep upside-down, with his head at the foot of the bed.

The novel’s famous last episode, “Penelope,” consists of Molly Bloom’s stream of consciousness as she falls asleep. Leopold has asked for breakfast in bed, and Molly thinks this is preposterous. She wonders if he is cheating on her, then remembers having extraordinary, athletic sex with Blazes Boylan. She considers having another child, thinks about the men she has loved, and reflects on her childhood in Gibraltar . She gets her period, then remembers when she first fell in love with Leopold and starts to fantasize about Stephen Dedalus. She decides to make Leopold breakfast in bed and “just give him one more chance,” and as she finally falls asleep, her memories of the day Leopold proposed to her mix with her feelings about the men she loved in her youth.

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Plot Summary

By james joyce.

'Ulysses' by James Joyce tells the story of events involving Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom, and Molly Bloom on June 16, 1904.

Charles Asoluka

Article written by Charles Asoluka

Degree in Computer Engineering. Passed TOEFL Exam. Seasoned literary critic.

James Joyce, an Irish author, originally released his novel ‘Ulysses’ as a book in 1922. It is widely regarded as a masterpiece, stylistically complex, and exhilarating. Numerous volumes of commentary and analysis have been written about it. The plot of the book is designed to be an updated version of Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ .

It is divided into eighteen episodes, all of which span an entire day, following the characters of Leopold Bloom, Molly Bloom, and Stephen Dedalus.

Summary of Ulysses from 8 AM – 1 PM

The story of ‘Ulysses’ begins on June 16, 1904, in Dublin, Ireland, and concludes at some point after 2 a.m. on June 17, in the Blooms’ home at 7 Eccles Street. At 8 a.m., the action starts in Martello Tower, a coastal fortification from the Napoleonic wars, just outside of central Dublin.

At 8:00 A.M., Leopold Bloom prepares breakfast and brings his wife her mail while she is still in bed. Blazes Boylan, the manager of Molly’s concert tour (Bloom believes he is also Molly’s lover), is the author of one of her letters. Boylan will visit at 4:00 this afternoon. Bloom walks to the bathroom after coming back downstairs and reading a letter from their daughter, Milly.

At Garrett Deasy’s boys’ school, Stephen instructs his class in history at around 10:00 a.m. Stephen meets Deasy after class to receive his pay. Stephen receives life advice from the bigoted and condescending Deasy. Stephen consents to deliver Deasy’s editorial letter to acquaintances at the newspaper regarding cow sickness.

The rest of the morning is spent by Stephen walking by himself along Sandymount Strand while reflecting critically on his impressionable youth. On a piece of paper torn from Deasy’s letter, he sketches out a poem in his brain and writes it down.

After leaving the residence, Bloom visits a post office and picks up a letter addressed to him as “Henry Flower.” It is a flirtatious letter from Martha, a covert correspondent. After taking a wash in a public restroom, Bloom goes to a friend’s funeral, Paddy Dignam. He travels to the cemetery in a carriage with other men, including Stephen Dedalus’ father, Simon Dedalus, who, in Bloom’s presence, a non-practicing Jew, makes anti-Semitic slurs.

At the newspaper offices at midday, Bloom tries to sell an advertisement. Stephen is also present and is working on publishing Mr. Deasy’s letter. The newspapermen like Stephen but not Bloom. Bloom departs without successfully putting his advertisement. Stephen joins the newspapermen for drinks.

Summary of Ulysses from 1 PM – 10 PM

Bloom and his ex-girlfriend Josie Breen talk about Mina Purefoy’s delivery at the maternity hospital at 1:00 p.m. Bloom visits Burton’s eatery, but he ultimately chooses to go to Davy Byrne’s for a quick lunch. Bloom remembers spending a quiet afternoon on Howth with Molly. When Bloom sees Boylan on the street, he quickly enters the National Museum before leaving and heading toward the National Library.

At 2 p.m. At the National Library, Stephen is presenting his thoughts about the play Hamlet to the librarian, the poet A.E., and others. The tangential conversation highlights the subject of dads and sons; Stephen is cut off from his disapproving father. At 4 p.m., Bloom spends the time trying to locate his friend Martin Cunningham while Blazes Boylan is supposed to see Molly to purportedly rehearse singing. He wants to discuss Dignam’s life insurance with him. Bloom cares about assisting Mrs. Dignam in obtaining the funding she requires.

Bloom runs into the “citizen,” a racist man, at Barney Kiernan’s pub. The resident is a fervent anti-Semite and Irish patriot. Before a fight, Martin Cunningham hurries Bloom outdoors. Bloom yells his retort from outside the bar, informing the locals that Jesus and God are both Jews.

Lenehan, Blazes Boylan, Ben Dollard, Simon Dedalus, and others assemble in the Ormond Hotel bar. Boylan’s automobile is parked outside when Bloom decides to keep an eye on him. Boylan soon departs for his meeting with Molly, and Bloom sits dejectedly in the Ormond restaurant. Dedalus and Dollard’s singing temporarily cheers him up. Bloom responds to Martha’s letter in writing before departing to post it.

After visiting Mrs. Dignam’s house nearby, Bloom unwinds on Sandymount Strand just before dusk. Gerty MacDowell, a young woman, observes Bloom observing her from across the beach. While Bloom secretly masturbates, Gerty gradually reveals more and more of her legs. Gerty walks away, and Bloom nods off.

Summary of Ulysses from 10 PM – 2 AM

Bloom wanders over to the maternity facility at 10:00 PM to see how Mina Purefoy is doing. Stephen and several of his medical school friends are also at the hospital, drinking and joking about labor and delivery-related topics. Despite privately disapproving of their partying in light of Mrs. Purefoy’s problems upstairs, Bloom agrees to join them. When Buck shows up, the men head to Burke’s pub. At closure, Bloom, feeling protective, follows Stephen and his companion Lynch to the brothel district of the city.

In the brothel, Stephen and Bloom confront their inner demons and have cathartic experiences. Some British soldiers are offended by Stephen; Bloom mediates the situation, and they are released. They take a nap in a shelter run by a cab driver for late-night wanderers like carriage drivers before heading to Bloom’s residence. While drinking cocoa in the kitchen, Stephen decides not to spend the night. The final episode is narrated by Molly, who discusses love, marriage, and her relationship with Bloom. When Bloom finally nods off, Molly doesn’t go to sleep since she was taken aback by his offer for breakfast in bed. Her thoughts stray to Stephen Dedalus, her singing career, her time spent having sex with Boylan in the afternoon, and her youth in Gibraltar. Throughout the monologue, she has a wide range of opinions about Bloom, but it concludes with a memory of their private exchange at Howth and a supportive statement.

 What is the nature of Leopold Bloom’s character in ‘Ulysses’ ?

Leopold’s character is reminiscent of Odysseus of the 20th century for the bourgeoisie. The novel’s portrayal of his personality, however, is one of the most in-depth in all of literature. Bloom is a canvasser for advertising who is 38 years old. The irony that Dublin’s modern-day Odysseus is a Jew with Hungarian origins is so fully exploited by Joyce that readers frequently overlook Bloom’s Irish mother and numerous baptisms. Bloom’s father was a Jew from Hungary.

Who is Molly Bloom in ‘Ulysses’ ?

Molly, Leopold Bloom’s adulterous wife, draws a satirical comparison between Penelope, Odysseus’ (Ulysses’) devoted wife, and Penelope from Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ . One of the most well-known dramatic monologues in literature is Molly’s famed soliloquy, which she delivers in bed with her husband in Episode 18, the final chapter of the book.

Who is Stephen Dedalus in ‘Ulysses’ ?

Stephen Dedalus, Joyce’s autobiographical protagonist from ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ , is the focus of the first three episodes of ‘Ulysses’ . After ‘Portrait’ , we left Stephen, a young poet who had just graduated from college and was heading to Paris in the spring of 1902. Stephen was ambitious and a little conceited. Just over two years later, ‘Ulysses’ picks up. After dropping out of medical school, Stephen led a bohemian, intellectual lifestyle in Paris. Due to his mother’s illness, Stephen was forced to return from Paris, most likely in the summer of 1903.

What was the final episode of ‘Ulysses’ about?

If we interpret Bloom’s final plea for breakfast in bed as a reassertion of his authority over the family, Molly’s outraged response to his request disturbs this patriarchal conclusion. Nevertheless, Episode Eighteen also shows Molly going through the same ordeal of meeting the rival suitors as Bloom acted out in Episode Seventeen. With her final affirmative “yes,” Molly appears to throw them away one by one for Bloom, therefore sealing the victory of Bloom-Odysseus.

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Charles Asoluka

About Charles Asoluka

Charles Asoluka is a seasoned content creator with a decade-long experience in professional writing. His works have earned him numerous accolades and top prizes in esteemed writing competitions.

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by James Joyce

  • Ulysses Summary

Joyce's novel is set in Dublin on the day of June 16, 1904 and the protagonist, Leopold Bloom, is a middle-aged Jew whose job as an advertisement canvasser forces him to travel throughout the city on a daily basis. While Bloom is Joyce's "Ulysses" character, the younger hero of the novel is Stephen Dedalus, the autobiographical character from Joyce's first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man . While Joyce develops the character of the young student, most of the novel is focused on Bloom.

Bloom's wife Molly is a singer and she is having an affair with her co-worker, Blazes Boylan, and early in the morning of June 16, Bloom learns that Molly intends to bring Boylan into their bed later that afternoon. The Blooms have a daughter named Milly (age 15) who is away, studying photography. Ten years ago, Molly gave birth to a son, Rudy, but he died when he was eleven days old and Bloom often thinks of the parallel between his dead son Rudy and his dead father Rudolph, who killed himself several years before.

Stephen Dedalus is the central character of the novel's first three chapters, which constitute Part I of Ulysses. Dedalus is an academic and a schoolteacher and he has left Ireland for Paris but he was forced to return upon hearing news that his mother was gravely ill. The initial depictions of Stephen indicate that he is guilty because he has separated from the Catholic Church and refused to pray at the side of his mother's deathbed despite her pleading. Stephen has literary ambitions but his desire to write Ireland's first true epic is tempered by his fear that the island is too stultifying for him to be a success. Stephen lives in Martello Tower with Buck Mulligan and a British student, Haines , and Stephen's introverted personality prevents him from asserting himself. Instead, his friends patronize him and take advantage of him.

The opening three chapters, "Telemachus," "Nestor" and "Proteus," track the early morning hours of Stephen Dedalus who eats breakfast, teaches at a school in Dalkey and wanders Sandymount Strand. The opening chapters of Part II ("Calypso" and "Lotus-Eaters") begin the day anew, charting the early morning rituals of Leopold Bloom, who must later attend the funeral of his friend, Paddy Dignam. In "Calypso" and "Lotus-Eaters," the reader learns that Bloom is a servile husband who prepares breakfast and runs errands on behalf of his wife Molly, who remains half-asleep. We also learn that Bloom is preoccupied with food and sex. He relishes eating a slightly burned kidney and has a penchant for voyeurism.

The "Hades" chapter of Ulysses recounts the burial of Paddy Dignam in Glasnevin Cemetery and it is at this point that Joyce begins to develop his theme of Bloom as a Jewish outsider in an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic society. Bloom's insecurities are only heightened by his foreknowledge of Molly's infidelity. Both Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus are set on a long winding tour of Dublin that occupies most of the afternoon and they continually cross paths before eventually meeting later that night. The afternoon chapters begin with "Aeolus" and conclude with Bloom's altercation with the Citizen in "The Cyclops."

After Dignam's funeral, we get a more detailed view of Bloom's routine day. Bloom immediate heads for the downtown newspaper office-a building that is shared by three companies. Considering the frenetic pace of the news building, the employees' treatment of Bloom seems excessively rude and dismissive and Bloom's attempt to secure an easy advertisement renewal requires a trip to the National Library. Bloom's library visit in "Scylla and Charybdis" presents another occasion for him to talk to Stephen as their paths cross again but they continue on their separate paths, neither cognizant of the other. Bloom's suffers the afternoon, dreading his wife's adulterous act, scheduled for 4:30 pm. Joyce uses the "Wandering Rocks" chapter to mirror Bloom's desperation with the squalor of the city's poorest families before contrasting Bloom's unhappy solitude with the jovial and musical atmosphere of "The Sirens." Bloom simply shrugs off the prejudice of his acquaintances, accepts his solitude as his fate and even at this point, tries to ignore the serious problems in his marriage.

Upon entering Kiernan's pub, late in the afternoon, Bloom is confronted by the Citizen, a half-blind patriot whose outspoken anti-Semitism forces Bloom to assert his identity, arguing that he can be a Jew and an Irish citizen, simultaneously. Citizen is quiet before resuming his offense. Having burdened the entire pub as a menacing drunk, Citizen focuses the brunt of his attack on Bloom, accusing him of "robbing widows and orphans," even as Bloom readies to leave, in order to visit the widow of Paddy Dignam. Bloom coolly replies to Citizen who becomes indignant when Bloom asserts that Christ, himself, was a Jew. This altercation is the first of the novel's two dramatic climaxes. When Bloom exits the pub, the raging drunk hurls a biscuit tin at his head, but Bloom escapes unharmed. Even as the Citizen's depressed faculties hindered him, he was blinded by the sun, guaranteeing Bloom's victory. The "Wandering Jew" "ascends" into the heavens and the concluding prose of "The Cyclops" strongly suggests that Joyce modeled Bloom after Elijah who ascended immediately after completing his course. While Bloom's problems with Molly remain, his victory in Kiernan's pub anticipates his final transformation into Stephen's temporary paternal figure. As an Elijah, Bloom passes the "mantle" to Stephen Dedalus.

The earliest chapter of night is "Nausicaa," which depicts Bloom as an incredibly solemn and tired man. As he walks the beach of Sandymount Strand we understand that the eclipsing evening corresponds to his aging and depressing loss of virility. Even though Bloom is only a middle-aged man with a fifteen-year old daughter, he bears the image of an elderly wanderer. A young woman named Gerty MacDowell is sitting within their range of mutual sight and as she is overcome with emotional longing and maternal love, she notices that Bloom is staring at her while he is conspicuously masturbating himself in his pocket. MacDowell seeks to offer Bloom a "refuge" and she abets his deed by displaying her undergarments in a coquettish manner. After masturbating, Bloom is enervated, complaining that Gerty has sapped the youth out of him.

Joyce's deliberate narrative structure produces the interaction between Bloom and Dedalus right as Bloom contemplates the diminution of his own masculinity and youth. Bloom meets Dedalus in the National Maternity Hospital, unexpectedly, having arrived to visit Mrs. Mina Purefoy, who had been in labor for three days. Stephen had accompanied several friends to the Hospital, including Mulligan who has corrupted his friends into a loud table of young drunks. Bloom worries for Stephen's safety and he eventually accompanies the young man to "Nighttown," the red-light district where the "Circe" chapter is set. Undoubtedly, "Circe" is the most memorable chapter of the book: Bloom suffers "hallucinations" while walking on the street and they continue inside the brothel of Bella Cohen. Joyce's "Circe" employs Freudian theories of the subconscious, of repression and sexual desire. Bloom's hallucinations conflate feelings of religious guilt, acts of sado-masochism and the shame of being cuckolded by the popular ladies' man, Blazes Boylan.

When Bloom re-emerges from his hallucinations, he finds that Stephen is completely vulnerable, having degenerated into a limp and intoxicated creature. It is unclear what is causing Stephen to jump around the room and half-climb the furniture until we see him smash his walking stick into the chandelier, resisting the ghost of his dead mother who has returned from the grave to use guilt in order to coerce Stephen into Catholicism. The scene becomes chaotic as Bloom assists Stephen out of Cohen's brothel. Stephen is alone after his friend Vincent Lynch forsakes him. It is Bloom who tends to Stephen when he passes out after a pugnacious British soldier delivers a heavy blow, aware that Stephen is incapable of defending himself. Bloom sees the development as an opportunity to forge a relationship with Stephen. Bloom succeeds in transporting Dedalus to the Cabman's Shelter for some coffee and they continue their conversations about love and music in Bloom's home at 7 Eccles Street. Despite Bloom's insistence, Stephen declines the offer to spend the night in his home and as the novel concludes, it seems likely that Stephen, like Bloom, must embark upon his own heroic quest. "Penelope," the final chapter of Ulysses, presents Molly's assessment of Bloom. Just as we come to understand how Bloom's lack of empathy largely motivated Molly's infidelity, we also come to understand that Molly truly loves her husband, independent of the question of their marriage.

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Ulysses Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for Ulysses is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

In context, a "cabman's shelter" is a coffee house.

Ulysses’ resentment of his time spent in Ithaca is best reflected by which of the following quotes?

b. “Vile it were / For some three suns to store and hoard myself, / And this gray spirit yearning in desire / To follow knowledge like a sinking star, / Beyond the utmost bound of human thought”

Which of the following statements best express the central ideas of this text?

You have the title of Letter from Frederick Douglass to Harriet Tubman yet your quetion relates to Booth.

Study Guide for Ulysses

Ulysses study guide contains a biography of James Joyce, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About Ulysses
  • Character List
  • Chapters 1-3 Summary and Analysis
  • Related Links

Essays for Ulysses

Ulysses literature essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Ulysses.

  • "Excuse Bad Writing Am In Hurry": Joyce's Women in Dubliners, Portrait, and Ulysses
  • Concealing Dalkey Hill: Evasion and Parallax in "Nausicaa"
  • Immaculate Erection
  • Digesting the City: Episode "Ate" in Ulysses and Prufrock
  • Ulysses' Dog Images

Lesson Plan for Ulysses

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Common Core Standards
  • Introduction to Ulysses
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Bringing in Technology
  • Notes to the Teacher
  • Ulysses Bibliography

E-Text of Ulysses

Ulysses E-Text contains the full text of Ulysses

Wikipedia Entries for Ulysses

  • Introduction
  • Plot summary

synopsis of the book ulysses

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A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Poem Analysis

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Summary and Study Guide

Ulysses, the eponymous speaker of Alfred Tennyson’s famous poem, is originally a figure from Homer’s epics . (Ulysses is known as “Odysseus” in Homer’s ancient Greek poems, but this name is translated into Latin and English as “Ulysses.”) In Homer’s Iliad, Ulysses is the clever Greek who comes up with the idea for the Trojan Horse and wins the war with subterfuge; and in Homer’s Odyssey, Ulysses encounters many trials and tribulations on his long journey home after the Trojan War. Tennyson’s poem begins where Homer’s Odyssey ends, with Ulysses back home in Ithaca. Ulysses is reunited with his wife, Penelope, and his now grown son, Telemachus, and he’s resumed running his kingdom, but rather than being overjoyed, Ulysses is restless and bored. As Ulysses says in the poem’s opening lines,

It little profits that an idle king,

By this still hearth, among these barren crags,

Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole

Unequal laws unto a savage race,

That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me (Lines 1-5).

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Ulysses yearns to travel again, to discover new places, and above all “To follow knowledge like a sinking star, / Beyond the utmost bound of human thought” (Lines 31-31). Ulysses announces he’ll leave his kingdom in his son’s capable hands (Lines 33-43). Then Ulysses makes a rousing call to the men who accompanied him on his protracted and treacherous journey from Troy home to Ithaca:

My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me—
        . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;

Death closes all: but something ere the end,

Some work of noble note, may yet be done,

Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods (Lines 45-53).

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Ulysses asks these old seamen to board a ship with him, push off, and sail “until I die” (Line 61).

Since Ulysses is speaking to his mariners, not to himself, the poem is a dramatic monologue—in other words, a poem where only one person speaks, but they speak to another person (or multiple people) present with the speaker. Tennyson’s “Ulysses” vies with Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” also published in 1842, for the distinction of the most famous dramatic monologue of the Victorian era. Additionally, both “Ulysses” and “My Last Duchess” are among the most famous dramatic monologues of any era.

Poet Biography

Alfred Tennyson was born in 1809 in England, the fourth of 12 children. Both Tennyson’s father and one of his brothers suffered from epilepsy and both made their conditions worse by drinking too much. Tennyson escaped his chaotic and unhappy family life when he enrolled at Cambridge University in 1827.

At Cambridge, Tennyson joined a group of promising undergraduates called The Apostles and became best friends with the most gifted and promising of all the apostles, Arthur Henry Hallam. After Tennyson introduced Hallam to his sister Emily, Hallam and Emily got engaged, and it seemed as if Tennyson and Hallam would be, not just friends for life, but brothers-in-law.

In 1833, however, Hallam died unexpectedly. Tennyson was 24 at the time, Hallam was only 22, and Hallam’s death became the defining event of Tennyson’s life. In response to this loss, Tennyson spent 17 years composing the 133 sections that comprise In Memoriam A. H. H. , his elegy for Hallam. ( In Memoriam consists of an opening Prologue, 131 sections, and an Epilogue. It has more than 700 stanzas and nearly 3,000 lines.) Tennyson finally published In Memoriam, his most ambitious and formally inventive work, in 1850. Shortly after this publication, Tennyson was named Poet Laureate of England. In that role, he succeeded William Wordsworth, who had died earlier that year.

Tennyson’s era was largely defined by grief. In 1861, Queen Victoria lost her husband, Prince Albert. Victoria famously wore mourning attire for the rest of her life. She also kept a copy of In Memoriam by her bedside, and the Queen told Tennyson, “Next to the Bible, In Memoriam is my comfort.” Victoria also lost a son in 1884. Following this death, Victoria wrote to Tennyson and told him that his elegy had given her additional comfort.

As a result, the elegy Tennyson wrote for Hallam is largely considered the most important poem of the Victorian era, and it made Tennyson the most famous poet of the Victorian era and one of the most famous poets of any era. Yet “Ulysses,” according to Tennyson, “gave my feeling about Hallam’s death perhaps more simply than anything in In Memoriam” (Landow, George. “ Alfred Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses. ’” The Victorian Web ). Although it wasn’t published until 1842, Tennyson wrote “Ulysses” in the weeks following Hallam’s death; and the manic, melancholic Ulysses readers encounter in the poem is, in part, a self-portrait of Tennyson’s state of mind shortly after the loss of his friend.

Tennyson married his wife, Emily, in 1850, the same year he was named Poet Laureate. The couple had two sons and named the first Hallam.

In 1884, Tennyson accepted a peerage and became Alfred, Lord Tennyson. He died in 1892 and was buried at Westminster Abbey.

That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink

Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd

Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades

Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;

For always roaming with a hungry heart

Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,

Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.

I am a part of all that I have met;

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'

Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades

For ever and forever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!

As tho' to breathe were life! Life piled on life

Were all too little, and of one to me

Little remains: but every hour is saved

From that eternal silence, something more,

A bringer of new things; and vile it were

For some three suns to store and hoard myself,

And this gray spirit yearning in desire

To follow knowledge like a sinking star,

Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,

To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—

Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil

This labour, by slow prudence to make mild

A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees

Subdue them to the useful and the good.

Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere

Of common duties, decent not to fail

In offices of tenderness, and pay

Meet adoration to my household gods,

When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:

There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,

That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed

Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;

Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:

The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep

Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,

'T is not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:

It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,

And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Tennyson, Alfred Lord. “ Ulysses .” 1842. Poetry Foundation .

Ulysses, also known as Odysseus in ancient Greek, is a figure from Homer’s epics. In Homer’s Iliad, Ulysses is the clever Greek who comes up with the idea for the Trojan Horse and wins the war with subterfuge; and in Homer’s Odyssey, Ulysses encounters many trials and tribulations on his long journey home after the Trojan War. Tennyson’s poem begins where Homer’s Odyssey ends, with Ulysses back home in Ithaca. Ulysses is reunited with his wife, Penelope, and his now grown son, Telemachus, and he’s resumed running his kingdom, but rather than being overjoyed, Ulysses is restless and bored.

In the opening lines of Tennyson’s poem, Ulysses describes his dull surroundings, including a “still hearth,” “barren crags,” and “an aged wife” (Lines 1-3). He also describes being king as dull and unsatisfying. With “little profits,” Ulysses says, “I mete and dole / Unequal laws unto a savage race, / That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me” (Lines 3-5).

Ulysses decides he can’t stay put, he must set sail again, and he compares travel to drinking “[l]ife to the lees,” or dregs (Lines 6-7). Next, Ulysses reminisces about his journey home after the Trojan War:

. . . All times I have enjoy'd
Vext the dim sea . . . (Lines 7-11)

This leads him to a realization: “I am become a name; / For always roaming with a hungry heart” (Lines 11-12). Ulysses is known for traveling bravely and passionately, his name is synonymous with his long, meandering journey home, described in Homer’s Odyssey . This leads Ulysses to more reminiscing:

Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy (Lines 13-17).

Ulysses says, though he is “a part of all that I have met” (Line 18), there is still something he hasn’t grasped: “Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’ / Gleams that untravell’d world” (Lines 19-20). There’s no way for Ulysses to catch up to the horizon of this “untravell’d world” (Line 20) because it’s always just out of reach. This tantalizing “margin fades / For ever and forever when I move” (Lines 20-21).

Ulysses reiterates how bored he is not to be traveling and compares himself to a sword rusting in its sheath “unburnish’d” and doesn’t “shine in use” (Lines 22-23). Ulysses says, “As tho’ to breathe were life!” and compares taking breath after breath to “[l]ife piled on life” (Line 24). This is not, however, enough action for Ulysses. He wants to travel and experience “new things” (Line 28). Ulysses calls it “vile” that for three years, or “three suns,” he has stayed put (Lines 28-29). His old heart, or “gray spirit,” desires to keep roaming (Line 30). He longs, he says, “To follow knowledge like a sinking star, / Beyond the utmost bound of human thought” (Lines 31-32).

In the second stanza, Ulysses turns to his son, Telemachus, and tells his audience he is leaving his kingdom in his son’s capable hands (Lines 33-34). Telemachus, is “[w]ell-loved of me” and will by “slow prudence” and “soft degrees” transform the island’s “rugged people” to work and manners that are “useful and good” (Lines 35-38). Ulysses says his son is “[m]ost blameless” and “decent” and will pay the proper amount of “admiration” to the “household gods” (Lines 39-42). Ulysses has no interest in the slow, careful, and judicious management of his kingdom, so Telemachus will take care of it while Ulysses goes off on another adventure. As Ulysses says, “He works his work, I mine” (Line 43).

Ulysses points to the “port,” the large ship he will take (which already has wind puffing in her sails), and the wide, dangerous sea (Lines 44-45). Then he addresses the crew he wants to come with him. These are men who accompanied Ulysses on his long journey home after the Trojan War. “My mariners,” Ulysses says,

Free hearts, free foreheads (Lines 45-49)

Like himself, these sailors are “old,” yet “[o]ld age hath yet his honour and his toil” (Line 50). They are going to die whether they leave Ithaca again or not, but Ulysses says, “Some work of noble note, may yet be done, / Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods” (Lines 52-53).

Finally, Ulysses describes the parting scene. Ulysses addresses his old mariners as “friends” and tells them it’s “not too late” to discover new lands. He orders them to “[p]ush off” vigorously from the land and “smite” the shallows, or “sounding furrows,” until the ship is in deep water (Lines 56-59). Then Ulysses says he’s determined to sail as far as he can until he dies (Lines 59-61). He says it’s possible the “gulfs” will sink the ship. If that happens, they’ll reach the afterlife, or “Happy Isles,” where they’ll be reunited with Achilles, who died during the Trojan War (Lines 62-64).

Finally, Ulysses tells his men that, even though they’re old and not as physically strong as they once were, they still have “heroic hearts” and are “strong” in their determination to keep trying, keep traveling, keep exploring, and not to stop (Lines 65-70).

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Ulysses

  • Ulysses Summary

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

  • Book Summary

Ulysses Summary Overview

On the morning of June 16, 1904, Stephen Dedalus finds himself distant from his friend, Buck Mulligan, and Buck's English companion, Haines, who continue to mock him. He then goes off to teach a history class at a boys' school, receives his pay from the school's director, and agrees to deliver a letter on his behalf. He spends the rest of his morning strolling alone, reflecting, and composing poetry. Meanwhile, Leopold Bloom takes care of breakfast for his wife, Molly, and suspects an affair between her and her concert manager, Blazes Boylan. Bloom later collects an affectionate letter from a woman named Martha Clifford, with whom he communicates under a false name. By mid-morning, Bloom is found accompanying Stephen’s father and other men to a funeral. He is seen as an outsider in this group. He then proceeds to a newspaper office to negotiate an advertisement for a liquor merchant. Stephen arrives with the letter he was tasked with delivering and leaves for the pub just as Bloom returns. However, his negotiation for the advertisement is dismissed. Bloom then encounters an old love interest, has lunch, and runs into Boylan, forcing him to hide in a museum. Around the same time, Stephen is found at the National Library discussing his theory on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”. In the late afternoon, Bloom watches Boylan from a hotel bar before writing a letter to Martha and heading to a pub to discuss family finances with a friend. He stands up against a nationalistic man targeting his Jewish heritage before leaving in a carriage. Bloom then unwinds on the beach where he secretly watches a young woman and later falls asleep. He wakes and visits a maternity hospital where he encounters Stephen and his friends, who are celebrating despite a woman’s ongoing labor. Stephen drunkenly lashes out at a brothel, resulting in an altercation with a British soldier. Bloom takes Stephen to a shelter to recover and invites him home. Despite Stephen's refusal to stay the night, Bloom is content and falls asleep after recounting his day to Molly. However, Molly stays awake, reminiscing about her past, her affair with Boylan, and her relationship with Bloom.

At 8:00 AM, Buck Mulligan performs a mock mass on the roof of the Martello tower in Dublin, inviting Stephen Dedalus to join him. Stephen, however, is irritated due to Haines, an Englishman Buck invited to stay with them, who had woken him up during the night with screams from a nightmare. The men gaze out at the ocean, referred to by Buck as a great mother. This triggers a memory of Stephen's refusal to pray at his deceased mother's deathbed, an act that incurred his aunt's anger. Stephen, still in mourning attire, thinks about his mother's death as Buck teases him about his worn-out clothes. Buck hands Stephen a broken mirror to look at himself, jokingly suggesting it could symbolize Irish art. Buck then proposes that they could transform Ireland into a cultural hub like Greece. He also offers to scare Haines if he bothers Stephen, reminding him of Buck's prank on a former classmate, Clive Kempthorpe. In response to Buck's question about his silence, Stephen reveals his resentment towards Buck for disrespectfully describing his late mother as “beastly dead.” Buck attempts to defend himself, then advises Stephen to let go of his pride. Descending into the tower, Buck unknowingly sings a song Stephen had sung to his dying mother. Stephen feels haunted by her memory. Buck calls Stephen for breakfast and advises him to request money from Haines who admires Stephen’s Irish wit, but Stephen refuses. At breakfast, Haines informs them of the approaching milk woman, triggering Buck to crack a joke about her. As the milk woman enters, Stephen views her as a representation of Ireland. He feels upset that she respects Buck, a medical student, more than him. Haines tries to speak Irish to her, but she confuses it for French. After she leaves, Haines expresses his wish to compile a book of Stephen’s sayings. Buck reprimands Stephen for his rudeness to Haines, which may cost them the chance of receiving money. The three men then head towards the water. Stephen reveals that he rents the tower and discusses his Hamlet theory. Haines likens the tower to Hamlet’s Elsinore. As they walk, Stephen foresees Buck asking for the tower key, and Haines questions Stephen about his religious beliefs. Stephen envisions England, the Catholic Church, and Ireland as masters obstructing his freedom of thought. Haines attempts to pacify the situation by blaming history for Irish servitude. Stephen recalls a recent drowning incident. Reaching the water, they find Buck preparing to swim with two others, including a friend who shares news of a mutual friend, Bannon, who now has a girlfriend named Milly Bloom. Buck dives into the water as Haines rests. Stephen announces his departure. Buck asks for the tower key and some money for a pint and asks Stephen to meet him at The Ship, a pub, at 12:30. Stephen walks away, vowing not to return to the tower that night, believing it has been taken over by Buck, the “Usurper.”

During a history lesson on Pyrrhus's victory, Stephen, the teacher, finds the students undisciplined. He humorously expands on a student's mistaken answer, envisaging himself later sharing this joke with Haines. He ponders, is history inevitable or just one possible outcome? As he guides the class through Milton's Lycidas, Stephen dwells on his thoughts about history, shaped by Aristotle's works he previously read. He draws a comparison from Milton's poem to God's influence on mankind. Before the class disperses, he shares an obscure riddle, amusing himself. As the students depart, Sargent stays back for help with math. Stephen assists him while musing on the unconditional love a mother must feel for her child, even one as unattractive as Sargent. He sees a reflection of his own bumbling childhood self in Sargent. Afterward, Stephen moves to Deasy's office to await the schoolmaster who's resolving a hockey dispute. Mr. Deasy pays Stephen, lectures him on financial responsibility, and flaunts his savings box. Stephen, in response, mentally tallies his own debts. Deasy, assuming Stephen to be a Fenian, believes he's perceived as an English loyalist. He tries to validate his Irish roots and requests Stephen's help in publishing his letter in the newspaper. Stephen listens to cheers from the hockey field while reviewing Deasy's letter, warning against foot-and-mouth disease in cattle. The letter also blames Jews for economic corruption. Stephen counters that greed isn't exclusive to any race but Deasy persists, accusing Jews of sinning against "the light." Stephen remembers Jewish merchants in Paris and questions Deasy's claim, arguing everyone has sinned. He dismisses Deasy's historical perspective, declaring, "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." As a hockey goal is scored outside, Stephen compares God to "a shout in the street," countering Deasy's spiritual interpretation of history. Deasy blames women for introducing sin and causing historical disasters. Deasy predicts Stephen's teaching career will be short-lived, to which Stephen responds he might be a learner rather than a teacher. He agrees to try to publish Deasy's letter and departs, ruminating on his subservience to Deasy. Deasy makes a final comment about Jews being absent from Ireland due to exclusion.

While at the beach, Stephen ponders over the disparity between the physical world and how it is perceived. He shuts his eyes and listens to the sounds around him. On opening his eyes, he sees two midwives and imagines one of them carrying a miscarried fetus. He dreams up a scenario where he uses an umbilical cord like a telephone to connect with "Edenville". He pictures Eve's belly without a navel and reflects on women's original sin and his own conception. He contrasts his creation with Christ's divine conception. Feeling the sea breeze, Stephen recalls his pending tasks of delivering Deasy's letter to the newspaper and meeting Buck at The Ship pub. He contemplates visiting his aunt Sara but is deterred by the thought of his father's scorn for her husband, Richie. He envisions a visit to his aunt's house with Richie greeting him from bed due to his back ailment. Emerging from his daydream, Stephen remembers his childhood disdain for his own family and thinks of Jonathan Swift's disgust for humanity. He passes the turnoff for his aunt's house and starts thinking about pigeons and the Virgin Mary's claim of pregnancy caused by a pigeon. His thoughts then shift to his time in Paris as a poor medical student and his sudden return due to his mother's illness. Stephen reflects on the experience of Paris and his conversations with Kevin Egan about nationalism, French customs, and Irish youth. He walks to the sea, vowing not to sleep at the Martello tower tonight. Observing a dead dog's carcass and a live dog running towards him, he imagines the first Viking invasion in Dublin. Stephen's fear of the approaching dog leads him to question if he's a pretender, like many in history. He notices the dog's owners, two shellfish gatherers. The dog, after sniffing at the carcass and being chastised, urinates and starts digging. This reminds Stephen of a riddle about a fox burying his grandmother. Stephen attempts to recall a dream from the previous night about a man leading him on a red carpet. Observing the female shellfish gatherer rekindles memories of a previous sexual encounter. He starts constructing a poem in his head, yearning for affection. Lying down, he contemplates his borrowed boots and small feet which once fit into a woman's shoes. He urinates, thinks of the dead man's body, picks his nose, and leaves, looking to see if anyone noticed. He spots a ship approaching.

Leopold Bloom prepares breakfast for his spouse Molly and their cat. He ponders about how he may appear to the cat and how it uses its whiskers while feeding. Deciding on his own breakfast, he tiptoes upstairs to inquire from Molly if she needs anything from outside, to which she mutters a no. He reflects on their bed, which Molly brought from Gibraltar, where Major Tweedy, her father, raised her. Bloom ensures he has a note and his lucky potato in his hat. He also reminds himself to get his house keys from upstairs before he leaves. Outdoors, Bloom looks forward to the warmth of the black attire he'll wear to Paddy Dignam’s funeral. He fantasizes about walking around the globe's middle section in front of the sun to remain the same age while contemplating on Eastern landscapes. However, he realizes that his thoughts are mere fictions. He walks past Larry O’Rourke’s pub, contemplates about stopping to discuss Dignam’s funeral, but ends up wishing O’Rourke a good day. He also ponders on how small pub owners manage to profit considering the numerous pubs in Dublin. As he passes a school, he hears students reciting the alphabet and Irish place names, leading him to fancy his own Irish place name, “Slive Bloom.” Upon reaching Dlugacz’s butcher shop, Bloom hopes the woman in front of him doesn’t buy the last kidney. He reads ads on a piece of the wrapping newspaper she left behind. After buying the kidney, he lingers to watch her hips as she walks home but gives up and continues reading the newspaper which talks about fruit plantations in Palestine. He then passes a familiar man who doesn't notice him. As a cloud obscures the sun, Bloom's thoughts turn melancholic, contemplating the desolation of the Middle East and the plight of the Jews. He resolves to start his morning workouts again, then considers a vacant property on his street, and finally his wife Molly. The sun reappears, and a blond girl dashes past him. At home, Bloom finds letters and a card. He suspects one letter is from Blazes Boylan, Molly’s coworker and possible lover. He gives Molly the letter and a card from their daughter Milly. Molly hides Boylan’s letter under her pillow and reads Milly’s card. Bloom then heads downstairs to prepare tea and kidney, while reading his letter from Milly. Bloom serves Molly breakfast in bed and they discuss her letters. Molly will sing at a concert that afternoon and needs a book, which Bloom fetches. Molly inquires about the word “metempsychosis” from the book. Bloom simplifies it to mean reincarnation and uses a nymph painting as an example. Molly then requests another book by Paul de Kock. The smell of a burning kidney takes Bloom back to the kitchen. After salvaging it, he eats while going through Milly’s letter again. Milly thanks him for her birthday gift and mentions a boyfriend, Bannon. He reminisces about her childhood, their son Rudy who died shortly after birth, and Milly's growing charm. He also speculates about Boylan's potential impact on Milly, which leaves him feeling helpless and remorseful. He contemplates a visit to Milly. Finally, Bloom grabs a magazine and heads to the outhouse. He thinks about his garden and reads the story Matcham’s Masterstroke. Pleased with his bowel regularity, he finishes the story and considers writing his own for money. He uses a section of the story as toilet paper and reminds himself to check the funeral time. The sound of church bells triggers thoughts of Dignam.

Bloom meanders his way to the city center post office, lost in thoughts of the funeral he is set to attend, and the myriad of individuals he walks past. Observing packet labels at the Belfast and Oriental Tea Company, he retrieves a postal card for his alias, Henry Flower. He gets lost in thoughts of the East, fueled by the tea labels. He discreetly enters the post office and collects a letter addressed to his pseudonym. Upon exiting the post office, he attempts to read his letter, but is interrupted by McCoy. Bloom engages in chit-chat with McCoy, all the while trying to understand something pinned to the letter in his pocket. As Bloom's attention is drawn to a sophisticated woman across the street, McCoy discusses Paddy Dignam’s death, based on information from Bantam Lyons. Bloom's attempt to see the woman step into a cab is thwarted by a passing tram. Meanwhile, he reads an ad in his newspaper: “What is a home without / Plumtree’s Potted Meat? / Incomplete. / With it an abode of bliss.” Bloom and McCoy discuss Molly’s imminent concert tour, and Bloom tactfully avoids talking about Boylan's involvement in the tour. McCoy, leaving, asks Bloom to register his name in Dignam’s funeral record. Once alone, Bloom reflects on the poor singing talent of McCoy's wife. Bloom's attention is caught by a play poster for Leah. This revives memories of his father's death, and he finally opens his letter. Sent by his secret penpal Martha Clifford, she requests to meet in person, scolds him for his explicit language, and asks about his wife's perfume. Bloom doesn't intend to meet her but contemplates on how to word his next letter. He retrieves a flower pin from the letter and ponders on the variety of women's clothing pins. He is reminded of a song titled “O, Mairy lost the pin of her drawers. . .” and muses about the names Martha and Mary, and a painting featuring the biblical sisters. Under a railway bridge, Bloom discards the envelope from Martha. He enters a church through the backdoor, glances at a missionary notice, and ponders on methods of propagating religion. Inside, he appreciates the proximity to attractive women that churches offer. Sitting down, he contemplates the sense of belonging that comes with communion. He reflects on Martha's contradictory behavior - scolding him for his language but wanting to meet a married man. This reminds him of the duplicitous Carey, a seemingly respectable figure involved in the Phoenix Park murders. He watches the priest cleanse the wine chalice and questions their choice of beverage. Looking at the choir loft, he thinks of Molly's rendition of the Stabat Mater. As the ceremony concludes, Bloom admires the concept of confession and reform. Leaving before the collection, he checks the time and heads to Sweny’s to order Molly’s lotion, realizing he has left the recipe and his keys at home. At the chemist’s, Bloom ponders on alchemy and sedatives. He appreciates Molly’s skin while the chemist searches for the lotion recipe. Selecting a lemon soap, he promises to come back later for the lotion and to pay for both items. Upon leaving, he bumps into Bantam Lyons. Lyons borrows Bloom’s newspaper to check a horse race result. Misinterpreting Bloom’s indifference towards the paper as a racing tip, Lyons thanks him and rushes off. Disgusted with the obsession with betting, Bloom proceeds to the public baths, criticizing a poorly executed advertisement for college sports. He greets the porter, Hornblower, and looks forward to his bath.

Bloom, Martin Cunningham, Jack Power, and Simon Dedalus head to Dignam’s funeral in a carriage. During their ride, they spot Stephen which prompts a discussion on his company. Bloom empathizes with Stephen, comparing him to his late son, Rudy. They also talk about Dan Dawson’s speech, but decide it's inappropriate to read at that moment. Bloom, meanwhile, checks obituaries and muses over Boylan's impending visit. Seeing Boylan on the street unnerves Bloom who fails to comprehend his wife Molly and Boylan's relationship. Power's reference to Molly as Madame adds to Bloom's unease. The carriage passes Reuben J. Dodd, a loathed moneylender. The men share a laugh over a story about Dodd’s son. The mood, however, turns sombre as they remember Dignam. Bloom comments that Dignam died the best way, quickly and painlessly. This opinion is silently countered by the others due to their Catholic beliefs about sudden death. When suicide is declared the worst death, Cunningham tactfully argues for sympathy, knowing Bloom’s father committed suicide. A cattle crossing halts the carriage momentarily. Bloom wonders why there is no tramline for the cattle, sparking a conversation about funeral trams. The topic takes a morbid turn as Bloom imagines Dignam’s body tumbling out of his coffin in a crash. The sight of a canal reminds Bloom of his daughter Milly in Mullingar and he contemplates visiting her. They pass the house where a famous murder occurred which garners everyone's attention. Upon arriving at the church, Cunningham informs Power about Bloom’s father’s suicide. Bloom asks about Dignam’s insurance and learns that Cunningham is raising funds for Dignam’s children. Inside, Bloom observes the ceremony with unfamiliarity. Afterwards, they head to the gravesite. On the way, Dedalus, overwhelmed by the sight of his mother’s grave, breaks down. The undertaker, Corny Kelleher, and a man named John Henry Menton, who questions Bloom's identity, join them. Menton reminisces about a dance with Molly and questions her choice of marrying Bloom. The cemetery caretaker, John O’Connell, lightens the atmosphere with a joke. Bloom ponders over O’Connell’s life and envisions a system where human bodies fertilize gardens. He also imagines a more efficient arrangement of burying bodies vertically, drawing inspiration from Hamlet's grave-digging scene. While gathered around the grave, Bloom spots an unknown man in a macintosh and speculates about his identity. The thought of his own burial site, shared with his mother and son, fills him with fear. A reporter, Hynes, approaches him for his full name and inquires about the man in the macintosh. After the grave is filled, Bloom walks through the cemetery, contemplating on the waste of money on luxurious graves and the need for more informative gravestones. His thoughts take a dark turn, reflecting on necrophilia, ghosts, hell, and the closeness of death. As he leaves, Bloom points out a dent in Menton's hat, only to be ignored.

This section unfolds in the Freeman newspaper offices, with newspaper-like headlines dividing the episode. It follows Bloom as he navigates the busy streets of Dublin, retrieving a copy of his Keyes advertisement in the Freeman's back office. He also visits the Telegraph offices, overseen by the same management as the Freeman. There, he encounters the foreman, City Councillor Nanetti, a native Italian but Irish by preference. Nanetti and Hynes are discussing the recent funeral of Dignam. Bloom tries to subtly remind Hynes of a debt owed, but to no avail. Bloom details the new Keyes ad design, featuring two crossed keys signifying the independent parliament of the Isle of Man and consequently, the aspiration of Irish self-government. Nanetti instructs Bloom to acquire a copy of the design and ensure three months of advertisement from Keyes. Bloom then moves towards the staff offices, observing the typesetting process and reminiscing about his father reading Hebrew. Within the Evening Telegraph office, he comes across Professor MacHugh and Simon Dedalus engaged in a discussion with Ned Lambert, who is ridiculing Dan Dawson's melodramatic patriotic speech. J.J. O’Molloy enters, his past as a once-promising lawyer and his current financial issues coming to Bloom's mind. The mockery of Dawson's speech continues. Bloom agrees but acknowledges that such speeches are often well-received in person. Dedalus and Lambert leave for a drink while Bloom tries to reach Keyes by phone. Lenehan enters with the sports edition and predicts Sceptre's victory in the upcoming horserace. Bloom fails to connect with Keyes and upon re-entry, crosses paths with Lenehan. Bloom informs Crawford of his plans to finalize the Keyes ad, but Crawford remains indifferent. Later, the staff notices newsboys imitating Bloom's distinctive walk. O’Molloy shares a cigarette with MacHugh, while Lenehan awaits an offer. Crawford and MacHugh exchange banter about the Roman Empire. Lenehan attempts to share a riddle but is ignored. O’Madden Burke steps in with Stephen Dedalus, who hands over Deasy’s letter to Crawford, who agrees to publish it. MacHugh argues about the similarities between Greeks and Irish, both dominated by other cultures but retaining a unique spirituality. The room buzzes with diverse talents. Bloom is associated with the art of advertising, and Molly Bloom is mentioned for her vocal talent. Crawford requests Stephen to write something for the paper. A discussion about the 1882 Phoenix Park murders ensues. O’Molloy and Stephen discuss the mystical poet A.E. MacHugh passionately recites John F. Taylor’s speech about the Irish language revival. Stephen suggests they continue their conversation in a pub. Stephen shares a cryptic story about two old virgins, climbing Nelson’s pillar to enjoy the view of Dublin and eat plums. Meanwhile, Bloom, attempting to get approval for a two-month Keyes ad renewal, is dismissed by Crawford. Crawford also refuses to lend money to O’Molloy. The story of the two old women concludes with them spitting plum seeds from the top of the pillar. The listeners are perplexed as Stephen titles his tale “A Pisgah Sight of Palestine” or “The Parable of the Plums.” MacHugh laughs, understanding the joke. Lastly, the trams and vehicles in the city continue their journey.

Bloom strolls by a sweet shop, a stranger gives him a flyer for a visiting U.S. evangelist. Bloom initially mistakes the flyer's text, “Blood of the Lamb,” for his own name. He encounters Dilly Dedalus, feeling compassion for the motherless Dedalus family. Pondering the Catholic Church's stance on birth control, he crosses O’Connell bridge, discards the flyer, and buys cakes for the gulls. Seeing an ad on a boat, he considers unconventional advertising spots, like STD information in bathrooms. He reflects on the astronomy term “parallax” and the morning's discourse on “metempsychosis.” Men advertising Hely’s pass him, triggering a memory of his rejected marketing idea. Bloom cross paths with Josie Breen, an old flame, now married to the unstable Denis Breen, who's obsessed with a cryptic postcard reading “u.p.: up.” They discuss Mina Purefoy's prolonged labor. Another eccentric Dubliner, Cashel Boyle O'Connor Fitzmaurice Tisdall Farrell, struts by. Moving on, he recalls the personal ad he once posted in the Irish Times leading him to Martha. His mind shifts to Mina's endless pregnancies. He observes some policemen, recalling how he once saw them chase anti-British medical students. He contemplates traitors like Carey and disloyal servants. When a cloud obscures the sun, he gloomily ponders the recurring cycles of life and death. He then sees A.E. and a scruffy woman, possibly Lizzie Twigg. At an optician’s shop, he again contemplates parallax and eclipses and performs a mini experiment. He reminisces about a moonlit night with Molly and Boylan. Passing Bob Doran on a drinking spree, he muses on men's dependency on alcohol for socializing. Feeling famished, he steps into Burton restaurant but is repulsed by the men's rude eating habits, and leaves for a lighter meal at Davy Byrne’s. At Davy Byrne’s, Nosey Flynn quizzes him about Molly's singing tour and Boylan, reminding Bloom of Boylan's visit. They discuss the Gold Cup race as Bloom eats. He examines the canned food, ponders about edibles, spots two stuck flies, and recalls a romantic moment with Molly. He ends up equating beauty with untouchable goddesses like museum statues, and decides to sneak a peek under their robes. He finishes his glass and visits the restroom. Davy Byrne and Flynn gossip about Bloom; his career, Freemasonry, sobriety, and contractual reluctance. Paddy Leonard, Bantam Lyons, and Tom Rochford walk in, order drinks, and talk about Lyons's race bet. As Bloom exits, Lyons hints at receiving a betting tip from Bloom. Outside, Bloom plans to visit the library to check the Keyes ad. He helps a blind man across an intersection, contemplating heightened senses. Seeing Boylan, he panics and hides in the National Museum's gates.

Stephen, in the National Library director's office, presents his interpretation of "Hamlet" to John Eglinton, A.E., and Lyster. He argues that Shakespeare identified with Hamlet's father, not Hamlet, which frustrates the older men who are used to traditional interpretations of Shakespeare. Eglinton mocks Stephen’s lack of literary achievements, and A.E. criticizes his approach of biographical criticism. In his defense, Stephen highlights that even Aristotle was once a student of Plato. Mr. Best, another librarian, joins and Stephen continues his theory, drawing a picture of Shakespeare's London. He argues that the characters in "Hamlet" represent Shakespeare's own family - Hamlet is his late son, Hamnet, and the unfaithful Gertrude is his adulterous wife, Ann Hathaway. A.E. disagrees, emphasizing that a critic should focus on the artwork, not the artist's personal life. Stephen mentions he owes A.E. money. Eglinton dismisses Ann Hathaway as inconsequential and a mistake in Shakespeare's life. Stephen retorts that geniuses don't make mistakes and suggests Ann seduced a young Shakespeare. A.E. leaves, and Stephen expresses resentment at being excluded from a poetry collection that A.E. is compiling and their social circle. The argument resumes with Eglinton stating that Hamlet is a reflection of Shakespeare himself. Stephen argues that Shakespeare's genius allowed him to bring many characters to life. He further discusses Ann Hathaway's infidelity and how it influenced Shakespeare's works. He believes that Shakespeare's middle plays are tragedies due to his wife's adultery and his later, lighter plays suggest a reconciliation within his family. Stephen proposes that the ghost of Hamlet's father knows of his murder and his wife's betrayal because the character is a part of Shakespeare. Buck, who was listening, applauds Stephen sarcastically and reveals a cryptic telegram from Stephen. Buck teases Stephen for not showing up for a meeting with him and Haines. Buck recognizes Bloom, a library patron, standing in the hallway and accuses him of being a homosexual. Stephen carries on with his theory, suggesting that while Shakespeare was unfaithful in London, Hathaway was unfaithful in Stratford. This could explain her limited presence in Shakespeare's plays. He also mentions Shakespeare’s will, which only left Hathaway his “second-best bed.” Eglinton offers a different interpretation, suggesting that Hamlet's father's ghost represents Shakespeare's father. Stephen dismisses this idea, arguing that the ghost represents an aged Shakespeare, not his father. He further dismisses the significance of fathers, saying they are linked to their children only through a brief act of sex. Stephen suggests that Hathaway cheated on Shakespeare with his brothers, Edmund and Richard, who are represented in Shakespeare’s plays as unfaithful or treacherous brothers. When questioned by Eglinton about his belief in his own theory, Stephen denies it. Buck and Stephen leave the library for a drink. Buck teases Eglinton and recites a play he's been writing. As they leave, Stephen senses Bloom behind him. Buck jokes about Bloom's alleged homosexuality as Stephen leaves, feeling drained.

This part of the story highlights nineteen short scenes featuring different characters as they navigate Dublin during the afternoon. It doesn't include the other simultaneous happenings in the city. Father John Conmee, on a mission to secure a free school admission for Patrick Dignam’s son, leaves his Dublin parish to head to a suburban school. During his journey, he encounters various individuals, reflects on a blackface minstrel poster, and blesses a young couple he finds emerging from a hedge. Corny Kelleher inspects a coffin lid and engages in idle chatter with a cop. The one-legged sailor he met earlier is seen begging on Eccles street, receiving a coin flung from a window by a woman’s (Molly’s) arm. The Dedalus sisters, Katey and Boody, find themselves in a dire financial state, relying on charity for food. Their other sister Maggy reveals that Dilly has gone to find their father, Simon Dedalus. The piece of paper Bloom discarded in Episode Eight is seen drifting down the river. A store employee prepares Blazes Boylan's food order, tolerating his inappropriate behavior. Meanwhile, Stephen encounters his voice teacher, Almidano Artifoni, who encourages him to consider a music career in Dublin. Boylan's secretary, Miss Dunne, daydreams about her evening plans before confirming an appointment for Boylan. J.J. O’Molloy and Ned Lambert guide Reverend Love around Saint Mary’s Abbey, while also discussing O’Molloy’s financial woes. Tom Rochford reveals his new betting tool invention to Nosey Flynn, McCoy, and Lenehan. After checking the betting odds, the men notice Bloom shopping at a book cart. While Lenehan gossips about Molly, McCoy comes to Bloom's defense. Bloom ends up buying a book called Sweets of Sin. Dilly Dedalus waits for her father at Dillon’s auction rooms, asking him for money. After receiving a shilling, she is left disappointed as he abruptly leaves. Meanwhile, the viceregal parade has started its journey across the town. Tom Kernan passes by a historical execution site and sees the parade, but it's too late to wave. Stephen, while browsing a book cart, is approached by his sister Dilly who asks him about a French primer. He sees his cleverness in Dilly and contemplates whether to help or abandon his family. Simon Dedalus and Bob Cowley meet and discuss Cowley’s outstanding debt. Meanwhile, Martin Cunningham and others are collecting donations for the Dignam children, with Bloom’s generous contribution noted. Buck Mulligan and Haines sit in a cafe, discussing Stephen’s mental state and doubting his potential as a poet. Tisdall Farrell, walking behind Almidano Artifoni, bumps into the blind man Bloom helped previously. Patrick Dignam Jr., carrying pork steaks, wonders if his schoolmates know about his father's death. He recalls his last memory of his father, drunk and heading to the pub. The journey of the viceregal parade, featuring several notable figures, is tracked as it travels to the Mirus bazaar, passing many of the characters featured in this section.

In Episode Eleven, disjointed phrases open the scene, hinting at later events. The narrative frequently gets interrupted by descriptions of happenings at other locations. Barmaids Lydia Douce and Mina Kennedy from the Ormond Hotel try to see the viceregal cavalcade, and then chat over tea. At the same time, Bloom strolls past nearby shops. Simon Dedalus and Lenehan enter the Ormond bar looking for Boylan. The barmaids serve them and discuss the blind piano tuner who visited earlier. Dedalus tries the freshly tuned piano while Boylan flirts with Miss Kennedy. They wait for the Gold Cup race results. Bloom notices Boylan’s car while buying notepaper to write to Martha. Aware of Boylan’s imminent meeting with Molly, Bloom decides to shadow the car to the Ormond Hotel. There, he agrees to dine with Richie Goulding, intending to observe Boylan. Boylan and Lenehan exit and pass Bob Cowley and Ben Dollard entering. In the dining room, waiter Pat gets Bloom and Goulding's orders. Hearing Boylan’s car leaving, Bloom becomes anxious. In the bar, Dedalus and Dollard talk about past concerts and a time Dollard borrowed evening clothes from the Blooms’ shop. The men speak of Molly approvingly. The narrative is interspersed with the sound of Boylan’s car and its progression towards the Blooms’. Dollard sings “Love and War,” which Bloom hears from the dining room and recalls a night Dollard borrowed clothes from Molly’s shop. Dedalus is persuaded to sing “M’appari.” Goulding and Bloom each reflect on past opera experiences. Bloom shows empathy for Goulding’s back pain, but also thinks Goulding lies a lot. Bloom considers Dedalus’s squandered talent due to alcohol and is surprised when Dedalus sings a song from Martha. Moved by the music, Bloom remembers his initial encounter with Molly. Tom Kernan walks into the bar as the song finishes. Bloom contemplates the Dedalus-Goulding relationship and, pondering on “M’appari’s” gloomy lyrics, he thinks about death and Dignam's funeral. He also ponders about the mathematics of music, and Milly’s lack of musical taste. Bloom begins a letter to Martha, flirts a bit, and includes a half-crown. Though he covers his page with the newspaper and tells Goulding he is responding to an ad, he feels uninspired with the task. A repetitive “tap” is introduced as the blind piano tuner returns for his forgotten tuning fork. Bloom sees Miss Douce flirting and thinks about the universality of music, women’s singing, and the sensual nature of acoustic music. He pictures Boylan meeting Molly, and indeed, Boylan is currently at the Blooms' door. Kernan asks for “The Croppy Boy” to be sung. Bloom prepares to depart, leaving Goulding disappointed. Everyone listens quietly to the song. Bloom watches Miss Douce, wondering if she notices him, and reflects on his own limited family lineage. Finally, Bloom excites himself to leave. After saying goodbye to Goulding and collecting his stuff, he slips out just before the song ends to applause. Walking to the post office, Bloom feels bloated from the cider and regrets agreeing to meet Cunningham at five about the Dignams’ insurance policy. He doubts that the Croppy Boy wouldn't have realized that the priest was a disguised British soldier. Back at the Ormond, someone tells Dedalus that Bloom was there and has left. They discuss Bloom and Molly’s singing skills. The blind piano tuner finally gets his tuning fork. Bloom sees Bridie Kelly, a local prostitute he once knew, and avoids her by looking at a picture of Robert Emmet in a shop window. He reads Emmet's famous last words to himself while discretely farting, thanks to a passing tram's noise.

In this part of the story, an anonymous narrator recounts his day. This includes encounters with various characters, and parodies of Irish mythology, legalese, journalism, and biblical references. He meets Joe Hynes and they decide to grab a drink at Barney Kiernan’s bar. As they make their way there, they pass a lively marketplace depicted in a manner reminiscent of ancient Celtic tales. At the bar, they meet the citizen and his dog, Garryowen, who are humorously described. The arrival of Alf Bergan, who mocks Denis Breen and orders a drink, sparks a round of stories and conversation. Bloom, who is seen pacing outside, is the subject of the citizen's disdain. The group then shares tales about Paddy Dignam, and Bob Doran, known for his yearly drinking spree, makes a loud commentary on God's cruelty. Bloom then enters the bar, intending to meet Martin Cunningham. He declines a drink offered by Hynes and the group starts discussing hangings and capital punishment. Bloom tries to make a point about hangings, but is interrupted by the citizen's nationalistic views. The conversation shifts to Bloom not buying drinks and the complexity of insurance policies. The men then talk about Nannetti's mayoral candidacy, sports, and Boylan's and Molly’s upcoming concert tour. The narrator suspects an affair between Boylan and Molly. With the entry of J.J. O’Molloy and Ned Lambert, the topic changes to Denis Breen’s peculiar behavior. The citizen continues to make anti-Semitic and xenophobic comments, which Bloom ignores. As more people arrive, they discuss the Gold Cup race and Ireland's nationalistic struggles. Bloom argues against the cycle of hatred and declares his Irish nationality by birth and Jewish allegiance. He then leaves to find Cunningham, subject to ridicule by the citizen. The group speculates that Bloom is off to collect his betting winnings. As they gossip about Bloom, the narrator steps outside briefly. Upon returning, he finds Cunningham, Power, and Crofton have arrived. They continue the discussion about Bloom, his Hungarian roots, and potential infidelity, with Cunningham calling for kindness towards Bloom. Bloom returns to the bar just as the atmosphere gets hostile. Cunningham quickly ushers him, Power, and Crofton out. The citizen now openly mocks Bloom's Jewish heritage. Bloom retorts by listing famous Jews, including Christ. This angers the citizen, who hurls a biscuit tin after their car. The episode ends with a biblical-style depiction of Bloom as Elijah, rising to heaven in a chariot.

Bloom finds himself on Sandymount Strand, near a local church, watching three women - Cissy Caffrey, Edy Boardman, and Gerty MacDowell – as they care for the kids they're babysitting. Gerty, thought of as a beauty, is a bit distant from the others as she imagines a life with a man of her dreams. Her friends' crass behaviour in the presence of Bloom embarrasses her. A prayer meeting initiates at the nearby church. The kids playfully kick a ball that ends up under Gerty's skirt, which Bloom retrieves. Bloom's melancholic countenance makes Gerty feel a compassionate attraction towards him, which she expresses by subtly showing off her physical beauty. She hopes for the others to leave so that she can continue interacting with Bloom. However, Bloom's watch has stopped, altering her plans. She begins to wonder about his life. As the others prepare to depart, they get engrossed in the fireworks from a local bazaar. Gerty stays back, revealing her legs while watching the fireworks. Bloom experiences sensual pleasure from her display, but afterwards realizes that Gerty has a limp. His reactions range from shock to relief and he becomes reflective about women's sexual desires and their competitive friendships. Bloom tidies up and muses over his attraction towards Gerty. He contemplates the possibility of her being aware of his arousal and compares her smell with Molly's. He suddenly remembers that he needs to buy Molly's lotion. A passerby arouses Bloom's curiosity and he imagines writing a story about him. He then contemplates the science of light, the memory of a day he spent with Molly and his reluctance to return home. He rationalizes a previous incident at Barney Kiernan's and envisions a dream he had about Molly. He picks up a stick to write a message in the sand for Gerty but stops midway due to lack of space. He erases the letters and throws the stick. Feeling drowsy, he decides to take a nap and his thoughts blur as he drifts into sleep.

This section of Ulysses explores the evolution of English prose, using various styles from multiple eras. The setting is a maternity hospital, where character Bloom arrives to check on Mrs. Purefoy. Nurse Callan, who knows Bloom, guides him inside. Mrs. Purefoy has been in labor for three days and their conversation about her is told through a medieval prose lens. Dixon, a medical student, invites Bloom into a lively gathering. Bloom is handed a beer but secretly gives it away. A nun requests silence. The group starts talking about medical situations where a doctor must choose between the mother and child's life. Stephen delves into the religious ramifications of this, while others make light jokes about sex and contraception. Bloom, however, is serious, pondering on Mrs. Purefoy and his own wife's labor experience. He also observes Stephen, considering him as wasting his time with this crowd. Stephen pours more beer and debates about the specifics of Mary's pregnancy. This is written in Elizabethan style. Punch Costello interrupts with a lewd song, and Nurse Quigley quiets them down. Stephen's chastity during his youth is brought up as a joke, in a seventeenth-century prose style. A thunderclap scares Stephen, and Bloom tries to comfort him by explaining the science behind thunder. Nearby, Buck Mulligan meets Alec Bannon, who shares about a girl he is seeing in Mullingar. They head to the hospital together. Back at the hospital, the conversation shifts to livestock health and a joke about papal bulls. When Buck arrives, he jests about a new job as a "fertiliser" for all women. Crotthers and Bannon converse about contraception in the style of Lawrence Sterne. Nurse Callan informs Dixon that Mrs. Purefoy has delivered a boy. The men make lewd comments about Nurse Callan, while Bloom is relieved about the baby and disgusted with the men's behavior. The men then discuss a variety of birth-related topics, including Caesarean sections, fathers dying before childbirth, fratricide, artificial insemination, menopause, impregnation by rape, birthmarks, and Siamese twins, and Buck tells a ghost story. Bloom reflects about his younger days, and feels fatherly towards the young men. Then, his mood darkens. He witnesses Lenehan and Lynch upset Stephen by mentioning his unsuccessful poetry career and his deceased mother. The conversation eventually turns to the Gold Cup race, Lynch’s girlfriend Kitty, and the mystery of infant mortality. Bloom lingers behind to ask Nurse Callan to comfort Mrs. Purefoy, and he applauds Mr. Purefoy's virility. As the men scurry to Burke’s bar, the narrative becomes a mix of twentieth-century dialect and slang. They discuss the Gold Cup race and Stephen buys rounds of absinthe. Alec Bannon recognizes Bloom as Milly’s father and quietly leaves. The barman announces the end of drinking time just as the Fire Brigade passes by. After someone throws up, Stephen persuades Lynch to accompany him to the red-light district. A poster about a visiting minister triggers a shift to an American sales-pitch evangelism style.

Episode fifteen unfolds like a drama with stage directions, consisting largely of imagined dialogues fuelled by alcohol and anxiety. Stephen and Lynch wander towards a familiar brothel in Nighttown, Dublin's infamous district, while Bloom trails behind, losing sight of them. Bloom stops to grab a late-night snack at a pork butcher's shop, but then feels guilty about the expenditure. This triggers a vision where Bloom's parents, Molly, and Gerty MacDowell confront him about various wrongdoings. He then runs into Mrs. Breen and they engage in a short-lived flirtation. Bloom feeds his purchase to a stray dog in a dark corner, leading to another vision where he is grilled by two night guards. He is then put on public trial, accused of various crimes, with witnesses like Myles Crawford, Philip Beaufoy, and Paddy Dignam appearing in the form of a dog. Mary Driscoll, the Blooms' ex-housemaid, accuses Bloom of making sexual advances towards her. Zoe Higgins, a prostitute, locates Bloom and suggests that he and Stephen are mourning together. After stealing Bloom's lucky potato, Zoe teases him about his anti-smoking lecture. His lecture morphs into a campaign speech in his imagination, and he becomes the leader of a renewed "Bloomusalem." However, the dream sours when Buck Mulligan accuses him of perverse sexual behaviors and Bloom ends up giving birth to eight children. Brought back to reality by Zoe, Bloom enters Bella Cohen's brothel where Stephen and Lynch are enjoying the company of prostitutes Kitty and Florry. Following a misunderstanding, Florry triggers an apocalyptic vision for Stephen. Bloom experiences another hallucination when his grandfather Lipoti Virag arrives and gives him a lecture on sex. Bella Cohen's entry ignites another long hallucination where she turns into "Bello" and dominates a feminized Bloom, taunts him about his past sins and Boylan's virility, and eventually demands his departure. Bloom's humiliation continues in an afterlife scenario, only ending when he confronts a nymph about her own sexual desires. Upon regaining his senses, Bloom confronts Bella Cohen, retrieves his lucky potato from Zoe, pays the bill, and takes control of Stephen's money as Stephen is intoxicated. Zoe reads his palm, calling him a "henpecked husband." This triggers another hallucination about Boylan and Molly. Conversation turns to Stephen's adventures in Paris, and everyone starts dancing except Bloom. In a horrific vision, Stephen's deceased mother appears, leading to his guilt-riddled outburst. Bella calls for the police as Stephen makes a dramatic exit, followed by Bloom. In the street, Stephen confronts British Army Private Carr, and the situation escalates into a fight. Stephen's pacifist nature is evident. The fight ends with Stephen knocked unconscious as the police arrive. Bloom seeks help from Corny Kelleher to deal with the situation. As the scene clears, Bloom is left tending to a barely conscious Stephen while a vision of his deceased son Rudy appears.

Bloom awakens Stephen and leads him towards a nearby cabman's shelter for a meal. Along the way, he warns Stephen about the perils of Nighttown and dubious "friends". Stephen doesn't reply. They encounter Gumley, an acquaintance of Stephen's father, and later Corley, a destitute associate. Stephen jokingly suggests Corley to take his soon-to-leave position at Deasy's school and gives him some money. Bloom is shocked by Stephen's kindness. Bloom reminds Stephen that he is without a place to sleep as his friends Buck and Haines have abandoned him. He suggests returning to Stephen's father's house and reassures him of his father's pride, but Stephen remains silent, recalling a grim family setting. Upon entering the cabman's shelter, Bloom buys food for Stephen. There, a sailor named D.B. Murphy shares travel stories and shows around a postcard of tribal women. Bloom doubts his identity. Murphy's tales stir Bloom's own modest travel dreams and potential business opportunities in affordable tourism. Murphy shares his experience of witnessing a man being stabbed in Italy, which ignites a discussion on the Phoenix Park murders. Murphy displays his tattoos, which includes a depiction of a friend who was later eaten by sharks. Bloom spots Bridie Kelly outside and quickly hides his face. Upon her departure, he advises Stephen about the dangers of prostitutes. The conversation turns towards theological debates about souls. Bloom encourages Stephen to eat and they resume talking about Murphy's story of the Italian assailant. Bloom agrees that Mediterraneans are temperamental and reveals his wife is part Spanish. He later shares his vision of a society where everyone works and earns a comfortable income. Stephen reacts dismissively, asserting his own importance. Bloom attributes Stephen's rude and erratic behavior to inebriation and a troubled family life. He entertains the idea of writing an article about his experiences in a cabman's shelter. The talk in the shelter shifts to Parnell and his alleged exile. Bloom recalls returning Parnell's lost hat once. He sympathizes with Parnell and his mistress. Bloom shows Stephen a picture of his wife, Molly, and hopes that Stephen will leave his wayward ways. Seeing similarities between them, Bloom invites Stephen to his home for cocoa. He covers Stephen's tab and they leave the shelter, chatting about music and sirens. They end their night walking arm in arm, observed by a streetsweeper.

Episode 17 has a unique narration style, presented in 309 questions and responses, similar to a catechism or philosophical dialogue. Bloom and Stephen journey home, discussing music and politics. On arrival, Bloom realizes he's forgotten his key. He scales the fence, goes through the kitchen and opens the front for Stephen. Bloom prepares tea, but Stephen, a hydrophobe, declines to wash. Items in the kitchen hint at Boylan's earlier visit - a gift basket and betting tickets. The tickets remind Bloom of a misunderstanding about the Gold Cup with Bantam Lyons. Bloom makes cocoa for them, and as they drink, he watches Stephen and reminisces about his own attempts at poetry as a youth. It's revealed that they've met twice before when Stephen was a child. Their personalities contrast - Stephen's is artistic while Bloom's leans towards practicality due to his interest in invention and advertising. They share stories, and Bloom thinks about publishing Stephen's works. They write in Irish and Hebrew together. Stephen recites “Little Harry Hughes,” a medieval tale with anti-Semitic undertones. Stephen's retelling implies he sees both of them in the Christian child character. Bloom, however, is uncomfortable and thinks of his own "Jew's daughter", Millicent. He remembers Milly's childhood and, contemplating a union between Stephen and Milly or Molly, invites Stephen to stay over. Stephen declines, but Bloom returns his money and proposes potential future collaborations. Stephen appears indifferent, leaving Bloom despondent. Bloom escorts Stephen out, they urinate together in the yard under the starry sky that suddenly lights up with a shooting star. They part ways and Bloom, left alone, hears Stephen's fading footsteps. Inside, Bloom walks into moved furniture. He starts to undress and accounts for the room's contents and his daily budget. He dreams about owning a suburban bungalow. He stores a letter from Martha in a locked cabinet and recalls pleasant encounters with Mrs. Breen, Nurse Callan, and Gerty MacDowell. The second drawer holds family documents, including his father's suicide note. Bloom regrets not maintaining his father's traditions like keeping kosher. He appreciates his father's financial legacy, which saved him from destitution and dreams of being an adventurer. Bloom retires to his bedroom, revisiting his day's accomplishments and failures. More signs of Boylan are present. Bloom ponders over Molly's past suitors, Boylan being the latest. He feels jealousy, then resignation. Bloom kisses Molly's behind as he sleeps at the foot of the bed. Molly wakes and Bloom recounts his day, avoiding certain details. He talks about Stephen, portraying him as a professor and author. Molly reflects on their decade-long celibacy, Bloom ponders over the strained relations after Milly's puberty. The episode wraps up with Molly symbolized as "Gea-Tellus," the Earth Mother, while Bloom is depicted as an infant in the womb and a weary sailor at rest. The episode concludes with a typographical dot indicating Bloom's resting place.

Molly Bloom begins her internal dialogue by reflecting on her husband Bloom's request for breakfast in bed. She suspects that he has been unfaithful, and her thoughts turn to her own affair with the virile Boylan. She recalls Bloom's attractiveness during their courtship, and considers their marriage comparable to that of Josie and Denis Breen. Her next train of thought involves her admirers – Boylan, Bartell D'Arcy, and Lt. Gardner. She thinks about Bloom's fetish for underwear and anticipates her upcoming rendezvous with Boylan in Belfast. She also remembers Boylan's fury over Lenehan's failed Gold Cup race tip, considers losing weight and wishes for financial well-being. She recalls her unsuccessful attempt to save Bloom's job. Molly's third thought revolves around the beauty of female bodies and the ridiculousness of male ones. She remembers Bloom's suggestion of posing nude for photographs for financial gain. Her thoughts of this lead her back to her afternoon with Boylan. A train whistle signals her fourth thought, transporting her back to her childhood in Gibraltar and her friendship with Hester Stanhope and her husband. She reflects on the disparity between Milly's communication with her and Bloom and wonders about Boylan's intentions. Molly's fifth thought starts with reminiscing about Lieutenant Mulvey, her first love. Another train whistle prompts her to think about her upcoming performance and her potential stardom had she not married Bloom. She then shifts her position in bed to release gas. Her sixth thought centers around her daughter Milly and her increasing loneliness. She reflects on her strained relationship with Milly and the regrettable fact of her menstruation starting. She realizes that Boylan hasn't impregnated her. In her seventh thought, Molly considers their frequent relocations due to Bloom's financial instability. She worries about his spending habits, especially on other women and the Dignam family. She reminisces about meeting Stephen Dedalus in childhood and plans to impress him with her intellect. Her eighth and final thought is about Bloom's lack of affection and strange sexual preferences. She contemplates a world led by women and the importance of motherhood. Her thoughts return to Stephen and then to her deceased son Rudy. She plans to confront Bloom about her affair and also to purchase flowers for Stephen's anticipated visit. She ends her thoughts recalling the day Bloom proposed to her at Howth, which was a significant moment in her life.

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People who recommended ulysses.

Debbie Millman

Debbie Millman

"I also really love a line from [this book], which is 'The longest way around is the shortest way home.'" - Debbie Millman

Neil Strauss

Neil Strauss

"The book that’s most influenced me." - Neil Strauss

Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens

"[Appears] not to be written by [a human being]." - Christopher Hitchens

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway recommended this book in the "Ernest Hemingway on Writing" book.

Lists that recommended Ulysses

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Can You Recognize This Novel From a One-Line Description?

By J. D. Biersdorfer May 6, 2024

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A blue and white illustration of an open book with the bottom corner depicted as a jigsaw-puzzle piece snapping into place.

Welcome to Lit Trivia, the Book Review’s multiple-choice quiz designed to test your knowledge of books and literary culture. This week’s challenge asks you to identify five famous 20th-century novels based on a very simple one-sentence plot description.

Just tap or click on the title you think is correct to see the answer and a snippet of the original coverage in The Times. After the last question, you’ll find links to the titles in case you’re looking for a something to read.

A man runs around Dublin all day in June 1904.

“Birchwood,” by John Banville

“Borstal Boy,” by Brendan Behan

“Ulysses,” by James Joyce

“Strumpet City,” by James Plunkett

A young girl grows up in an impoverished urban area and, inspired by nature’s tenacity, strives to get an education as a key to success in life.

“Angels on Toast,” by Dawn Powell

“Brown Girl, Brownstones,” by Paule Marshall

“My Sister Eileen,” by Ruth McKenney

“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” by Betty Smith

A man recalls his childhood and young adulthood in high society for thousands of pages and has a memorable encounter with a snack food.

“The Remains of the Day,” by Kazuo Ishiguro

“In Search of Lost Time,” by Marcel Proust

“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” by James Joyce

“The Grapes of Wrath,” by John Steinbeck

An American in Paris, dealing with social alienation and other issues, has a relationship with an Italian bartender.

“Paris France,” by Gertrude Stein

“Giovanni’s Room,” by James Baldwin

“Gigi and the Cat,” by Colette

“The Ambassadors,” by Henry James

A clairvoyant woman keeps a journal for decades and records the dramatic lives of several generations of her family through love and political upheaval.

“In the Time of the Butterflies,” by Julia Alvarez

“The Kitchen God’s Wife,” by Amy Tan

“Paradise,” by Toni Morrison

“The House of the Spirits,” by Isabel Allende

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COMMENTS

  1. Ulysses

    James Joyce. Ulysses, novel by Irish writer James Joyce, first published in book form in 1922. Stylistically dense and exhilarating, it is generally regarded as a masterpiece and has been the subject of numerous volumes of commentary and analysis. The novel is constructed as a modern parallel to Homer 's Odyssey.

  2. Ulysses (novel)

    Ulysses is a modernist novel by the Irish writer James Joyce.Parts of it were first serialized in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, and the entire work was published in Paris by Sylvia Beach on 2 February 1922, Joyce's fortieth birthday. It is considered one of the most important works of modernist literature and has been called "a demonstration and ...

  3. Ulysses by James Joyce Plot Summary

    Ulysses Summary. James Joyce's famously dense and unconventional modernist novel Ulysses follows the advertiser Leopold Bloom as he goes about his day in Dublin, Ireland on June 16, 1904. Although the novel's plot is deceptively simple, its structure, style, and literary and historical references are incredibly complex.

  4. Book Summary

    Book Summary. Ulysses begins at about 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 16, 1904, in Dublin, Ireland, when one of its major participants, young Stephen Dedalus, awakens and interacts with his two housemates, the egotistical medical student, Buck Mulligan, and the overly reserved English student, Haines. The narrative ends some twenty-four hours later ...

  5. Ulysses Plot Summary by James Joyce

    The story of 'Ulysses' begins on June 16, 1904, in Dublin, Ireland, and concludes at some point after 2 a.m. on June 17, in the Blooms' home at 7 Eccles Street. At 8 a.m., the action starts in Martello Tower, a coastal fortification from the Napoleonic wars, just outside of central Dublin. At 8:00 A.M., Leopold Bloom prepares breakfast ...

  6. Ulysses Summary

    Ulysses is a 1922 novel by Irish author James Joyce.The story is a loose adaptation of Homer's epic poem The Odyssey, portraying a day in the lives of several characters who live in Dublin, Ireland, in June 1904. Ulysses proved controversial on release due to accusations of obscenity but is now celebrated as one of the most important and influential works in the English language.

  7. Ulysses Summary

    Ulysses Summary. Joyce's novel is set in Dublin on the day of June 16, 1904 and the protagonist, Leopold Bloom, is a middle-aged Jew whose job as an advertisement canvasser forces him to travel throughout the city on a daily basis. While Bloom is Joyce's "Ulysses" character, the younger hero of the novel is Stephen Dedalus, the autobiographical ...

  8. Ulysses Summary and Study Guide

    Ulysses, the eponymous speaker of Alfred Tennyson's famous poem, is originally a figure from Homer's epics. (Ulysses is known as "Odysseus" in Homer's ancient Greek poems, but this name is translated into Latin and English as "Ulysses.") In Homer's Iliad, Ulysses is the clever Greek who comes up with the idea for the Trojan ...

  9. Ulysses Summary

    Ulysses Summary. Tennyson's "Ulysses" is a dramatic monologue about an aging hero who is struggling to find meaning in his life after returning home from many years of adventuring. The speaker ...

  10. Ulysses Plot Summary

    Summary. Ulysses begins on Thursday, June 16, 1904, in Dublin, Ireland, and ends sometime after 2 a.m. on Friday, June 17, in the Blooms' house at 7 Eccles Street. The action begins at 8 a.m., just outside central Dublin in a Martello Tower, a coastal fortification dating to the Napoleonic wars. Stephen Dedalus is in mourning for his mother ...

  11. Ulysses: Novel by James Joyce

    The title of the book shows the mythological framework of the novel. Odysseus is the parallel of Ulysses; Telemachus is the parallel of Stephen Dedalus while Milly Bloom parallels Penelope. The apparently trivial experiences of these characters of June 16,1904 constitute the entire universe of human impulses in the modern bourgeois world.

  12. UlyssesGuide.com

    A guide for readers of James Joyce's novel Ulysses, including background info, individual episode guides, photographs, maps, and other helpful resources. ... Famously, not much happens in this book, yet all of life is contained in its pages. In terms of plot, the novel depicts the events of one day (June 16th, 1904) in one smallish European ...

  13. Ulysses Summary

    Ulysses SummaryDescription. Here you will find a Ulysses summary (James Joyce's book). We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section. P.S.: As an Amazon Associate, we earn money from purchases made through links in this page.

  14. Ulysses Section Summaries

    Summary. Part 1, Episode 1. The first episode begins at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 16, 1904. The action takes place on the outskirts of Dublin. Buc... Read More. Part 1, Episode 2. It is ten o'clock in the morning. Stephen is teaching a history class at the Dalkey School.

  15. What's the Point of Reading Ulysses?

    Ulysses is the story of a day in the life of Leopold Bloom as he travels Dublin and goes about his business, attending a funeral, buying soap, going to the Library, walking by the beach, going to the pub etc. But it's a satire so this is all written as if it were a classic epic like The Odyssey, hence the title.

  16. PDF Summary of Ulysses

    and let the pages of Ulysses Annotated unlock a world of unparalleled beauty, complexity, and profound understanding. In the upcoming text, we will be deliberating on the three most crucial concepts extracted from this book. 1. Ulysses Annotated is a complex and richly layered work that requires careful analysis and reference to fully ...

  17. Chapter Summaries

    Chapter 1, 2 & 3- Ships and Men, The Ciconians & The Lotus-Eaters. Please click this document to see a slideshow that summarizes the events in Chapter 1. In Chapters 1, Ships and Men, Ulysses starts his journey home to Ithaca. In Chapter 2, The Ciconians, Ulysses attempts to attack the Ciconians, and is successful in stealing their loot.

  18. How Many of These Novels Can You Guess Based on Very Simple Summaries

    This week's challenge asks you to identify five famous 20th-century novels based on a very simple one-sentence plot description. Just tap or click on the title you think is correct to see the ...