The Literary Style and Devices Used in Ulysses

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James Joyce's novel “Ulysses“ is by many critic’s thoughts one of the most influential if not the most influential novel of the 20th century. He used a “stream-of-consciousness” style of writing with which he enabled every reader to follow the character’s inner thoughts, Bloom’s actions and desires, his needs and his inner state. He and his piece of work is credited with “stepping outside of the box” and moving from outdated and contemporary ideas concerning the roles of novels and what a novel could actually do among its readers. His style of writing and his ideas show us that he, more than his other contemporary writers, came to a conclusion that the way in which an author writes his work, determines what the writer is capable of writing about. He instead of being limited by them decided to use several different writing styles in his work and try to master them. Although Ulysses is best known for stream of consciousness, the style of novel is flexible, and that allows the writer to change the form of writing according to the content of his writing. He dared to “step out of the box” and take and ordinary man to represent a heroic figure in his novel. He somehow managed to reveal to us, his readers, that ordinary can be extraordinary. That is one of the reasons why people should still read Ulysses and why people consider it to be a masterpiece of his time.

James Augustine Aloysius Joyce, born in Dublin, was an Irish short story writer, novelist and poet. He is considered to be one of the greatest and most influential authors of the 20th century. With his novel Ulysses and usage of stream-of-consciousness as a writing style, he became known; he became “famous” in literary world. He came from a big family, and was the eldest of then children. His father was a very talented singer, but had problems with alcohol so he couldn’t always provide for his family. Nevertheless, because of his intelligence, Joyce’s family pressed him to get an education and somehow managed to get the needed money. Not only did he show extraordinary intelligence, he also had a gift for writing and great passion for all literary work which is seen through the fact that he, burning with desire to read Henrik Ibsen’s works, taught himself Norwegian language. He published his first book called Dubliners in 1914, and it consisted of 15 short stories. Later he wrote another book, “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” after which Ezra Pound praised his unusual style. In 1914, after Dubliners, he started writing a novel which, he was not aware of at that time, but would make him worldwide famous, and that novel is called Ulysses.

In the Ulysses, the story takes place on the date 16th June 1904, which is the same date he met his future wife Nora. The novel recounts a story about three main characters, Leopold Bloom, his wife Molly Bloom and Stephen Dedalus. Along with that, this novel represents modern version of Homer’s Odyssey, with three central characters that serve as a modern substitution of Ulysses, Penelope and Telemachus.

The revolutionary “stream of consciousness” style Joyce used enabled every single reader not only to follow Bloom’s actions, but to also be a part of his inner world. Even though he did not invent it, he was brave enough to use it and make it modern. He makes us become in a way intimately familiar with thoughts and states of his character, no matter how scattered or partial they may be. The writer managed not only to do this but to also move this journey from the sphere of external experiences to the sphere of the inner ones, the sphere of the mind, and while doing so he makes a hero out of a typical urban man.

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As said in previous paragraphs, for that time in which Joyce lived, to take an ordinary man and portray him as a hero in Aristotelian terms, took a lot of courage and imagination to do. We are not talking about stereotypical “perfect” hero, but rather about good but not so perfect person who we can all, in some way, relate. It is undoubtedly one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, and its greatness is shown with the fact that even today, a century later, the novel is still read and discussed. Even though a century has already passed, people who have read Ulysses can without a doubt still empathize with Leopold Bloom.

Moreover, not only did Joyce succeed to almost break out of the “realm of realism”, by portraying an ordinary man into a tragic hero, he managed to capture his city, Dublin, in a way that every writer would feel envy of him and his piece of art. Taking him as an example, many artists tried to recreate their own homelands, but only few of them managed to do as nearly good job as Joyce did.

While reading through chapters of “Ulysses”, we come across parts where Joyce puts events from everyday life, side by side to mythology and Greek poetry. He uses pub songs and the ad slogans that pop up in different chapters in the novel. With those pictures he shows his readers that their everyday lives pursue classic patterns. He wanted to teach us that we don’t have to go to museums or theatres to look for culture, culture can be found everywhere, even in mundane, plain activities.

In the very beginning, “Ulysses” was meant to be one of the short stories in Joyce’s first book called “Dubliners”. It supposed to be based on an actual experience that the writer had during his lifetime. It should originally be about a literate youthful teacher who had a quarrel with an English police officer and was protected by a Jewish man. As we know, after he started to write it down it simply outgrew the short story and became a novel of its own. Even though it is a very hard book to read, we should be pleased that he decided to write “Ulysses” as a novel and not as a short story because it maybe wouldn’t have as much importance as it has today, and maybe he wouldn’t be able to teach us so many things as he did in the end. The form of a novel gave him enough space to perfect the writing style; stream of consciousness, and to teach us that even we, ordinary people can be extraordinary, just like Leopold Bloom.

As we know, Joyce’s “Ulysses” was first published in Paris in 1922, but before the novel was published as a whole, it was serialized in an American journal in 1918. When the time came to publish the chapter from the novel called “Nausicaa”, the publication was accused of vulgarity and was censored until 1933 when a judge decided that the book was not pornographic nor vulgar but simply revolutionary. The U.S. was not the only country that banned this book, even his homeland considered it obscene.

Why am I writing all this information? Simply to show you that Joyce was truly ahead of his time, he was thinking “outside of the box” and in that way showed the entire world, not just his contemporary writers and readers, but to us also, that we should be courageous and we shouldn’t fear to be “Big”. Meaning that we shouldn’t be afraid to shake things up and revolutionize a field we enjoy working at, even more today in the 21st century than in the past, we could really use those advices. Should we wonder why he decided to explore big situations through small happenings in everyday lives and why he was so eager to show us that common people can be big and meaningful? Maybe he just wanted to write something new, unseen in the literature at that time or maybe he wanted to show us that big things can happen to small people if we just have courage to do so. Just like he did in his works, just like he did in “Ulysses”, giving his language power to say anything he wanted, without being constrained by any style or form or time he was living in. It is known that the tradition of writing great and famous literature begins all the way back with Homer and the Greeks after them it moved to Chaucer, Shakespeare and other English writers, so for most Irishmen, literature before Joyce was not something that belonged to them. That’s why Joyce and his work still has strong significance among people in the 21st century. He showed by writing one of the greatest novels in the English language that we shouldn’t be afraid of the unknown and try just like Leopold Bloom to be our own Aristotelian heroes, good and moral but not perfect.

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