Ulysses: Theme Analysis

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Father-son relationships
This relationship runs as a main strand through the course of the novel. As well as the references to Bloom and his dead son Rudy, who he imagines as a fairy child in 'Circe', and Simon and Stephen Dedalus, the surrogate father and son relationship between Stephen and Bloom is of paramount importance.
This latter bond may not be so evident to the first-time reader; however, it becomes more transparent when one notes the loose structure that draws on The Odyssey, and the correspondence of Stephen with Telemachus and Bloom and Odysseus/Ulysses. The final chapter is significant, then, for drawing on the homecoming of Odysseus and re-working it for this novel.
Further to these examples of fathers and sons, it worth asking about the relevance and implications of these relationships in this text. There are significant moments in 'Circe' and throughout Chapter Three which allow the readers to see the younger and older male as representing the future and the past for each other.
These relationships are also used to represent how rivalry between men is prefigured in this primal bond (as with Stephen and Simon). However, the connection made between Stephen and Bloom enables a questioning of this supposed natural state: Stephen and Bloom offer the possibility of friendship.
Irish nationalism
This subject is broached intermittently and is constantly examined. The citizen of the 'Cyclops' episode is one of the most virulent, and bigoted, of the characters who favor nationalism, despise the English and is a devotee of the revival in Irish games. His despicable treatment of Bloom ensures that his (the citizen's) views are put into question. Therefore, Irish nationalism is not accepted easily.
As a counter to the citizen, Ulysses is also careful to challenge British Imperialism, which has historically used Ireland as a colony rather than an independent state. The criticisms of this union are enacted through the headmaster, Deasy, who works at the school where Stephen teaches. Deasy's protestant values and love for the pride the English take in saving money are referred to.
When it is noted that both he and the citizen display the same anti-semitism, it becomes evident that the issue of Irish nationalism is not simplified here. The extreme polar positions, as offered by Deasy and the citizen, are criticized through the opinions of the representative characters.
The outsider
Through the wandering figure of Bloom, Ulysses depends on the outsider to hold a mirror up to prejudice. This is most evident in Bloom's encounters with other men who refuse to relinquish their jaded perspectives. Specifically, Bloom's disagreement with the citizen (in 'Cyclops') demonstrates both how narrow-minded the citizen is and how Bloom is not accepted for his difference. The generic title of citizen emphasizes how this prejudiced, one-eyed man is accepted into the community, whereas Bloom is easily turned into a scapegoat or a sacrifice for those who are blind or impaired when it comes to understanding tolerance and truth.
The prejudices against Bloom are given voice through anti-semitic terminology. He is also seen with distrust in Barney Kierney's (in 'Cyclops') because of his supposed effeminacy. The critical men are thus exposed as intolerable of difference. Because Bloom is Jewish, rational and fair, and able to consider how women think, he is emphatically an outsider. It is worth remembering that, through Bloom, the concept of the outsider is questioned as the readers are drawn to favor the 'unconquering hero' rather than the 'swilling' bragging men. Furthermore, the tolerance of difference and love are prescribed instead of misogyny, homophobia and anti-semitism.

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