The moral of Ulysses

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Master's Theses
The moral of Ulysses
Charles Carlyle Cosby

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Cosby, Charles Carlyle, "The moral of Ulysses" (1974). Master's Theses. Paper 365.
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MAY 1974

Approved for the Department of English and the Graduate School by
Second Reader
t11~J.~ ? ( _L . Thesis Director ~~ e Department


INTRODUCTION • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •





II. HEROES IN DIFFERENT TIMES . . . . . . . . . . 31 m. THE ATTEMPTED UNION. . . . . . . . . . . . . 57

F O O T N O T E S• . • •


BIBLIOGRAPHY •• • • • • • • . . . . • • • • • • • • • •


I would like to dedicate this thesis to a number of people who either aided me in my work or tolerated it. I would first like to express my warm appreciation to Dr. Alan Loxterman my director, who was always at hand to aid me in my work, whether I called him late in the evening or visited him on the week-ends, early in the morning. I would like to thank Dr. Fred White !or being my second reader .and Dr. Lynn Dickerson and Mrs. Ann Loxterman for answe ring questions I had when I was either unable to reach Dr. Loxterman or was afraid of nagging him to death. I would like to thank my parents and in-laws for their constant goading and encouragement. To Mrs. Dale McCandless, my typist, I would like to extend my thanks for her excellent job of typing. And last, but certainly not least, I would like to express appreciation to my wife, Cathy, who kept up my spirits, put up with many lost weekends and endured an endless overwhelming mass of clutter about my desk.


Many critics are confused about the total meaning of James Joyce's Ulysses. David Daiches in The Novel and the Modern World states that "critics can acclaim the style, the organisation, the complexity, the insight, the ingenuity, and many other separate
I aspects of the work, but what are they to say of the whole?" Daiches is obviously among those critics who pass Ulysses off as art for art's sake. On the other hand, William M. Schutte points out that critics who have a good deal to say about Ulysses as a whole are unfortunately saying the wrong things. These critics whom Schutte attacks believe that Ulysses comes to a happy and fruitful close, while it is my intention in this thesis to support Schutte 1s contention that Ulysses ends in utter failure, since Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus
2 will never join together in a common purpose to save Ireland. Along with maintaining Schutte 1s contention, I intend to prove that Joyce is making a strong moral statement in Ulysses through Blo~~ and Stephen's inability to join together. Joyce is attempting to show to Ireland and the world the need for a union of understanding between men which will enab~e them to join their talents and to strive together in a common and purposeful endeavour to better their condition.
Schutte outlines the arguments of those critics who support the view of a beneficial ending in Ulysses and he then refute.s their thesis. Schutte says that Stuart Gilbert planted the germ of the theory that everything turns out all right in the end in Ulysses. Gilbert states that

throughout Ulysses "there is a continuous movement towards a preordained event, the meeting of Stephen and Bloom" and that "there is an intermittent telepathic communication, a seepage of current, so to speak, between Stephen and Mr. Bloom••• " Edmund Wilson maintains that in Ulysses Stephen has at last "found in Dublin someone" --meaning Bloom--"sufficiently sympathetic to himself to give him the clew, to supply him with the subject, which will enable him to enter imaginatively--as an artist--into the common life of his race." Wilson also maintains that Stephen will go away to write Ulysses. W. Y. Tindall is in full agreement with Wilson on this point and adds to it his assertion that Stephen will write Finnegan's Wake.
The critics, A. J. A. Waldock and William Perry, indicate in their criticisms of Ulysses that Wilson's reading of Ulysses "carried considerable weight." Waldock says that Stephen encounters his "predestined subject in Bloom," and that Stephen and Bloom both "find themselves" through their meeting. Perry asserts that "Stephen has not merely encountered his predestined subject, he has also undergone a complete perspnality readjustment," meaning that Stephen progresses
. ~. from a narcissistic person into a "detached but compassionate Joyce. t1
Schutte points out the weakness in these critics' arguments by specifically attacking Wilson. Schutte says that Wilson has no concrete evidence with which 'to show that the meeting of Stephen and Bloom "has a beneficial effect on Stephen. t1 Thus, Schutte maintains that Wilson re sorts "to the questionable procedure of assuming--and asking us to assume--that Stephen and Joyce are one, that because Joyce's Ulysses is dated 1914, the year in which Stephen planned to give a masterpiece

to the world, a Stephen must have written it. n Schutte explains:
Although Wilson's assumption may seem a logical extension of the known fact that some of 'the events in Stephen Dedalus' life are based on events in Joyce's·life, it would have to be rejected even if 'Eumaeus' and 'Ithaca' were not taken into account. For o!ie thing, Joyce's whole aesthetic t~eory is . solidly opposed to any attempt to equate Joyce with Stephen: its basic assumption is that the author's personality must be refined out of a work of art. For another, Stephen at no time in the day shows himself in any way sympathetic towal!'d· or understanding of 'the common life of his race'; on the contrary, he has done everything he can to cut himself off from the life around him. Even if, as Wilson asserts, Stephen does discover his subject in Bloom, Joyce has proven him hopelessly inadequate to the task of even seeing that subject, let alone understanding it or writing about it. 3
This then is the disaster of Ulysses, that Stephen Dedalus and
Leopold Bloom have not been able to join together in an ideal bond of.
friendship and understanding. Stephen cannot, and will not ever be
able to understand the Blooms of this world. He needs desperately the
humanity and the ab~lity to accept the physical environment of a Bloom.
Bloom needs some of the pride and intellectual toughness of a Stephen.
"The great irony" of Ulysses "is that although each has qualities which
· the other needs if he is to achieve a meaningful relationship to the
world, and although the two men are thrown together in circumstances
which encourage intimacy, they are unable to take the first step
toward the achievement of mutual understanding. The fact that they
have certain interests in common--music, religion,· medicine and so ·
on--only underlines their inability to communicate.... Usually one is
talking a language which the other does not understand, or else the 4
two are talking at cross purposes. "

Bloom and Stephen carry the potential for the regeneration of life in Ireland, but they are unable to communicate. If they could truly converse they might be able to forge a robust new world. "And insofar as they represen.t l.arge segments of 5humanity, they might make a new Dublin and a new life for mankind.'' Joyce's friend Arthur Power once remarked to Joyce that he wished to become "international. " "For myself," Joyce answered, "! always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities
6 of the world. In the particular is contained the universal." Joyce did reach the heart of Dublin in Ulysses through his probing art, and thus he reached the quintessence of mankind. From his perspective the only optimistic solution he could offer to the difficulties of modern man was the hope of a possible communion of purpose and understanding, if man could but learn to communicate.
Thus, Joyce is attempting to make a moral statement in Ulysses, which is that men must learn to communicate with one another, and must share their own particular talents and understanding if the world is to be made better. Robert S. Ryf, in A New Approach to
Ulysses, reminds one that "011: more than one occasion Joyce placed
his writings in a moral frame of reference. In a letter to his publisher he said of Dubliners, 'My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country. 1 At the end of the Portrait Stephen says 'Welcome, O life. I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated
7 conscience of my race. 111 Joyce, in a letter postmarked 22 August, 1912, to Nora Joyce, his wife, says, "I am one of the writers of this

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The moral of Ulysses