Term Paper: James Joyce's Ulysses: Chapter

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[. . .] During the chapter, it also becomes clear that Stephen is finding less and less satisfaction in living with Mulligan. At one point he tells Mulligan he will leave the tower if Haines does not leave. Mulligan replies by telling Stephen to scutter, saying it an offhand way as if it makes no difference to him what Stephen does. This shows a lack of real regard for Stephen. Stephen stating that he will leave can be considered, not as a real threat, but as a way for him to test Mulligan. In Mulligan's reply, Stephen sees that Mulligan does not care for him at all. At the end of the chapter, Stephen then decides that he cannot go back to the tower. This decision represents the beginning of his quest to find what is missing in his life. With the issue of his mother presented, this suggests that his quest is based on family. With Stephen leaving because Mulligan shows no regard for him, this suggests that his quest is to find the father figure he needs. In this way, this first chapter sets up the major problem that the novel will eventually resolve. This begins in later chapters when the character of Leopold Bloom is introduced. Bloom is a middle-aged man whose only son died. This leaves Bloom with a hole in his life that can be filled by taking on a fatherly role. This makes Bloom what Stephen is looking for, and Stephen what Bloom is looking for. The central plot of the novel then revolves around these two individuals meeting and the eventual bond that forms between them.

The setting of the novel is also introduced in the first chapter. This is especially important because the novel offers criticism on the Irish society of the time. As noted earlier, Mulligan and Stephen are opposites in terms of their characteristics and in terms of how successful they each are. While Mulligan has the lesser character, it is Mulligan that is more successful in life. This offers a criticism of society by raising questions about why those of lesser character should be the ones succeeding. At the beginning of the first chapter, Mulligan is introduced with the following paragraph:

Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned: Introibo ad altare Dei."

This description offers an image of Mulligan as a king. Coming from the stairhead, creates an image of Mulligan descending from the stairs in a palace. The dressinggown "sustained gently behind him" creates an image of the royal robes of a king. Holding the bowl aloft and speaking creates an image of a king addressing his subjects. The language in this paragraph also has a distinguished tone that suggests royalty. For example, he is not carrying a bowl of lather, he is "bearing" a bowl of lather. The dressinggown is not just flowing behind him, but is "sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air." He is not just holding the bowl up, he is holding it "aloft." Finally, he did not just speak, he "intoned." Overall, this creates the image of Mulligan as the king in this situation. Therefore, while the setting is really just an apartment in Ireland, it becomes clear that Mulligan is the individual with power in this setting. While these royal aspects are present, the author also makes it clear that the setting is just an average flat in Ireland and that the events presented are just average people getting ready for the day. This represents that Joyce is transferring the quests generally associated with royal figures and applying them to everyday life. Joyce recognizes that the same power plays occur at the everyday level. In modern society, real power is not maintained in the hands of royalty, but in the hands of the people. Therefore, in many ways, Mulligan can be considered as taking on the role of king. Overall, this represents the idea that individuals like Mulligan hold the power in the Irish society of the time. Mulligan can be considered as the king of poor character, while Stephen is the subject of higher character that suffers at the hands of the king. This represents a criticism of society, where the main point is that the shallow and careless find what they need in society, while the intellectual and artistic individuals do not. Stephen eventually does find what he needs in Bloom, which is essentially, fatherly support. In regards to setting, this represents what is missing in modern society. Modern society does not provide the support structures that people with depth require and so forces them to fail, while those with weaker characters prosper.

It is also worth considering the style of the opening chapter, as it is important for setting the tone for the remainder of the novel and also contributing to the themes of the novel. The most important elements are language, imagery, and mood, with each of these contributing to the meaning of the novel.

One of the important aspects of the first chapter is the comparison of the two characters Mulligan and Stephen, where these two characters represents the two opposites in society. The differences between the two characters, and especially the implied value of the two characters, is enhanced by the language used. A good example of Mulligan's spoken language is seen in the following dialogue where he complains about Haines,

He thinks you're not a gentleman. God, these bloody English. Bursting with money and indigestion. Because he comes from Oxford. You know, Dedalus; you have the real Oxford manner. He can't make you out. O, my name for you is the best: Kinch, the knife-blade."

The language in this dialogue lacks any poetic quality. The short sentences seem stagnated, giving Mulligan's speech an uneducated quality. The use of words like "bloody" and "indigestion" give the speech a base quality. The effect of this must be compared with the language used to describe Mulligan to see its effect. The following narration is a good example of this language,

Solemnly he came forward and mounted the round gunrest. He faced about and blessed gravely thrice the tower, the surrounding country and the awaking mountains."

In this passage, the language is elegant and the description has a poetic quality. The sentences are long and have a formal quality, a major contrast to the stagnated sentences of the dialogue. The use of words and phrases like "faced about," "blessed gravely," and "awaking mountains" suggests a beautiful image that is a major contrast to the base quality seen in Mulligan's dialogue. If Mulligan's character was constructed on narration and not on dialogue, it might be concluded that Mulligan is a person of high character and someone who should be respected. However, the dialogue of Mulligan works against this effect and presents him as a person of low character. The most important point about this quality of the language is that it shows the difference between how Mulligan appears and how he really is. The positive view presented by the narration describes how he is perceived, while the dialogue describes how he really is.

The effect of the language is also important in presenting Stephen's character. One good example of this is seen when Stephen's dream about his mother is described,

Silently, in a dream she had come to him after her death, her wasted body within its loose brown grave-clothes giving off an odour of wax and rosewood, her breath, that had bent upon him, mute, reproachful, a faint odour of wetted ashes. Across the threadbare cuffedge he saw the sea hailed as a great sweet mother by the wellfed voice beside him."

This narration has an elegant quality. The sentences are long, the images have a beauty about them, and there is a lot of depth to the passage. This represents that Stephen has a depth to his character that Mulligan does not. It also represents that Stephen has an emotional awareness that Mulligan does not. Comparing the two examples of language, Stephen appears as the more intelligent and educated individual. This is in contrast to how he seems to appear to everyone else, since he is the least successful of the two characters. This suggests that there are two levels of reality in the world. There is what appears real from what can be seen. However, this is just perception and does not represent truth. There is also real reality, which is what lies beneath the surface of a person but cannot necessarily be seen. The language used effectively makes this distinction, which is an important point in recognizing the difference between Mulligan and Stephen.

Imagery is also important to the first chapter, with the major images presented religious in nature. This begins in the opening section where Mulligan… [END OF PREVIEW]

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