Ulysses Relationships Term Paper

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Ulysses

Relationships in Ulysses

To say that Ulysses by James Joyce is complex would be an understatement. Joyce is known for his rich characters and the creation of conflict through tensions in relationships. The relationships that Joyce explores are not always between two people. Sometimes relationships in Joyce's work are with institutions or other entities. Joyce managed to break traditional conventions as far as plot and characters are concerned. However, Joyce gives the reader much insight into how his characters think. The following will explore how Joyce addresses relationships on various levels by exploring the character of Stephen.

Stephen Dedalus, "Kinch" is the young hero of the story. Stephen symbolically represents Telemachus in "The Odyssey." Leopold Bloom would be "Ulysses" in the novel. Stephen is a schoolteacher who has recently returned to Dublin after a time in Paris. Stephen is haunted by several "ghosts." The first ghost that haunts Stephen is the recent death of his mother. The second ghost is Stephens's recent spiritual severance from Ireland and the Catholic Church. Stephen was named Kinch by his roommate Malachi "Buck" Mulligan. The name Kinch means knife, an apparent stab at Stephens' wit and humor.

Stephen, Mulligan, and Haines

The first relationship that we will explore is Stephen's relationship with his roommate, Mulligan. It becomes apparent in the opening of the first chapter that this relationship is a strained one, but through no fault of Stephens. Mulligan teases Stephen about his the recent death of his mother. He openly accuses Stephen of being responsible for her death because Stephen refused her requests for prayer on her deathbed. This scene paints Mulligan as selfish and opportunistic. We find that Stephen is the butt of many of Mulligan's jokes. Stephen is emotionally victimized by Mulligan and his cruelty. Stephen is the only one paying rent for their flat in Martello Tower.

One wonders from the very beginning why Stephen puts up with this abuse. Stephen begins to feel like an outsider when Haines, the other roommate, and Mulligan become closer. Mulligan comes across as a bully personality from the very beginning. He apparently gains some type of pleasure, or power trip by belittling Stephen. Mulligan is good at masking his true feeling with sarcasm and cruelty. It is difficult to read Mulligan because he never reveals his true feelings.

Chapter one is titled, "Telemachus" which reveals many unspoken details about the first chapter. Telemachus is a prince who is just entering adulthood. His castle is being overrun by young suitors who are there to court his mother with hopes of gaining the crown. Telemachus is advised by the Greek goddess of wisdom to seek out his father, who is rumored to be dead. His reason for striking out is two fold. One the surface he wishes to find his father. However, he also needs to find his own self-worth because he feels like the disrespected son of a forgotten king. He does not have a place in the castle or a feeling of purpose in his life. One cannot understand Joyce's allegory without first reading and understanding "The Odyssey."

Stephen parallels Telemachus in many ways during the first chapter. When he gives his only key to the flat to Malachi he is giving up control of his castle to Malachi. Stephen pays the rent, but does not have control in his own domain. He is feeling confused about his place in the world after his mother's death and return from Paris. Mulligan takes advantage of Stephen by playing on his guilt and confusion. Mulligan gets his sense of power by demonstrating his ability to exercise control over those whom he admires. The relationship between Stephen and Mulligan develops into a power contest between the two. Stephen's lack of a father figure in his life sets him up to play the victim.

Stephen and Haines are both intellectuals that are on almost equal ground. Neither Stephen nor Mulligan actually enjoys spending time with Haines. Haines is from an aristocratic background and has little in common with Stephen and Mulligan. Haines is used a tool for comparison. As we explore the personality of Haines, we can see many characteristics of Mulligan and Stephen. For example, we see how the intellectual side of Stephen could be turned into the snobbishness that we see in Haines. Mulligan uses people for his personal sense of power, much like Haines does. However, it is interesting that Mulligan flatters Haines so that he can use him to ostracize Stephen. This is a move to control Stephen.

Joyce uses this trio of power plays to explore the issues of power and control in relationships. Each of the three roommates tries to manipulate the others so that they can gain control. Stephen is the only one who actually has any real control and power in the situation. His name is on the lease and is the one making the payments. Stephen is the only one that actually has possession of the flat in a legal sense. Stephen could throw the others out on the street at any time that he chooses with no real consequence to himself. From a pragmatic standpoint, Stephen is the most powerful of the trio. However, from an emotional standpoint, he is the weakest of the three. Let us examine these relationships more closely.

Stephen is the only one real control over the power. As we mentioned, he is in much the same position as Telemachus in this respect. Telemachus is the rightful heir to his castle. Like Telemachus, Stephen does not have complete control over his domain in a real sense. Malachi is much like the suitors of Telemachus' mother. They are trying to take over and usurp power from the rightful owner. Both Stephen and Telemachus must find their father to resolve the situation and take back their rightful place on the throne. Telemachus is going on a physical journey to find his father. However, Stephens' search for his father is an emotional one. Both Telemachus and Stephen have lost their mothers in once sense. Telemachus has lost his mother emotionally to the suitors. Stephen has lost his mother physically.

Stephen does not have a male role model that serves as an example of strength. Stephen's only role model has been his mother, and he acts as a victim in the way he handles Mulligan and Haines. He simply gives over his key to the apartment to Mulligan. The key, in this case represents the power over access to the "castle." Stephen apparently does not see through Mulligan's abusive emotional games and therefore does not see the real importance of the key and its relationship to the power dynamics that are going on at the time. Stephen is rather naive in his willingness to simply give over the key to Mulligan.

Chapter one is written from the view of Stephen. We are given certain clues to the power play that would not have been apparent if we were not able to hear Stephen's inner dialogue with himself. Joyce writes this chapter much as a stream of consciousness. We all have an internal dialogue. It does not always progress in an orderly fashion. Our thoughts jump around from topic to topic and go on many side trips to get the central idea. This is what Chapter One does. The reader gets to hear Stephen's internal dialogue as he moves through his encounters on this particular day. We learn many important facts from this perspective.

Stephen reveals that he is desperate to become a respected artist. However, in his actions, we find that he willingly gives away power to those that have not earned it. We learn that he harbors some guilt over his mother's death. Mulligan sees this and twists it into an accusation that Stephen caused his mother's death by his refusal to pray. However, we know that this is irrational because his mother was apparently seriously ill and would have died anyway. We discover these vulnerabilities in Stephen and get an example of how they can be turned against him and used to someone else's advantage. Mulligan demonstrates the ability to successfully play on Stephen's vulnerabilities.

The hostility between Stephen and Mulligan is unspoken, but we know of it through Stephen's dialogue. Stephen's mind is full of trivia that appears to be relatively useless, considering his inability to use it to attain his own personal goals. Stephen can be summarized as having a brilliant and talented mind, but unable to put it to good use due to his emotional vulnerabilities. Introducing the reader to his facts is the purpose for Chapter One. Joyce introduces Stephen and sets the stage for how his vulnerabilities can be used to bully him into submission. Chapter One is about power and control in relationships, especially those between paternity and maternity.

Paternal vs. Maternal Relationships

Joyce uses his main characters and their mythological counterparts to explore the different types of relationships that exist within family units. Paternal and maternal relationships… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Ulysses Relationships.  (2006, December 8).  Retrieved December 13, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/ulysses-relationships-say/48521

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