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History, Memory, and Relationships with the Past in James Joyce’s Ulysses

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  1. Introduction
  2. The begining of the novel
  3. Portraying absolute value systems
  4. Irish nationalism
    1. The seemingly forward thinking Irish nationalists
  5. A complete ignorance of the past and a lack of regret
  6. Bloom as a forward thinking individual
    1. Bloom's relationship with Stephen
  7. The ideal relationship with the past
  8. The episode of Wandering Rocks
  9. The multi styled form of Ulysses
  10. Conclusion
  11. Works cited

The past can be a daunting thing. From personal memory to history at large, the past has the power to bury those unable to establish a healthy relationship with it. One can easily become trapped ? paralyzed ? in the past through guilt, regret, or nostalgia, emotions generated based upon socially-constructed ideological frameworks of absolutes. James Joyce's novel, Ulysses, represents an ideal relationship with the past in its narrative, its structure, and its form, a relationship in which history acts as a base from which to build a future. By presenting the paralyzing dangers of becoming trapped in history and highlighting how one might grow towards the future while maintaining a relationship with the past through the character of Leopold Bloom, his relationship with Stephen Dedalus, and the experimental, multi-styled form of the novel itself, Ulysses combines numerous elements which add up to something radically new, but something deeply grounded in the work and history of the past.

[...] Though he is able to experience these memories and recall his past, he is not stuck in the space of the past as Stephen and the characters in Sirens and Cyclops are. Instead, he has a strong relationship with the present as well, reminding himself after his remembrances of Howth, And me (176). He realizes these events lie in his past and is able to come to terms with his present. This assertive statement, the most assertive statement he has made in the novel up to this point, clearly defines his relationship with the past. [...]


[...] In the Odyssey, Odysseus needs to navigate past either the Wandering Rocks or Scylla and Charybdis, deciding on the latter, but in Joyce's version the reader must do both. The Wandering Rocks, as an episode, then becomes a celebration of the uncertainty of history trapped within the confines of the absolute value systems of the Catholic Church and British imperial rule. While Joyce uses actual historical data such as Throwaway's victory in the Gold Cup on June to adopt history into his text, he also adapts history by including the opening of the Mirus Bazaar which actually took place on May and included no cavalcade (Annot 283). [...]


[...] Both are extremely dangerous and generate unhealthy relationships with the past through guilt, regret, and nostalgia. However, the novel also looks down upon a complete ignorance of the past and a lack of any sort of regret. Buck Mulligan tells Stephen, saw your own mother die. I see them pop off every day in the Mater and Richmond and cut up into tripes in the dissecting room. It's a beastly thing and nothing else? Buck feels no remorse for Mrs. [...]

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