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). [...]
[...] In fact, the novel of Ulysses goes to great lengths to portray absolute value systems with no room for interpretation as flawed. Stephen's ideas concerning guilt, namely what one should feel guilt over and what is considered right or wrong, come from his Catholic upbringing and his theological background. Because of the church's absolute values concerning these issues, Stephen feels the guilt he does and remains trapped in the past. Mr. Deasy, the headmaster of the school where Stephen works as a teacher, also holds absolute values of right and wrong. [...]
[...] As a novel, Ulysses incorporates the styles of the past, present, and future in order to create something without precedence: an entirely new sort of novel with ties to the past but containing ideas never seen before. Episodes such as Oxen of the Sun and Aeolus are told through the history of the English language and a history of the newspaper headline, respectively. The novel itself is a meeting of old styles such as the play (Circe), the catechism (Ithaca), and music (Sirens) with relatively new styles such as film, as seen the cinematic technique of montage captured in Wandering Rocks and the over-the-top staging of Circe which is possible only in film, and the sentimental romance novel (Nausicaa) with the radically new form of stream of consciousness and this combination of styles itself. [...]
[...] The relationship between the two marks a merger between the memory of the past and the possibility of the future, and leads to a healthy present, one in which one can maintain a relationship with history while still looking forward to tomorrow. More than just the narrative of Ulysses , however, presents this ideal relationship with the past. Ulysses is a novel grounded in history, both the actual history of reality and the history of literature. The novel is grounded in the works of the past such as the previously mentioned Good Samaritan story and the Odyssey, and of all the stories of the past referenced or mentioned in the novel, none of them are as important as Homer's Odyssey. [...]
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