James Joyce's Ulysses explained with chapter summaries in just a few minutes!
Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe explains the plot summary of James Joyce's novel Ulysses.
James Joyce's novel Ulysses is a modern take on the classical Greek poem The Odyssey, which is the tale of Odysseus's return from the Trojan war. Rather than coursing the Mediterranean over the span of a decade, as in The Odyssey, Ulysses unfolds over a single day.
Set in Dublin on June 16, 1904, the story's main characters, Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, parallel Telemachus and Odysseus. And Bloom's wife Molly is a stand in for Penelope.
Bloom and Dedalus both traverse Dublin on various errands. Bloom attends the funeral of an acquaintance. He and Dedalus cross paths at several points and eventually end up at a brothel.
After a conflict with British soldiers, they end up at Bloom's house, where Molly attends to them.
Irish writer James Joyce’s Ulysses was first published in 1922. Joyce set Ulysses in Dublin, but he wrote it in Italy, France, and Switzerland in self-imposed exile from Ireland. The story does not exactly parallel the episodes of The Odyssey, instead using its extended travels as a framework in which modern characters meditate on many of the same existential questions that confronted the heroes of yore—meaning, love, sex, and fidelity.
The novel Ulysses contains many important themes, including death, as an ever-present part of their lives, death profoundly affects the characters; fathers and sons, as the bond between fathers and sons is presented as fragile and tragic; and sex, love, and empathy, as desire for sex and love, as well as feelings of empathy, motivate the characters. Important symbols include Bloom’s potato, keys, and the horse Throwaway.