Other essays and articles in the Literature Archives related to this topic include An Analysis of “Eveline” in The Dubliners by James Joyce

 In fact, all of the evidence that the reader discerns suggests that Leopold is slowly dying before he has really achieved any true sense or purpose of meaning in his life. The kidney he enjoys eating so much is burning on the stove. After cutting away the kidney’s blackened exterior, eating the remains, and throwing the offal to his cat, Leopold begins preparing to dress for the funeral of an acquaintance. “A soft qualm [of] regret” courses “down his backbone, increasing” (Joyce 55). Significantly, while using the bathroom, he thinks about the mundane exchanges he has with his wife—“Timing her. 9.15. Did Roberts pay you yet? 9.20. What had Gretta Conroy on? 9.23. What possessed me to buy this comb? 9.24. I’m swelled after that cabbage”—and he rips a section of a story about a prizewinner out of the newspaper, wiping himself with it. Just as he does, the bells of the church ring out, and Leopold wonders what time the funeral is (Joyce 56). From this point forward, any vestiges of Leopold’s happy countenance have largely disappeared. The passage of time and the mark it has left—and is leaving—on Leopold is evident, not only to the reader, but to Leopold himself.

As was the case with Stephen, Leopold’s daily routine, is punctuated with numerous reminders that life just keeps ticking on and he is incapable of harnessing it for his true benefit. His wife orders him about as if he is her manservant. He raises the blind for her, he delivers her correspondence to the bed, tucking the letter under her pillow and asking “[Will] That do?” before returning to the kitchen to “Hurry up with that tea!” as his wife demands (Joyce 50). When he returns, she complains about the length of his absence—“What a time you were!”—not, presumably, because she missed him, but because she wants to ask him a question (Joyce 51).  Leopold’s experience of the funeral is another event that provokes him to meditate on the aspects of life that are not so pleasant or tinged with a sense of opportunity and the hope of the future. During the service he thinks about the heart, that “seat of the affections. Broken heart. A pump [that] [o]ne fine day gets bunged up; and there you are” (Joyce 87). After the funeral, at noon, Leopold goes to the newspaper office, where he discusses an advertisement. An ad man, he is always interested in developing a new and more effective advertisement. In fact, it is in this section of the novel that the reader observes Leopold at his most enlivened—he moves with a quickness and awareness of time that is sharpened by his passion for advertising. Yet he is thwarted again; his creativity meets the resistance of his supervisor, who prefers a more traditional approach and tells Bloom to tell the advertiser “He can kiss my royal Irish arse” (Joyce 121).

Leopold Bloom is often interpreted by literary scholars as a character who is more evolved than Stephen Dedalus—slightly older, striving more earnestly and with a greater sense of purpose, and still believing in his potentialities. Evidence is cited to support the claim, as was made above, that, at the very least, Bloom has a passion and seems to squeeze meaning out of it, while Dedalus is more aimless. Nonetheless, such an interpretation neglects the significance of the smaller details of Leopold’s daily life. Instead, literary analysts have tended to prefer the interpretation that Stephen is an angst-ridden young man seeking a father figure, albeit unconsciously, in Leopold Bloom. One of the few scholars to build an argument that Stephen and Leopold are more alike than they are different was Williams, who asserted that Leopold Bloom clearly exhibited symptoms of “hunger and anger” in response to the passage of time, both real and imagined (87). It is a hunger and anger that Williams describes as consumptive (87). There’s a constant reflection on the past—Leopold remembering a special moment with his wife—inability to live in/accept/re-shape the present—always desiring nostalgically to capture the past.

Stephen and Leopold are brought together in the carriage on the way to the funeral for their mutual acquaintance. Although both men, and their other companions in the carriage, commiserate lightly over their common difficulties related to age and the passage of time, they do not discuss these difficulties in a serious tone. Instead, they make jokes, only regaining their composure when they reflect on the fact that their deceased friend passed away unexpectedly and in the prime of his life. The sober moment does not prompt the men to be more intimate with one another and sharing their feelings, but once again the reader intuits the fact that whatever the larger zeitgeist of the turn of the century moment is, these men feel themselves to exist outside of it, so far outside, in fact, that it is not only impossible for them to seize and embody that spirit, but perhaps even to believe they should want to do so. Although the turn of the century offered new promise for society at large and certain segments of the population, each of these characters appears to be trapped within a predestined trajectory of his own life narrative.

What is interesting, however, is that Joyce, through the development of these characters and their psychological preoccupations with the passage of time—which they themselves feel acutely but are unable to articulate fully—was able to embody the turn of the century spirit that always facilitates the birth of new creative genres (Rickard 91-92). As Rickard observed, “the turn of the century was much more hospitable to models of mind that transgressed or violated” conventional narratives (91). Joyce was able to finally step outside of the narrative constraints by which he had felt himself to be bound previously with the writing and subsequent publication of Ulysses. Joyce was wholly cognizant of the novel’s uniqueness, and even questioned whether a traditional publisher would be willing to acquire the rights to the book and attach its name to Ulysses (Gilbert 112). In fact, a European literary magazine published the novel in serial format, prompting Joyce’s American publishers to burn “the entire May issue and [threaten] to cancel their license [that of the Little Review, in which the serial was published] if they continue to publish Ulysses” (in Gilbert 137). About this incident, Joyce was apparently non-plussed, writing, “This is the second time I have had the pleasure of being burned while on earth so that I hope I shall pass through the fires of purgatory as quickly as my patron [Saint] Aloysius” (in Gilbert 137). Thus, James appeared to have been free from the kind of pervasive, nearly crippling ambivalence that afflicted his characters, particularly Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. Although Bloom and Dedalus seem to have recovered some of their equilibrium upon the novel’s conclusion, the question remains: What will they do with the time that has been given to them?

What, then, to make of the effect of Ulysses and its notions of time upon the reader? Williams again offers a compelling and persuasive argument to propose an answer to this question. Ulysses, he contends, does not “endorse a passive acceptance of the status quo or advocate the patient awaiting of the end of time” (87). Instead, Williams suggests, Joyce’s novel “both embraces the past and faces the unknown without fear” while simultaneously demonstrating “how each day must be ‘digested,’” and “how each person who enters that text has the duty, on returning to this world, to interrogate the given universe of discourse” (87). One aspect of that discourse involves the effect that time has upon human beings’ perceptions of possibility. Although it is common to feel that the passage of time is ravaging, it is important to acknowledge time’s real effects while living fully and meaningfully.

Works Cited

Gilbert, Stuart. Letters of James Joyce. New York: Viking Press, 1957.

Joyce, James. Ulysses. New York: Vintage, 1986.

Rickard, John S. Joyce’s Book of Memory: The Mnemotechnics of Ulysses. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

Williams, Trevor. “‘Hungry Man is an Angry Man’: A Marxist Reading of Consumption in Joyce’s Ulysses.” Mosaic 26.1 (1993): 87.