Discuss the Interweaving Homer’s The Odyssey into Joyce’s Ulysses: an entanglement that aims at creating a heroic protagonist out of a modern Everyman Dubliner

Consider the view that the possible parallels between Ulysses and The Odyssey have only a limited application, and are at best a ludic addendum, at worst an irritating distraction. Homer’s The Odyssey is considered to be the second work of Western literature, preceded only by his Illiad. It is a classic heroic tale, involving as it does great warriors and kings, witches and sorcery, sea monsters and the gods of Greek myth. It tells the tale of the epic ten year long homeward journey by the aristocratic warrior Odysseus after the fall of Troy. In his struggle to return to his home in Ithaca he is delayed many times and even wilfully hindered in his quest by various characters. The Odyssey has influenced many other works of literature in the millennia since it was composed, including Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida and of course, James Joyce’s Ulysses. A complex masterpiece, the plot of Ulysses is loosely based on the events depicted in The Odyssey. Odysseus’ turn of the century counterpart is the Irish Jew Leopold Bloom, and the Greece of Ithaca and Sparta finds its modern day equivalent in Dublin. Without question an author possessing such an immense ability and talent as Joyce’s hardly had the need to borrow the plot of the earlier work: so why, one wonders, include it at all. One must ask oneself whether it adds, detracts or perhaps even obscures Joyce’s own work. The use of one of the definitive works of ancient times as the structural base of probably the definitive modern novel is puzzling at first examination. One must ask oneself what application such parallels can possibly have: further, we must scrutinize whether they function as merely an amusing codicil to a stand-alone work or if, in fact, they merely distract us from the task in hand, i.e. analysing the content of Ulysses itself. As mentioned earlier, Joyce was not the first to employ the Odyssean form to his own work; such examples can be found throughout the subsequent ages of literature. What could be said to be distinctive to this particular use of the tale is the specific era Joyce was writing in. As one of the archetypal Modernist authors of the early twentieth century, Joyce is not alone in his aping of classical literature. Modernism absolutely refused the legacy left to literature by the periods immediately preceding it. Neither Victorianism’s tendency to moralize nor Romanticism’s transcendence of grim reality sat well with the new breed of modern writers, including not only Joyce but Ezra Pound, Richard Aldington et. al. The rapid social change experienced by the Western world post-nineteenth century demanded new forms of expressing the reality of this harsh new world. This can be neatly summed up in Pound’s famous term ‘make it new’. However the movement did see the return to use of the models of classical Greece and even ancient China. In this context the paralleling of the two works can be seen to have external influences. However, the plot of Ulysses really is only very loosely based on The Odyssey. To find the parallels and similarities between them requires the reader to become involved in actively looking for echoes of the Grecian themes in the modern work. Once one has located the obvious and elucidated the obscure, the affinities are numerous. Perhaps the most obvious theme running through both books is the quest for paternity. Odysseus strives to make his way home to his son, while Telemachus actively searches for his long lost father. The father and son relationship is one of the most famous aspects of The Odyssey; it is therefore hardly surprising that we

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