A most complex work that demands multiple readings, Ulysses is the novel that placed James Joyce at the forefront of Modernism, a literary movement that strove to examine the human condition through the exploration of subjective reality. This psychological probing of the consciousness led to the literary technique of interior monologue, or stream-of-consciousness, a technique which paints the inner thoughts and emotional reactions of a character. As a result, passages are non-linear and often layered.
In this novel with the title of the Greek epic, Joyce restructures this classic to speak to the contemporary world. With these Homeric parallels, T. S. Eliot observed that Joyce's work depicts "the immense panorama of futility that is the modern world." With regard to the cited passage from Episode 8, describing Leopold Bloom's inner thoughts while he is in Davy Byrne's pub in Dublin at lunchtime as he eats a ham and mustard sandwich with a glass of Burgundy wine, the sights and sounds of Dublin--"Stuck, the flies buzzed"--frame the almost mythological wanderings of Bloom's mind as he recalls his past love-making on a Dublin beach. Framed by the "flies buzzed," symbolic of the enclosing of Bloom's life in the tawdry, the swirling dream of his experience juxtaposes the classic with earthy images:
Fields of undersea, the lines faint brown in grass, buried cities. Pillowed on my coat she had her hair, earwigs in the heather scrub my hand under her nape, you'll toss me all. O wonder! Coolsoft with ointments her hand touched me, caressed: her eyes upon me did not turn away. Ravished over her I lay, full lips full open, kissed her mouth.
Part of Joyce's style of writing emanates from his belief that style must be wed to content. The sensual Bloom, who is a sexual deviant at times (he masturbates as he watches girls at a beach), mixes his images of the classical goddesses with the anal workings of the human body, stylistic images that convey the confluence of Bloom's hope for something out of the ordinary that, instead, is reduced to the carnal:
Shapely goddesses, Venus, Juno: curves the world admires....Lovely forms of woman sculpted Junonian. Immortal lovely. And we stuffing food in one hole and out behind: food, chyle, blood, dung, earth, food: have to feed it like stoking an engine.
Thus, in this passage of interior monologue that is combined with Joyce's inimitable eclectic style in which "form is an extension of content," the reader gains insight into the mind and character of Leopold Bloom, a character who is in sharp contrast--a foil--to the idealistic and intellectual Stephan Dedalus.