What method of narration is used in Ulysses? How are the internal lives and thoughts of the protagonists presented? How is time shaped in this novel?

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ulysses is a novel that broke all of the rules. Joyce uses third person omniscient narration but slips into poetic descriptions (sometimes seamlessly and sometimes abruptly). Joyce also uses the dash (—) to indicate when dialogue starts. He does not use "he said" or "she said" to indicate who said what. Joyce also relies on stream of consciousness in which the narration shifts to first person (with Stephen, Leoplold, or Molly) and gives the reader greater (but still sometimes confusing) insight into a particular character's mind. Put simply, the narrative style changes frequently and jumps all over the place. The internal lives of protagonists are presented via these poetic tangents and shifts to first person stream of consciousness techniques. In Molly's soliloquy at the end of the novel, Joyce uses stream of consciousness and abandons all punctuation: 

God I remember one time I could scout it out straight whistling like a man almost easy O Lord how noisy I hope theyre bubbles on it for a wad of money from some fellow Ill have to perfume it in the morning dont forget I be he never saw a better pair of thighs than that look how white how soft like a peach easy God I wouldnt mind being a man 

The entire novel takes place in one day, loosely based on events in The Odyssey. But with the shifts to interior monologues and stream of consciousness, time seems to stretch out and jump back and forth. Time is relative (so to speak) in this novel. The sections on individuals' interior lives stretch time (or stop it), illustrating how each person has a separate, individual life from that external world that they all share. It is the external world in which time progresses in a sequential, linear fashion, characteristic of most novels.