In James Joyce's novel Ulysses, what are the elements of comedy, parody, caricature, grotesque, satire and irony?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the novel Ulysses, James Joyce satirizes Western society by satirizing society's perspective of a hero. To satirize society's perspective of a hero, Joyce makes allusion to the famous Ancient Greek hero Odysseus, called Ulysses in Latin, whose heroic journey home from the Trojan War was told in the epic poem The Odyssey, attributed to Homer. In making his literary allusion, Joyce juxtaposes his protagonist Leopold Bloom with the hero Ulysses in order to question society's typical definition of a hero.

Bloom is the exact opposite of Ulysses: as the editors of Novels for Students, Vol. 26, phrase it, Bloom is characterized as "gentle, self-effacing, reserved and peripheralized" (eNotes, "Themes"). While Ulysses is characterized as out slaying monsters, rescuing his crew from harrowing situations, and battling hordes of men who are trying to court his wife and take his place, Bloom is characterized as the exact opposite. He chooses not to interfere with others, tries to negotiate conflicts peacefully, and is kind and polite towards others.

One example can be seen with respect to how Bloom handles his wife's infidelity. Unlike Ulysses, who battled and killed his wife's many suitors, Bloom accepts her infidelity. He even continues making her breakfast in the morning. However, he also responds by starting a flirtation of his own via letter, a very natural and human response. Regardless, unlike weaker men, he does not give way to his physical urges. Hence, Joyce characterizes him as a kind, gentle man, who is strong in his own way. However, by the end of the novel, Bloom tells his wife to bring him his breakfast in the morning, showing he has gained his own inner strength, as we see Molly reflect, "Yes because he never did a thing like that before as ask to get his breakfast in bed with a couple of eggs" ("Episode 18: 'Penelope'"). Hence, all in all, Joyce satirizes society's image of a hero to show that the true hero is really the ordinary, everyday man.

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