Father figure exile to son in Ulysses

It will do you good (the air), said Bloom, meaning

also walk, in a moment. The only thing is

Walk, then you will feel like a different man. It’s not

far. Lean on Me. Consequently, he passed to his left

arm to Stephen’s right and guided him accordingly.

–Yes, Stephen said uncertainly, because he thought

felt a strange kind of meat of different

The man approaches him, sinewless and staggering and

everything that. (OR 581) [Emphasize mine]

Both protagonists of Joyce in Ulises, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus are exiled figures throughout the novel. Both roam the city of Dublin on Thursday June 16, 1904, and Joyce records their adventurous wanderings in a delicate and detailed way in Dublin. Bloom and Stephen’s wandering around Dublin seems to be looking for something. Something like a lost family, a lost father, a lost son. In this article the purpose is to examine the similarities of exile and the intellectual traits of these two protagonists, and if Joyce has any purpose for them to meet at the end of that special day.

Blades in his book How to study James Joyce, notes that the departure of both Joyce protagonists has a parallel in chapter 1 and chapter 4. They both decide to escape some kind of usurper at home. According to Blades Stephen, who seems “more prepared, at least in mind, to get out of the house, to let loose like a tramp” (109), escapes from the Martello tower, where he pays the rent, but feels that he is being exploited by Buck Mulligan and Haines (the British tourist). Bloom, in chapter 4, similarly feels that he cannot “return home due to his wife’s alleged adultery with Blazes Boylan, another type of usurper” (109). Thus, Joyce makes Bloom and Stephen’s departure parallel, presumably so that they meet at the end of their day of wandering. Another common factor that unites these two protagonists, in addition to their alienation from their homes, is related to the serious problems within their families. By presenting the problems of these two families in detail, Joyce could have taken into account the critical condition of Irish political and colonial life, which definitely affected the social and family life of Dubliners. The chaotic political and religious social life had definitely affected the lives of people like Joyce, Bloom and Dedalus. Their family problems have had a direct, perhaps intensified, relationship with the chaos of the society in which they lived.

Both Stephen and Bloom feel frustrated and humiliated by their family relationships. First, it is Stephen’s father, Simon Dedalus, who in Stephen’s words is “too Irish” (OR 543), and he has not been a good father to Stephen and the whole family from the beginning. On Portrait, his careless and irresponsible manner led to the family’s ultimate financial and social failure. Stephen Dedalus feels that his family has betrayed him, especially his father, who is the most guilty person, at least in Stephen’s opinion, by creating such a chaotic family condition that lasts from Portrait to Ulises. Sometime before the mother’s death, Stephen left the squalid house and flew away. Now that the mother is gone, the little integrity of the family has vanished. On UlisesStephen, too upset to return to his father’s house, chooses a life of wandering and exile on the streets of Dublin. Furthermore, he is excessively disgusted by the actions of his father who denies the legitimacy of a biological father!

On the other side of the story and in another part of Dublin, there’s Leopold Bloom. He is another man / son undermined by his father’s actions. His Jewish father committed suicide some time ago. Even to escape the embarrassment of his father’s action, Leopold has changed his original surname from Virag to Bloom. In addition, his wife, who has been and continues to be famous for her beauty, flirtation and her singing profession, is going to have a probable date with Blazes Boylan. Bloom, aware of this infidelity, does not like to go back to her house and to bed. Also, and also so bitter, is the fact that Bloom’s wish for a child, a male heir, failed about ten or eleven years ago, when her young son, Rudy, died about eleven days after he was born. “If little Rudy had lived. Watching him grow up. Hearing his voice in the house. My son. Me in his eyes. It would be a strange feeling. From me, just a chance” (OR 90). Thus, in addition to being betrayed by his wife, his desire to have a child has not been fulfilled and this could intensify his sadness in the family. He leaves his house and, metaphorically speaking, he could also be looking for a surrogate child.

“… and now Sir Leopold, who did not have a male child of his body for heir, looked at him as the son of his friend and locked himself in pain for his anticipated happiness” (OR 388). Ulises in a sense, it could be interpreted as the story of a father in search of a son and the story of a son in search of a father. Sherry considers this search in her mythical way: “in this climactic scene, then, Bloom seems to move simultaneously as mythical father and epic hero; as the projection of Esteban’s subjective and artistic vision of fatherhood and as public hero Ulysses, returning to clean a rotten house and society “(49). So Joyce subtly brings these two protagonists together, setting a very plausible background from chapters one through four, for this visit to happen. For example, Joyce, when introducing a Shakespearean play like Hamlet, might have had many references to the lives of Stephen and Bloom in mind. A father killed by poison, a son in search of a father, an unfaithful wife, a son haunted by the ghost of a father (Stephen haunted by the ghost of his mother and Bloom haunted by the ghost of his father). Thus, it becomes more obvious that Stephen, too, on his one-day wandering, might be in search of an accomplished father. Blades believes that Joyce, by quoting the phrase “I am the spirit of your father,” causes Bloom to add “more weight to the suggestion that he symbolizes some kind of spiritually artistic father figure, while Stephen represents for him a surrogate son in the wake of Mr. Bloom’s real son, Rudy (125). Therefore, Ulises in a sense it is the story of two shipwrecked people in search of what they have lost; a father or a son. There are two significant similarities between these two protagonists, first their missing factor, and second their alienation and exile.


Attridge, Derek, ed. Cambridge Companion to James Joyce .Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 1990.

-. “Reading Joyce”. James Joyce’s Cambridge Companion. Ed, Derek Attridge

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990, pp. 1-27.

-. Semicolonial joyce. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Blades, John. How to study James Joyce London: Macmillan, 1996.

James, Joyce. Ulysses with a short story by Richard Ellman London: Penguin Books,


Edward said. Representations of the intellectual. New York: Pantheon Books, 1994.

Jerez, Vincent. James Joyce: Ulysses Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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