Publication Date

April 2016


Joseph Fitzpatrick




English (United States)


A great deal of scholarly writing on James Joyce’s Ulysses explores objects within the novel through the lens of symbolism and referentiality. Many systems of ordering the deluge of information in the novel have been developed, providing in-depth ways of reading Ulysses. Readers have sought out different approaches to deal with this information through methods of organization such as the Linati and Gilbert schemata, which present established networks of symbols for the novel, and Gifford’s Ulysses Annotated, a referential text that catalogs all of the objects in Ulysses and contextualizes them in the real world. However, these modes of reading neglect the objects themselves, instead using them as substitutes for ideas and items that exist in the real world without directly confronting their physicality. My thesis aims to investigate the ways in which particular items that resurface throughout the novel—food, flowers, and clothing—serve as gateways into the characters’ personalities and relationships. These objects are significant in that the characters have substantial personal investment in them, using them as landmarks for memories, associations, and libidinal fixations. In particular, I examine Leopold Bloom and Molly Bloom and how food, flowers, and clothing appear in their individual narratives, as well as how these objects function in their relationship. Firstly, I explore how Bloom’s relationship to his physical world and the objects within it becomes a way to access his interiority; secondly, I investigate how Molly’s interactions with the same objects exist at variance to Bloom’s, and what the implications of these interactions are; finally, I synthesize information from both of their individual narratives to make sense of their relationship and marriage to each other. Ultimately, through the analysis of the objects of food, flowers, and clothing, I find that the novel uses these inert aspects of quotidian life to both generate and relieve tensions in Bloom and Molly’s relationship. Analyzing the tangible and inanimate facets of the world Joyce constructs plays a major role in understanding why Molly and Bloom navigate the world differently, and why, despite these seemingly irreconcilable differences, they stay together.



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