(Hart & Hayman, p.177)
Thus Joyce suggests that conventional national tales of origin, and national borders have become further and further collapsed in modernity. So long as people can envision a common, even familial bond between the two characters on a level beyond the confines of what is particular, local, national and religious, a connection between two random humans can exist and begin as quickly as a conversation. An estranged Irish man and a Jewish man can be allied, even father and son, in Joyce's Ulysses, just like the Irish Bloom loves his Penelope Molly, however sexually faithless he knows her to be, he still loves her. Bloom has also been unfaithful to Molly, fantasies about other women, and uses pornography for self-stimulation. Two men can talk about trees, dustbuckets, and Paris all in the same breath in the fluid context of modernity.
Thus, Joyce the narrator demonstrates Bloom to be both the most alien, and also the most readily identifiable of all of the characters because of his span of interests and mundane activities, and within Bloom are many nations, subjects, and concerns endemic to modern life. The outsider Jewish figure becomes the paradigmatic modern man. Bloom is also the most moral character of the text, much as in the Odyssey, Odysseus alone survives because of his respect for the sun cattle of Apollo, for example, and his determination not to bend to the wiles of Circe. In a pub and drink obsessed culture, Bloom "does not buy drinks for others; he does not bet (though he is suspected of doing so); he is a Jew (and doubly alien from his Jewishness, for he has chosen to become both Catholic and Protestant." (Attride, p.123)
Like Odysseus, Bloom's sense of alienation continues even when he is within his own speech and thoughts, there is some sense of a bond between the two strangers. Even after Bloom has to break into his own house because he has forgotten the key, he at least is able to enter his own home when he is in Stephen's company.
Of course, once inside, as Odysseus was tormented with the sights of the suitors, Bloom finds his house is full of signs of the man whom Molly is sleeping with, and no talk of gaslight and the state of modern medicine can cause him to forget this fact. Bloom is depressed for a time, but his common, human bond with Stephen, and the common ordinary tropes of modern life, like sharing cocoa and thoughts about faith with a younger man (Bloom has no real son only a daughter) and even sharing the common, physical human bond of urination gives Bloom a sense of hope.
Bloom slays no monsters, not even the man with whom is wife is transgressing her vows with. Also Stephen will not spend the night at home, like a real son. But Bloom is still capable of escapist fantasy, and of transcending the confines of his life through the modern device of internal travel. In the novel, there is no final, heroic coda or resolution. Like the list, which is ungrammatical, unfinished, and has no clear beginning or an end, human life will spiral on, and likewise Bloom's sense of placelessness. But this lacking a home is not particular to Bloom, but to all persons in modernity, and hence the fragmented, halting language of the novel that rings both discordant to the ear and eye but also rings true.
Attride, Derek. The Cambridge Companion to James Joyce. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2004.
Blamires, Harold. The New Bloomsday Book: Guide through Ulysses. London:
Blamires, Harold. The Bloomsday Book: Guide through Ulysses. London: Routledge,
Hart, Clive & Denise Hayman. James Joyce Ulysses: Critical Essays. Berkley:
University of California Press, 1977.
Kenner, Hugh. Joyce's…