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Comparing Homer’s Odyssey and Joyce’s Ulysses

This essay will analyze the style, genre and plots of the “Hades” episodes found in Homer’s Odyssey and Joyce’s Ulysses. Before entering this small treatise, it is important to understand the etymology of the word Hades, since it is the setting for both Joyce and Homer (of course in Homer’s case, he was speaking of the literal aidhs and Joyce was referring to the graveyard, where Bloom attends the funeral of Paddy Dignam and “broods about the death of his only son “). Homer’s use of the word Hades was to refer to the abode of the dead or the unseen nether world; where we find Odysseus searching for Tiresias, to find out how to return to Ithaca safely. The Homeric Hades is not the modern view of Hell, mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. In fact, C.S. says “In real Pagan belief, Hades was hardly worth talking about; a world of shadows, of decay. Homer . . . represents the ghosts [in Hades] as witless. They gibber meaninglessly until some living man gives them sacrificial blood to drink. ”

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Comparing the style: Objective vs. Existential

Eight months prior to the first publication of Ulysses , Joyce penned: “If you want to read Ulysses you had better first get or borrow from a library a translation in prose of the Odyssey of Homer. ” Joyce’s recommendation is a must in order to get the full meaning of his work. A good commentary would also be found useful in exegesis. Most people, “. . . opening Ulysses at random are easily scarecrowed away by the first shock of [its] queer mixture of vulgar slang and metaphysical obscurity. ” I must admit that my first reading of Ulysses was horrifying. I am a lover of the western class…

…oehrich, Rolf. The Secret of Ulysses. (Folcroft, PA: Folcroft Press, 1969)

Schutte, William, “An Index of Recurrent Elements in Ulysses: “Hades”. James

Joyce Quarterly. Spring 1977: (Vol. XIV, No. 3)

Skeat, Walter. Concise Dictionary of English Etymology. (Great Britain:Wordsword, 1993)

Smith, William. Wordsworth Classical Dictionary. (London: Wordsworth Editions, 1996)

Smith, Paul. A Key to the Ulysses of James Joyce. (New York: Covici Friede, 1934)

Thornton, Weldon. Allusions in Ulysses. (North Carolina: UNC Press, 1968)

The student may wish to begin the paper with the following quote:

“I hold this book [Ulysses] to be the most important expression which the present age has found; it is a book to which we are all indebted, and from which none of us can escape. ”

T.S. Elliot

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