Places: Ulysses

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1922

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Epic

Time of work: June 16, 1904

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Dublin

*Dublin. UlyssesIreland’s capital city and principal east coast port on the Irish Sea, through which a young Irish writer and teacher named Stephen Dedalus (whom Joyce introduced in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in 1914) and the Jewish advertising salesman Leopold Bloom wander until they eventually meet. The novel explores streets, shops, public houses, and countless other places found along their routes.

In 1904, Dublin is a city with a population of about three hundred thousand people. Ireland is still under the rule of Great Britain, whose local governor lives in a regal house in Dublin’s Phoenix Park and governs from Dublin Castle. The city as a whole is a complex mix, with both wretched slums and lingering remnants of eighteenth century elegance. More than twenty thousand families live in one-room tenement apartments, many of which house four or more people. Dublin is also a city with an interesting history of Anglo-Irish literary and cultural activity and a kind of urban energy that tends to countermand James Joyce’s estimate of psychological “paralysis.” Dublin provided Joyce with the raw material for a cosmos built on patient attention to the minute particulars of city life. The dense texture of metropolitan detail in Ulysses complements and offers paths into the psychological substance of the novel’s characters.

Many chapters depict the protagonists as well as multiple groups of people traveling routes across the landscape of Dublin. Throughout the book, the substance of the city is solidified by the landmarks and streets that are mentioned, ranging from well-known places such as Mountjoy Square, Grafton Street, and Phoenix Park, to a diversity of shops, pubs, tramcar stops, and quays.


*Sandycove. Suburb southeast of Dublin now known as Dun Laoghlaire, in which Dedalus, in one of the versions of the narrative consciousness (along with Leopold and Molly Bloom) that operates in the novel, is living as the novel opens. Dedalus shares rooms with the medical student Buck Mulligan in Martello Tower, built on the Dublin coast as one of seventy-four similar defensive constructions erected in anticipation of a French invasion. (The tower was later converted into the James Joyce Tower Museum.)

*Dalkey Avenue

*Dalkey Avenue. Sandycove street on which the Clifton School, at which Joyce taught briefly as a young man, stands, and the location, near the Martello Tower, of the unnamed school from which Stephen is about to resign when the story begins.


*Sandymount. Beach several miles up the coast from Sandycove, along which Dedalus walks past the decaying house of his uncle Richie Goulding in the chapter that concludes the first section of the novel. Later in the novel, Bloom is entranced by the sight of Gertie MacDowell and her friends on the same beach.

*Eccles Street

*Eccles Street (EH-clees). North Dublin street on which Leopold Bloom lives with his wife, Molly, at number 7. Their home is a worn-down but still genteel, three-story house. As Bloom begins his wanderings on June 16, 1904, he crosses to the “bright side” (southwest) of Eccles Street, then walks to Dorset Street, notices the sun near the steeple of St. George’s church on Temple Street and passes St. Joseph’s National School, on the way to the Dlugacz butcher shop. These accurate and very specific details establish the factual ground for an inventive series of imaginative devices that Joyce uses to create the reality of the lives of the inhabitants of Dublin.

Toward the end of the novel, Bloom finds Dedalus passed out in Dublin’s red-light district and walks back to his house with him. Dedalus declines Bloom’s offer of hospitality. Bloom then retires with his wife, whose soliloquy concludes the novel. Her recollective re-creation of her past with Bloom, as well as her life before, is anchored by a reflection on a moment in their courtship, when she and Bloom were together on Howth Reach, overlooking the sea north of Dublin, and by her thoughts of her girlhood and first love in Gibraltar, also near the ocean.

*Sir John Rogerson’s Quay

*Sir John Rogerson’s Quay. Dublin street that runs along the south bank of the River Liffey, the channel that carries the waters of the Irish Sea through the city and beyond to the west. Joyce would put much more emphasis on the Liffey in Finnegan’s Wake (1939), in which the river spirit is incarnated in the character of Anna Livia Plurabelle, than he does in Ulysses. However, in this novel, Bloom proceeds south, passing a series of streets in the inner city, before picking up a letter at the Westland Row post office.

Bloom’s path through the city continues in the next section as he takes a taxicab along Great Brunswick Street (now Pearse street), noting various prominent buildings (the Ancient Concert Rooms; St. Mark’s Church; the Queen’s Theatre) before his cab crosses O’Connell Bridge, where its passengers see the statue of the huge “cloaked Liberator’s form.” The cab then continues through North Dublin, across the Royal Canal until it arrives at Glasnevin Cemetery for the funeral of Paddy Dignam, an old friend of Bloom who died suddenly of a stroke. Dublin’s waterways carry some suggestion of the rivers of Hades in this section.

*<i>Evening Telegraph</i>

*Evening Telegraph. Newspaper located in an office on North Prince Street, where both Bloom and Stephen go on errands. From there, Bloom walks back across the Liffey and down Grafton Street, passing such notable Dublin landmarks as the Irish Parliament building (now the Bank of Ireland), the offices of the Irish Times, and various small shops, before stopping at Davy Byrne’s “moral pub.” (The pub now advertises its appearance in Ulysses and displays a plaque containing Joyce’s semi-ironic description.) From the pub, he continues on to the National Library in Kildare Street.

*Mabbot Street

*Mabbot Street. Red-light district of Dublin (now considerably transformed by slum clearance), where Bella Cohen’s brothel is situated (on what is now Corporation Street). There, Stephen passes out in the gutter and is rescued by Bloom, who looks for a cab near the Amiens Street Station (now the Connolly Station). Eventually Stephen and Bloom walk back to Bloom’s home, on a course that Joyce describes with precision, street by street.

Homeric world

Homeric world. As a parallel to the episodes in Dublin, Joyce used Homer’s The Odyssey (c. 800 b.c.e.) to amplify the narrative action of his own novel. Among other complementary sites, Paddy Dignam’s funeral is likened to Odysseus’s trip to Hades; the newspaper office is like Homer’s Cave of the Winds, the editor similar to Aeolus, god of wind; Bloom’s assault in Barney Kiernan’s pub recalls the attack of the Cyclops in The Odyssey; the visit to the brothel resembles the Circe episode; and Bloom’s return to his home is like the Penelope section (as emphasized by Molly’s concluding soliloquy), after Odysseus finally returns to Ithaca.

BibliographyBenstock, Bernard, ed. Critical Essays on James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” Boston: G. K. Hall, 1989. Contains a cross-section of criticism from the early to the more recent. Special emphasis is given to the “Nausicaa” episode.Ellman, Richard. James Joyce. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. Widely considered the finest literary biography of the twentieth century. Contains extensive discussion and analysis of Ulysses. Highly recommended.Gilbert, Stuart. James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” New York: Vintage Books, 1955. Still highly valuable. Covers the novel chapter by chapter; discusses in useful outlines many of the schemata underlying the novel. A good starting point.Gillespie, Michael Patrick, and Paula F. Gillespie. Recent Criticism of James Joyce’s “Ulysses”: An Analytical Review. Rochester, N.Y.: Camden House, 2000. A survey of, with commentary on, Ulysses scholarship, especially since 1970.Kenner, Hugh. “Ulysses”: A Study. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987. A substantial contribution from a preeminent literary critic; discusses the plot of the novel thoroughly. Equally useful for the beginning or the repeat reader. Bibliography, appendices.Thornton, Weldon. Voices and Values in Joyce’s “Ulysses.” Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000. An anti-relativistic study of the novel.Van Caspel, Paul. Bloomers on the Liffey: Eisegetical Readings of Joyce’s “Ulysses”. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.Wilson, Edmund. Axel’s Castle: A Study in the Imaginative Literature of 1870-1930. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1931. Discusses modernist writers. The chapter on Joyce contains an excellent summary of Ulysses. Places Joyce’s artistic and technical achievement in a historical context.
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