The realities of love and marriage that cuts across the aspect of gender, feminine and masculinity are the prominent themes in James Joyce Ulysses. The author tries to portray the changing aspects of modern relationships with regards to the gender concept. The writer tries in both texts to bring about the male perception of masculinity that is traditionally known in the male dominated Ireland. In all the cycles, masculinity is represented as a scuffle between contrasting perceptions. The treatment of sexuality was among the significant creativity the writer used in his fiction. His literature is enormously factual that traces his own sexual cognizance from the youthful desires in girls traced from the short stories of the Dubliners as well as the extramarital affairs and adulterous actions explored in Ulysses. This essay will focus on analyzing the model of masculinity as portrayed during the time and place James Joyce was writing the book.
In analyzing the concept of masculinity in Ulysses, there are many things that we shall be analyzing. This will mainly focus on the ways in which the male characters are portrayed with a special focus on Leopold Bloom in comparison to the other characters in the story. This will help in exploring the concept of masculinity during the time and place when Joyce was writing. Through the portrayal of Bloom, the author provides us a different viewpoint of the real implication of what is meant to be a man in Ireland in the early 20th century.
As indicated earlier, a concept of masculinity and feminism goes hand in hand with notions of gender and sexuality. As much as these concepts are related in some way or another, this work will not focus so much on the aspect of characters’ determination of a biological sex or sexual preference. Much of the concentration will dwell on social constructed gender roles and responsibilities, which the characters fit into or don’t not fit in. There are several concepts of masculinity, which have changed over time with regards to the time Joyce James was writing his literature work but some circles still prevail to be the same. The attributes of masculinity in this text are aspects such as physical aggressiveness, sexual competence, courage, virility, self-reliance, conquest, competitiveness, decisiveness, and leadership.
According to the text, there are no much concerns about Bloom manhood abilities. Throughout the literature, Bloom is portrayed as a real and actionable man, an aspect that is illustrated in his sexy desire for as he watches the young and beautiful female character Gerty that sexually teases him on the beach in the Nausicca chapter. This makes his sexual favorite clear to everyone.
As earlier indicated, one of the concepts we are looking at in this context in addressing includes male‘s virility and sexual prowess. During the time of writing of the novel, it was assumed that less masculine man would not function adequately in this area. Joyce could have applied the passing comment by Mulligan humorously in order to indicate some form of shared reactions directed towards sensitive and passive males and also intuition into the obtuse feature of Mulligan. In the preceding chapters of the literature, Bloom is seen to have taken part in some strange activities, which are difficult to imagine, by other characters like Mulligan. This is because the conflict with the known established gender roles and responsibilities. For example, Bloom gets his wife Molly breakfast in her bed room, feed is cat, buys biscuits meant to feed gulls as well as establishing a fund aimed at supporting the deceased Pat Digams family among many others. Through these acts of kindness and affection, his male colleagues begin to suspect and disapprove Bloom’s form of masculinity. Later on, we find out that Bloom’s manhood nature is manifested in his diplomacy, cognitive reasoning, and open mindedness, an aspect that the author may have favored over the other natures and popular concepts of bully or physical style masculinity.
Furthermore, looking keenly at the literature work of Joyce, one might believe that the author’s appeal is well linked to his preference of an androgyny. This is presented in the text where fantasies of Bloom force Mulligan to query the masculinity of Bloom and calls him names like bisexually abnormal and newly womanly man (493). This provides a good example that during Joyce time of writing, creative sensibility was a feminine feature attribute that rendered male artists as asexual. Joyce in his literature might have been aware of this fact. The author even goes ahead and in hitting at Blooms artistic and strong feminine feature by naming him Leopold Paula Bloom and the fictitious name Bloom selects for himself, Henry Flower. This is also a perception that Joyce was using irony as Bloom was projected to be a corresponding character to the ultra-masculine Odysseus of Homer. This made Molly, who is Bloom’s wife to comment that, “he understood or felt what a woman is.” (782).
Another concept that brings about the concept of masculinity is towards the end of the Ithica episode. In the process of looking into a drawer of the odds and ends, Bloom encounters a chart measurement of Leopold Bloom collation that were gathered before and after every two months of sequential use of Shadow-Whitney’s pully exerciser. Initially in the draft, in the Calypso chapter, Bloom indicates in his monologue that he feels tired, an aspect he relates with the Sandow exercises. Thereafter in the Ithica episode, during the process of his contemplation on how life would be if he was poor, Bloom begins to think that one of the humiliations he would have suffered was “the contempt of muscular males” 725. This shows a masculinity physical character of men portrayed in the novel.
In the text, Mason’s discernment all entirely points out to some admiration of Bloom despite his faults. Toward the end of the Circle episode, he goes ahead and remind the reader that Bloom “handles madam and with consummate skill and sureness, and after the fight in the street, which draws the attention of the police, defends Stephen with supreme courage” (205). He also applied his techniques as a mediator. As indicated initially, when it comes to the concept of masculinity, one might tend to think about manly issues, thereby portraying men as being virile, sexually confident as well as seductive belligerent towards women. Although one might not likely read what was in the author’s minds, it is fascinating to see the author in his application of Homer’s Odyssey as his novel model offer his stereotypical hero few features that are inclined to Homer’s Odysseus. In using his sober minds and diplomacy skills towards the end of the Circle chapter, Bloom displays some form of courage in a spectacular way in his masculinity display.
Furthermore, through the Bloom’s portrayal as well as the other men, the author might have had in his mind the pressure that men go through as required by the culture in order to maintain masculine attributes. This is a concept that was shown in the Nausicca episode, when Gerty tells a young man that was trying to approach her that “Strengths of character had never been Reggie Wyllie’s strongpoint’s and he who would woo and win Getty McDowell must be a man enough among men….. A manly with a strong quite face who had not found his ideal, perhaps his hair flecked with grey” (351). In similar manner, while loving Bloom’s stare on her, Gerty states, “pent up longings and unrealized girlhood dreams: the suffering dream husband in need of a woman’s comfort; the powerful male seeking a womanly woman to crush to himself in his arms” (137).
Towards the end of Cyclops chapter, there comes about a political argument that bloom feels he should defend his loyalty to the Irish and at the same time defends his Jewish background. He did this hoping to prove the other men both the Irish and the Jews share common predicaments. However, this brings about one of the main differences between Bloom and the other men in terms of masculinity. While he was explaining his concept on the persecution of Jews, indicating they were insulted and plundered, the citizens responded by asking if he was refereeing to the New Jerusalem. He replied that he was talking about injustice (332). One man called John Wyse then stood up and chimes in insinuating Bloom to stand up to it on his face like other men. This clearly again portrays the feminine side of Bloom. Bloom goes ahead and tries to convince the other men that in terms of modern justices, there is no need to use force or hatred, since that is never a life of men and women (333). He concludes by stating that love is the convenient way of solving disagreements between, a concepts that is laughed off by the citizens. Another concept of Bloom’s masculinity is also portrayed when his colleagues at the same place are talking behind his back, referring to his family specifically how he was nurturing Molly while she was exacting their son Ruby. For instance, the citizens ask, “Do you call that a man?” at the same time the narrator refers to Bloom as, “One of those mixed middling,” (338) that means half man and half woman.
In this literature work of Joyce, Bloom represents a complex character. The evidence in the novel is sufficient to establish that Bloom despite having possessed a feminine side, he still goes ahead to struggle with the cultural perspective on masculinity, despite him knowing very well it doesn’t befit him. The author goes ahead and place Bloom a hero in to the parallel Homer’s Odysseus. The aim of this whole concept perhaps was Joyce’s intent to put in the public domain that Bloom type of masculinity that is manifested of carefulness, diplomacy and intellectual skills as well as empathy towards women is was a genuine alternate to the most prevalent accepted norm of masculinity that focused on might.
Joyce, James. Ulysses. New York: Dover Publishing, 1974. Print.