Ulysses. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher, isn’t it? Well, fear not, help is at hand!
Firstly, the whole novel (yes, all 900-odd pages), written by James Joyce, only occurs over 24 hours, concerning an average day. It is broken into eighteen chapters, each one directly corresponding to a chapter from Homer’s ‘Odyssey’. Furthermore, each chapter uses a different narrative technique – hence why it seems easy to read at first and then flies off into reams of unpunctuated prose.
Mirroring Homer’s classic tome, Ulysses portrays the modern-day Odysseus in all his ordinariness and faults, but is given the name Leopold Bloom. In response to Homer, Joyce suggests that the Greeks were flawed and weak. Bloom’s Spanish wife, Molly is unfaithful to her husband, mirroring Odysseus’ Penelope. Stephen Dedalus is a ‘son’ figure to Bloom, and in turn mirrors Telemachus.
Fundamentally, Ulysses pioneers the ‘stream-of-consciousness’ technique, where sentences are written as if as thoughts, devoid of traditional punctuation. However, if you’d like to break into the iconic works of Joyce slowly, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is an excellent place to start, and also includes our first introduction to Stephen Dedalus.