Study Guide

Ulysses Prejudice

By James Joyce

Prejudice

Haines detached from his underlip some fibres of tobacco before he spoke.

"- I can quite understand that, he said calmly. An Irishman must think like that, I daresay. We feel in England that we have treated you rather unfairly. It seems history is to blame." (1.306-307)

Haines, an Englishman, is here exposed to Stephen's feeling that the Irish are oppressed by the English (they were). In what way is Haines response a failure to empathize with the situation of the Irish? What does it mean that "history is to blame?" Who is actually responsible if "history" is to blame?"

"- I knew you couldn't," he said joyously. "But one day you must feel it. We are a generous people but we must also be just."

"- I fear those big words," Stephen said, "which make us so unhappy." (2.121-122)

Mr. Deasy has just asked Stephen if he could say that he has paid his way. Stephen admits that this is not true, and Mr. Deasy makes his call for justice. Why does Mr. Deasy's invocation of justice threaten to make Stephen unhappy? What does "justice" mean when it comes out of the mouth of an Englishman versus an Irishman?

"A woman brought sin into the world. For a woman who was no better than she should be, Helen, the runaway wife of Menelaus, ten years the Greeks made war on Troy. A faithless wife first brought the strangers to our shore here, MacMurrough's wife and her leman O'Rourke, prince of Breffni. A woman too brought Parnell low. Many errors, many failures but not the one sin. I am a struggler now at the end of my days. But I will fight for the right till the end." (2.167)

Here, in "Nestor," Mr. Deasy is looking for another scapegoat; this time it's women. We later learn that Deasy's wife treats him horribly and goes and pawns their furniture on the weekends. How does anger over a personal incident turns into a real prejudice? Why would Deasy hide his personal anger with prejudice?

Mr. Deasy halted, breathing hard and swallowing his breath.

"- I just wanted to say," he said. "Ireland, they say, has the honour of being the only country which never persecuted the jews. Do you know that? No. And do you know why?"

He frowned sternly on the bright air.

"- Why sir?" Stephen asked, beginning to smile.

"- Because she never let them in," Mr. Deasy said solemnly.

A coughball of laughter leaped from his throat dragging after it a rattling chain of phlegm." (2.191-196)

As an Englishman, why would Mr. Deasy find the joke funny? Do you think that the disgusting description of his laughter afterward might capture the fact that Stephen is repulsed by what he says?

Mr Dedalus looked after the stumping figure and said mildly:

"- The devil break the hasp of your back!"

Mr Power, collapsing in laughter, shaded his face from the window as the carriage passed Gray's statue.

"- We have all been there," Martin Cunningham said broadly.

His eyes met Mr Bloom's eyes. He caressed his beard, adding:

"- Well, nearly all of us." (6.111-116)

In "Hades," Simon Dedalus shouts out at the Jewish moneylender Reuben J. Dodd as they ride in the carriage on the way to Dignam's funeral. The prejudiced comment is clearly directed at Dodd, but Dedalus doesn't consider that Bloom is also Jewish, which Martin Cunningham clearly does. How is prejudice different when it's directed at one person of a group and not another? How does this reveal the lie about prejudice?

"- Whose God?" Says the citizen.

"- Well, his uncle was a jew," says he. "Your God was a jew. Christ was a jew like me." (12.542-3)

For the record, Bloom is right. Why is this the most enraging thing that he could possibly say to the citizen?

"I'll wring the neck of any f***ing bastard says a word against my bleeding f***ing king." (15.1023)

These are Private Carr's words shortly before he socks Stephen in the jaw at the end of "Circe." There are a lot of factors at work here. One is Carr and Stephen's drunkenness. Another factor has to do with Carr's pride over the girl he has picked up, Cissy Caffrey. And still another factor deals with the crowd that has gathered around them and is urging Carr toward action. Why does all of his anger come to gather around nationalism? How is unthinking loyalty to the English king in Ireland an act of prejudice?

"So I, without deviating from plain facts in the least, told him his God, I mean Christ, was a jew too, and all his family, like me, though in reality I'm not. That was one for him. A soft answer turns away wrath. He hadn't a word to say for himself as everyone saw. Am I not right." (16.193)

Here, in "Eumaeus," Bloom recounts his fight with the citizen for Stephen. What do you make of the fact that Bloom proudly tells of how he talked down the citizen's prejudice, but then lies to Stephen and tells him that he is not a Jew? Why might he want to hide the fact that he is a Jew from Stephen?

"-Of course," Mr. Bloom proceeded to stipulate, "you must look at both sides of the question. It is hard to lay down any hard and fast rules as to right and wrong but room for improvement all round there certainly is though every country, they say, our own distressful included, has the government it deserves. But with a little goodwill all round. It's all very fine to boast of mutual superiority but what about mutual equality? I resent violence or intolerance in any shape or form. It never reaches anything or stops anything. A revolution must come on the due instalments plan." (16.196)

Bloom has just finished bragging about his encounter with the citizen in "Eumaeus." He is now preaching to Stephen about the importance of moderation and pacifism. Do the words strike you as true? Is there something about his tone that undermines his words? Is it possible for a statement to be correct but to somehow be false based on how it is delivered?

Condense Stephen's commentary.

One of all, the least of all, is the victim predestined. Once by inadvertence, twice by design he challenges his destiny. It comes when he is abandoned and challenges him reluctant and, as an apparition of hope and youth holds him unresisting. It leads him to a strange habitation, to a secret infidel apartment, and there, implacable, immolates him, consenting.

Why was the host (victim predestined) sad?

He wished that a tale of a deed should be told of a deed not by him should by him not be told. (17.119-120)

In "Ithaca," Stephen has just recited an anti-Semitic legend at Bloom's request. He offers a reading of the legend that presents both himself and Bloom as victims, but Bloom is still despondent. How could Stephen be so crass? Why is Bloom sad? Is it just the anti-Semitic content of Stephen's poem or the fact that there is now some distance between them or is it something else?

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