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Tomasi, B.R. (1973). The Fraternal Theme in Joyce's Ulysses. Am. Imago, 30(2):177-191.

(1973). American Imago, 30(2):177-191

The Fraternal Theme in Joyce's Ulysses

Barbara R. Tomasi

In the “Scylla and Charybdis” episode of Ulysses, Stephen expounds theoretically on the ways in which Shakespeare's art was engendered by the circumstances of his family life; his theory reaches through the novel as a loose paradigm for all of the family relationships in Ulysses. At the same time, the theory is a paradigm for the extra-familial relationships of the artist, for his precarious position in relation to society is an equally major theme of the novel. We see Stephen under attack in the library scene; A.E., Best and Eglinton are allied against him, not only as Platonists massed in opposition to his Aristotelianism, but also as fellow-poets, publishing fellow-poets whose voices are collectively the intellectual voice of Ireland. Stephen's theories are a game for them, an afternoon's diversion. They plan to meet later in the evening, but the meeting is exclusive and Stephen is not invited. The harmony of intellectual communion—, “great poet on a great brother poet” (184), which gives rise to the brilliance of Stephen's insight into Shakespeare's art, is superceded by alienation—great poet against brother poet—, and Stephen is once more set apart from his fellows.

This atmosphere of rivalry permeates Ulysses. It seems to be an inevitable outcome of the fatherless situation, whether it be the fatherless household (Penelope and Telemachus without Odysseus, Avon without Shakespeare, Eccles Street without Bloom), or the fatherless society (Ithaca without Odysseus, Denmark without the old King Hamlet, Ireland without Parnell). Freud's comment on this rivalry in Totem and Taboo, published in 1913, was therefore available to Joyce during the writing of Ulysses. He perceived it as evolving from the archetypal family relationship in which “a jealous father … keeps all the females for himself and drives away his sons as they grow up.” The “primal horde,” as Freud calls the sons, or brothers, “came together, killed and devoured their father….

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