James Joyce: The Virago Motif

Publication Year



literature, James Joyce, the Virgo Motif, comparative literature, Ulysses, character development


Comparative Literature | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, British Isles


The intention of this paper is to formulate a particular approach to James Joyce's work Ulysses. This will be done by attempting to bring all of Ulysses into focus through a careful study of certain episodes of that book and through a survey of Joyce's earlier prose works. The particular perspective that will be taken on Ulysses centers around what is termed the Virago motif. This motif will be investigated as it is seen through the three main characters--Stephen Dedalus-Telemachus, Leopold Bloom-Odysseus, and Molly Bloom-Penelope. The Virago motif is drawn directly from Joyce's characters and can serve as a key to unraveling the meaning of Ulysses. The virago, an unusually shrewish, domineering, or masculine woman of great size and strength, i.e. Amazon (OED), appears numerous times as a symbol and as a character in Ulysses. Leopold Bloom's father was named Rudolph Virag:

--Isn't he [Leopold Bloom] a cousin of Bloom the dentist? says Jack Power

--Not at all, says Martin. Only namesakes. His name was Virag. The father's name that poisoned himself. He changed it by deed poll, the father did. (U 337:35-38)

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