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Joyce’s Use Of Dog Imagery In Ulysses

If we examine Ulysses for the use of animals, we quickly realize that Joyce draws on an extensive bestiary which contains basilisks, wrens, pigs, eagles, hyenas, panthers, pards, pelicans, roebucks, unicorns, dogs, bats, whales and serpents among other people. All the beasts incorporated in Ulysses carry symbolic which means which is closely linked to the characters themselves and to the circumstances they are in. Interestingly sufficient, not much has been written about Joyce’s imagery as far as animals are concerned. There are some fascinating journal articles but they do not go beyond analyzing porcine, cattle and horse photos in Ulysses. Rather than covering a wide range of beasts and their meanings, this paper will concentrate on the evaluation of canine imagery throughout the book and will attempt to unravel its meaning in the story.

The very first evident observation when dealing with dog pictures is the recurrent use of the word dog and its derivatives throughout the book. Take for instance, Chapter 1 (Telemachus) where Buck Mulligan, who was shaving himself, kindly calls Stephen “dogsbody” (112) just before asking him how the secondhand breeks fitted him. According to Gifford, this was a colloquial use of the term for a particular person who does odd jobs, typically in an institution. Joyce also plays with the inversion of the word God/dog in Chapter 15 when in Bloom’s hallucinations the voice of all the damned say “Htengier Tnetopinmo Dog Drol eht rof, Aiulella!” (4708), Adonai utters “Dooooooooog!” (4710) and then the voice of all the blessed pronounce the phrase in the right way “Alleluia, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!” (4712) and Adonai calls “Gooooooooood.”

The word dog is also utilized in phrases such as the one Rudolph uses when scolding his son in Chapter 15. He tells Bloom: “one evening they bring you house drunk as dog right after devote your good funds.” (267). Bloom himself makes use of the phrase “dog of a Christian” when, in his dream, he orders to shoot Leopold M’Intosh (1563)

There are so many examples like the ones above-mentioned that no list can be exhaustive. Nevertheless, the objective of the present work is not to deal with the use of the word dog, but rather with “flesh and bone” dogs, their effects on the characters and their achievable which means and contribution to the story.

In order to begin analyzing their which means in Ulysses, I will initial make reference to what the Dictionary of Symbolic and Mythological Animals says about the subject of my study. According to this dictionary, there is proof that the dog was domesticated in 7500 BC. It is not only the oldest animal companion of humanity but also has the widest range of makes use of in friendship, guarding, hunting and herding.

Notwithstanding its use in symbolism and myth, it is ambivalent, revered and a close companion in some societies and despised and execrated in others. It can also be either a solar or lunar animal. Solar dogs chase away the Boar of Winter. They are fire-bringers and masters of fire, destroying the enemies of light.

Lunar dogs are associated with Artemies, Goddess of the Moon and of the hunt. They are intermediaries between moon deities.

Apuleius says that “the dog… denotes the messenger going hence and thence between the Larger and Infernal powers.” It is a guardian of the underworld, attends on the dead and leads then to the subsequent planet.

Plutarch says dogs symbolize “the conservative, watchful, philosophical principle in life.” They embody qualities of fidelity, watchfulness and nobility they are also credited with psychic powers and the dog is usually a culture hero or mythical ancestor.

In Sumero-Semitic symbolism, the significance of the dog varies. It is evil and demonic. The Semitic antipathy towards the dog was carried over into Judaism where, except for in Tobit, where Tobias has a dog companion, the dog was held in contempt as unclean and a scavenger and was ritually taboo (Matthew 7:6), connected with whoremongers (Deuteronomy 23:18) and sorcerers, fornicators and idolaters (Revelation 22:15)

In Graeco-Roman myth the dog is again ambivalent, the term “cynic”- that is, “dog-like”- is derogatory and implies impudence and flattery. Homer says the dog is shameless, but on the other hand, it is associated with Aesculapius or Asclepios the skilled doctor and healer, and the dog also heals by rebirth into life. Its fidelity survives death.

It also accompanies Hermes/Mercury as messenger god – presiding wind and the Great Shepherd.

The dog is important in Celtic myth and appears frequently with hunter-gods. Dogs are associated with the healing waters. They are also psychic animals connected with divination and they are frequently metamorphosed men and women in Celtic lore.

In Christianity the dog represents fidelity, watchfulness and conjugal fidelity. It is also depicted with the Good Shepherd as a guardian of the flock and in this aspect can also symbolize a bishop or priest.

In the Bestiaries dogs typify sagacity, fidelity and priests as watch dogs because they drive away the trespassing Devil and safeguard the treasures of God.

Dogs appear regularly in Heraldry, esp. in England (greyhounds, bloodhounds and foxhounds)

The Black Dog, a massive, shaggy ghost-dog with fiery eyes is a frequent theme in haunting and is generally a portent of death it can be harmless if not touched, but to touch it is to die.

Possessing this background data in thoughts, we will observe that Joyce has attached to the Ulysses’ dogs the symbolism of a lot more than one culture.

In chapter three (Proteus), the first real dog seems. In truth, the first dog Stephen notices is a dead dog: “A bloated carcass of a dog lay lolled on bladderwrack.”(286) He observes the surroundings, noticing “the gunwale of a boat, sunk in sand.” He draws a parallel in between the sand and the language and realizes the significance hidden underneath: “These heavy sands are language tide and wind have silted here.(…). Hide gold there. Try it. You have some. Sands and stones. Heavy of the past.” Thus, this first dead dog appears to be symbolic of the metaphorical death of the beauty of language which, although a worthwhile asset, is hidden in the previous. As Gifford points out in his note 9.953, according to Robert Graves, in Celtic mythology the dog’s epithet is “Guard the Secret.” For that reason, this dead dog could have been the faithful guardian of language.

Stephen quickly sees one more dog: “A point, live dog, grew into sight running across the sweep of sand.”(294) This dog does not trigger meditation on the contrary, Stephen is rather afraid of him: “Lord, is he going to attack me?” (295) He seems to get God’s response in no time “Respect his liberty. You will not be master of other folks or their slave.”(296) Such an answer does not bring any comfort to him. He checks his stick and sits tight until he runs back to the two figures who are walking along the shore. Stephen remarks that the “two maries tucked it secure amongst the bulrushes” (298) He has witnessed some thing he was not supposed to see. Then, the dog as the guardian of the women’s secret discovers that Stephen has been watching. “The dog’s bark ran towards him, stopped, ran back.” (310) In this case, Stephen “just just stood pale, silent, bayed about. Terribilia meditans.”(311) It is in that moment that he begins pondering about the man who had drowned nine days just before and he imagines himself in that circumstance and reflects upon such a terrible death. Gifford suggests that Stephen envisions himself as Acteon who, simply because he interrupted Diana whilst she was bathing, was transformed into a deer or roebuck. It is also a conventional symbol of the hidden secret of the self. In Celtic mythology its epithet is “Hide the Secret.” Likewise, Stephen will not reveal the secret to the reader. Then, there approaches a lady and a man’s dog named Tatters. He “ambled about a bank of dwinding sand, trotting, sniffing on all sides. Hunting for some thing lost in a past life.” (331) Then, “the man’s shrieked whistle struck his limp ears. He turned, bounded back, came nearer, trotted on twinkling shanks.”(333-334) This illustrates the dog’s obedience and loyalty towards the human being. As Gifford states, Stephen then translates the dog on the beach into the language of heraldry: “On a field a tenney a buck, trippant, correct, unattired”(337) tenney: orange or tawny trippant applied to a stag when walking proper: in natural colors unattired: without having antlers (uncommon in heraldry due to the fact it would imply impotence). The dog then “halted with stiff forehoofs, seawardpointed ears. His snout lifted barked at the wavenoise…” (243) He, as a messenger, seems to be attentive to any message coming from the ocean. It is soon after this moment that Tatters discovers the dead dog. “The carcass lay on his path. He stopped, sniffed, stalked round it, brother, nosing closer, went round it, sniffling swiftly like a dog all over the dead dog’s bedraggled fell. Dogskull, dogsniff, eyes on the ground, moves to one great objective.” (248-249) The dog appears extremely interested in his discovery this dog is humanized and he calls the dead dog “brother.” He inspects him closely and shows sympathy towards him. He adds: “Ah, poor dogsbody! Here lies poor dogsbody’s body.” If we don't forget what Mulligan named Stephen in the very first chapter, we could assume that Stephen has nearly transmuted into Tatters and that he observes the dead dog as his own carcass. So considerably so that the citation reads “sniffling rapidly like a dog.” (248) This might be the burial of his former self and the beginning of some thing new given that he has his “eyes on the ground” which means that he is inspecting the territory, examining his past, and he “moves to one particular wonderful aim.” (249) Possibly a new Stephen will arise out of his deep meditation. Joyce might be employing the Celtic symbolism of metamorphosis right here.

Tatter’s owners get in touch with him back and kick him for having been smelling the old dog. Stephen has not been found by the dog this time. Tatter’s “hindpaws then scattered the sand: then his forepaws dabbled and delved. Some thing he buried there.” (359-360) Stephen remembers the riddle of the fox that is burying his grandmother and he thinks Tatter is carrying out the same. When much more, although not told, this image may reflect Stephen digging in his previous and remembering his mother’s funeral.

In chapter six (Hades), we are very first shown the image of Mr Bloom’s dog. He is taking him to the Dog’s residence and on the way he thinks about poor children, illnesses and death. When he gets there, he says: “Dogs’ house more than there. Poor old Athos! Be great to Athos, Leopold, is my last want. Thy will be carried out. We obey them in the grave. A dying scrawl. He took it to heart, pined away. Quiet brute. Old men’s dogs typically are.” (125-128) Gifford explains that the Dog’s home was maintained by the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The residence advertised its interest in strays and proclaimed: “The diseased painlessly destroyed.” He adds that Bloom’s father’s dog was apparently named right after 1 of the 3 musketeers (Aramis, Athos, and Porthos) from Alexandre Dumas pere’s (1802 – 70) popular novel “Les trois musquetaires.” (Paris, 1844) According to Gifford, we can establish a comparison with The Odyssey because when Odysseus first approaches his manor residence he weeps at the sight of his old dog Argos, “abandoned” on a dung heap outdoors the gates. The dog struggles to greet his master, “but death and darkness in that instant closed/ the eyes of Argos, who had observed his master/ Odysseus, following twenty years.” Joyce, in this case, shows not only Athos as getting respected and honored by his owner, but also the intimate links human beings are capable of making with animals.

Soon after dealing with the image of a dead dog, we move to an additional death when we study about Paltry’s funeral which is connected with the canine imagery by means of the use of the word “dogbiscuits.” The narrator describes the funeral saying: “It’s all the identical. Pallbearers, gold reins, gold reins, requiem mass, firing a volley. Pomp of death. Beyond the hind carriage a hawker stood by his barrow of cakes and fruit. Simnel cakes those are, stuck collectively: cakes for the dead. Dogbiscuits. Who ate them? Mourners coming out.” (499-503) Gifford clarifies the meaning of dogbiscuits, stating that they are named that not only simply because simnel cakes are hard but also right after the Aeneid, when the sibyl guiding Aeneas into the underworld throws “a morsel drowsy with honey and drugged meal” to the three-headed dog Cerberus. This dog imagery is sustained by the fact that Father Coffey is described as “Bully about the muzzle” (596) and “with a belly on him like a poisoned pup” (599) as if he have been Cerberus. Joyce might be employing Christian symbolism in this case.

In chapter 12 (The Cyclops), the reader encounters a big dog named Garryowen. This dog is more menacing for Bloom, and what is worse, Garryowen is in allegiance with Citizen, who, in spite of not getting his owner, feeds the dog biscuits. It is an intimidating dog that inspires no mercy on any of the pub attendants: “The bloody mongrel let a grouse out of him would give you the creeps. Be a corporal work of mercy if a person would take the life of that bloody dog. I’m told for a fact he ate a good element of the breeches off a constabulary man in Santry that came round one time with a blue paper about a licence. (124-127) In reality, they want to get rid of him. His mere name, according to Gifford, has numerous connotations given that Garryowen is a suburb of Limerick popular for its squalor and for the crudity and brutality of its inhabitants. Such qualities can effortlessly be applied to this dog, who in spite of performing nothing frightens the men who are in the pub. Garryowen is also the title of an Irish drinking song and also a renowned Irish setter who was owned by J.J. Giltrap of Dublin. In turn, Old Giltrap’s: Gerty McDowell’s maternal grandfather. So there could be a remote connection in between the dog and Bloom and Gerty’s “affair” in the sense that this dog, with the psychic energy attributed to his species, may know in advance Bloom’s intention when seeing Gerty. This could also supply an explanation for Bloom’s fear of the dog and for the dog’s growling at Bloom.

The Citizen, in contrast, befriends this dog and is portrayed as his master: “A couched spear of acuminated granite rested by him although at his feet reposed a savage animal of the canine tribe whose stertorous gasps announced that he was sunk in uneasy slumber, a supposition confirmed by hoarse growls and spasmodic movements which his master repressed from time to time by tranquilising blows of a mighty cudgel rudely fashioned out of Paleolithic stone.” (200-205) When Bloom enters the pub Old Garryowen begins growling once again at Bloom. The Citizen mocks Bloom and says: “Come in, come on, says the citizen. He will not consume you.” (399) Bloom enters but the dog keeps smelling him all the time. He has no merciful feelings towards the dog, he thinks the Citizen ought to “get a new dog Mangy ravenous brute sniffing and sneezing all round the place and scratching his scabs. And round he goes to Bob Doran that was standing Alf a half a single sucking up for what he could get.” (284 -289) Bloom even disapproves of Alf for “trying to maintain him from tumbling off the bloody stool atop of the bloody old dog and he talking all types of drivel about training by kindness and thoroughbred dog and intelligent dog: give you the bloody pip.” (291) Even when Garryowen is consuming the biscuits can we hear Bloom complaining “Gob, he galloped it down like old boots and his tongue hanging out of him a yard lengthy for more. Near ate the tin and all, hungry bloody mongrel.” (294-295) He is even much more irritated when “the old dog seeing the tin was empty starts mousing about by Joe and me. I’d train him by kindness, so I would, if he was my dog. Give him a rousing fine kick now and once more where it wouldn’t blind him.” (698-699) Bloom’s adverse side is observed when the dog is close to him. The Citizen mocks him once more.: “-Afraid he’ll bite you? Says the citizen, jeering.” (700) Bloom tries to justify himself by telling him that the dog “might take (his) leg for a lamppost.” (702) There is such an intimacy, such a communion in between the Citizen and Garryowen that when he calls the dog he “starts hauling and mauling and speaking to him in Irish and the old towser growling, letting on to answer, like a duet in the opera. Such growling you never heard as they let off between them.” (705-706) Bloom rather thinks that the dog should be muzzled and describes him as “growling and grousing and his eye all bloodshot from the drouth is in it and the hydrophobia dropping out of his jaws.” (709-710) Bloom then imagines the dog as “Arsing around from 1 pub to an additional, leaving it to your personal honour, with old Giltrap’s dog and acquiring fed up by the ratepayers and corporators. Entertainment for man and beast.(252-253)

When the Citizen leaves the pub, he throws an empty can to Bloom and says:

“- Did I kill him, says he, or what?

And he shouting to the bloody dog:

– Right after him, Garry! Following him, boy!” (1903-1905)

That is the final time they see the Citizen and the dog. However, some thing amazing occurs just after the evil characters leave: “When, lo, there came about them all a fantastic brightness and they beheld the chariot wherein He stood ascend to heaven. And they beheld Him in the chariot, clothed upon in the glory of the brightness… And they beheld Him even Him, ben Bloom Elijah, amid clouds of angels ascend to the glory of the brightness.” (1910-1917)

A attainable interpretation for this is that once evil, represented by Garryowen as the Black dog hereinabove mentioned, disappears, Bloom is in a position to ascend to a higher level. All his aggression will be left behind and we will see a much more tolerant Bloom when he encounters dogs in chapter 15.

In Circe, David Hayman says Joyce appears to have taken the complete book, jumbled it together in a giant mixer, and then rearranged its components in a monster pantomime which contains each and every imaginable kind of foolery but which might nicely be the most significant chapter in the book, a true rite of passage. Joyce tends to make no clear distinction between minor hallucinations and the normal surface and even introduces improbable components into the characters’ hallucinations. As a outcome the visions and identities of Stephen and Bloom are blurred, universalized, mythicized the elements of their days are intermingled, so that their fates may possibly momentarily be joined.

Bloom is walking along the red-light district and, in his hallucinations, dog imagery is also present. Very first, he is approached by a dog with his “tongue outlolling, panting.” (632)

When he is contemplating to “Go or turn? And this food? Consume it and get all pigsticky. Absurd I am. Waste of income. One particular and eightpence too significantly,” (358) a “retriever drives a cold sniveling muzzle against his hand, wagging his tail,”(359) and Bloom, as opposed to in Chapter 12, wonders about the reality that he is liked by dogs and he thinks, “Strange how they take to me. Even that brute these days.” (660). He sees Garryowen and says, “Better speak to him first.” (661) He goes to him and thinks, “He may well be mad. Dogdays.” Bloom is, “Uncertain in his movements.” But he tells him, “Good fellow! Fido! Great fellow! Garryowen!” The dog’s response is really different now: “The wolfdog sprawls on his back wriggling obscenely with begging paws, his long black tongue lolling out.” Bloom thinks it is the, “Influence of his surroundings.” (665) Then, Bloom, “calling encouraging words he shambles back with a furtive poacher’s tread, dogged by the setter into a dark stale stunk corner. He unrolls 1 parcel and goes to dump the crubeen softly but hold back and feels the trotter.” (666-669) He shares his food with the dog who, “mauls the bundle clumsily and gluts himself with growling greed, crunching the bones.” (672) In that moment, two watchmen method silently and tell Bloom:

“First watch: ‘Caught in the act. Commit no nuisance.’

(stammers) Bloom: ‘I am undertaking excellent to others’

Bloom: ‘The pal of man. Trained by kindness.'” (680-685)

We can see a total reversal in Bloom’s attitude towards the dog. He seems to have learnt the lesson about coaching dogs by treating them kindly. Somehow, this setting, although surely not an excellent one, has benefited Bloom. Nonetheless, he is caught by the watch who are working for the “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” (668) as the second watch explains to Bloom.

When Bloom meets Stephen, there is a dog bark heard in the distance. This, shared by each of them, tends to make them turn out to be 1, blurring their person differences. The narrator tells us that “Stephen (murmurs), “…shadows… the woods… white breast… dim sea” (4941-4942) Then he “stretches out his arms, sighs once more and curls his body. Bloom, holding the hat and ashplant, stands erect. A dog barks in the distance. Bloom tightens and loosens his grip on the ashplant. He appears down on Stephen’s face and type. (4944-4948) Bloom thinks Stephen’s face reminds him of, “his poor mother. In the shady wood. The deep white breast (…) (he murmurs)… swear that I will always hail, ever conceal, never reveal, any part or components, art or arts….” (4950) Bloom is described as being, “silent, thoughtful, alert he stands on guard, his fingers at his lips in the attitude of secret master,” (4956-4957) and in that moment Rudy appears. Bloom in this final scene is also transformed into a watchful dog who will take care of the drunken Stephen as he did with Rudy. In this case, Joyce draws upon Plutarch’s dog symbolism considering that Bloom is the embodiment of fidelity, nobility and watchfulness.

As Neil Russack stated in “Inner City books. Animal Guides in life, myth and dreams. An Analyst’s notebook,” humans and animals are capable of a deep and healing intimacy with one one more. In Bloom and Stephen’s cases, their speak to with dogs and their identification with them has been very helpful. Both of them, Stephen in Chapter 3 and Bloom in Chapter 15, appear to have created a new self by means of the canine imagery. Without them being aware of it, dogs modify and refresh their lives. These dogs can be regarded as as solar animals in that they fire up Stephen and Bloom’s hearts.

Joyce, in addition to depicting dogs as performing two of their fundamental roles, namely friendship and guarding, draws on the symbolism of various cultures to give his photos a deeper which means.


Dictionary of Symbolic and Mythological Animals.

Gifford, Don, and Robert Seidman. Ulysses Annotated. Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1989.

Hayman, David. Ulysses: the mechanics of which means. New Jersey, Prentice-Hall, 1970.

Joyce, James. Ulysses. New York, Very first Vintage Books Edition, 1986.

Russack, Neil. Inner City books. Animal Guides in life, myth and dreams. An Analyst’s notebook.Toronto, 2002.

Schutte, William M. Index of Recurrent Components in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Illinois, Southern Illinois University Press, 1982.
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