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Joyce is often credited with an inward and celebratory presentation of woman What do you think of his achievement in that respect Close analysis of the role of women in Ulysses reveals something of a dichotomy The aggressive promiscuous Molly Bloom appears to represent Joyces delineation of a self-confident uninhibited new woman In many respects Joyces presentation of woman is ahead of its time - Ulysses provoked outrage on its release for the frankness of Mollys sexual thoughts in the final Penelope episode However other readings and readers draw attention to Joyces inability to truly understand the female psyche and criticise his depictions of women as flawed and unbalanced This essay will outline and attempt to reconcile these conflicting observations and examine the extent to which Joyce succeeds in celebrating females and femininity in Ulysses One of the most common criticisms levelled at Joyce is the two-dimensional nature of the women he writes Richard Ellman asserted that his female characters inevitably fit into the virginwhore stereotypes originating in Catholicism and this has become a widely accepted perspective However whilst the reader may notice such an inclination in Ulysses Joyce neither condones virgin as virtuous nor condemns whore as shameful In fact if one compares the manner in which he mocks Gerty MacDowells romantic aspirations with the freedom of thought apportioned to the voracious Molly Bloom quite the reverse appears to be the case With this in mind one must ask whether Joyce can be criticised for classifying women in Ulysses Indeed such broad labels as untouched virgin and defiled prostitute may be unavoidable in a work in which the author attempts to uncover the deepest workings of the female psyche Joyce wrote the Penelope episode not specifically to shock but to illustrate his theory on the female thought process based claims Ellman on his theory of Nora Barnacles mind However it is hard to imagine today the disbelief with which many readers received
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