Martello tower, photo by Erik Simpson

The Ulysses Lexicon



union, unity, unify, united, onion

Related Terms

Peer and Pier


The first mention of the word union in Ulysses is of the political union of Ireland and England in accordance with the Act of Union of 1800. In "Nestor" (U 2), Deasy attempts to leverage the fact that his ancestor Sir John Blackwood refused a bribe to vote for the Union, intending to prove to Stephen that he is truly Irish; Blackwood's son, however, accepted just such a bribe. The exchange thus functions to critique attempts to construct a legitimate national identity via shared history (U 2.268-72). Stephen is linked with a fox by a riddle he tells his students in this same classroom episode; the link reemerges in connection to union during "Circe" (U 15) when a hunting union chases a fox, only to be interrupted by the sudden appearance of the dark horse. The Act of Union haunts Stephen as the union of poachers hunts the fox, and that Bloom's zoomorphic form (the dark horse) derails this act of persecution is one of many symbolic gestures that suggest Bloom may, in a partial and even unintentional way, relieve some of the anxiety and oppression that Stephen feels so keenly. For example, Bloom proposes that Bloomusalem will be a union of all, suggesting that his ideal state would demolish the power hierarchies against which Stephen feels compelled to revolt (U 15.1686). Beginning in "Calypso," the word develops a special significance for Bloom personally as it appears in the advertisement for Agnedath Netaim, the Zionist colony whose promises of "immense melonfields" correspond to Molly's "plump mellow yellow smellow" buttocks (U 17.2241), the love Bloom has for them, and the comfort they provide him (U 4.191-200). It also bears mentioning that correspondences between Bloom, Molly, and Stephen and God, The Holy Spirit, and Christ fluctuate, yet always evoke the union-that-is-not-quite-a-union that is consubstantiality. Furthermore, "Calypso" begins the separation of Bloom from Molly, whose sexual union with Boylan threatens Bloom's marital union. The affair stems from the loss of their son Rudy, which causes a separation between Molly and Bloom until Bloom is (re)united with Stephen (a replacement son), after which Bloom is reunited with Molly in bed. Unions of this sort are also prominent in "Oxen of the Sun" (U 14) with its thematic emphasis on birth, sex and marriage.

Definitions and Examples

  1. I. Union, v. and n. (OED 1, 4, 10.a) The action of joining or uniting one thing to another or others, so as to form one whole or complete body; the state or condition of being so joined or united.

    "The moment was too propitious for the display of that discursiveness which seemed the only bond of union among tempers so divergent" (U 14.953-55).

    "Do you know that the orange lodges agitated for the repeal of the union twenty years before O'Connell did and or before the prelates of your communion denounced him as a demagogue?" (U 2.270-73).

    • v. Amalgamation into one political body; especially formation or incorporation into a single state, kingdom, or political entity, usually with one central legislature. (OED n1 I.4)

    "LORD TENNYSON: (gentleman poet in Union Jack blazer and cricket flannels, bareheaded, flowing bearded) Theirs not to reason why" (U 15.4395-97).

  2. II. Union, v. and n. (OED 1.f, 5) The joining of one person to another in matrimony; a marriage.

    "...And now, this last pledge of their union, a true Purefoy if there ever were was one, with the true Purefoy nose" (U 14.1333).

  3. III. Union, n. (OED 7.b) A number, group, or body of persons or states joined or associated together for some common purpose or action; an association, league, or society.

    "Lady Mountcashel has quite recovered after her confinement and rode out with the Ward Union staghounds at the enlargement yesterday at Rathoath. Uneatable fox" (U 8.340-41).

Related topics

Beginnings and Endings
Irish History Transformed
Native and Foreign
Obedience and Rebellion
Rich and Poor
Touch and Feeling
Union and Division

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