The plot and theme of James Joyce's Ulysses center on life as a journey. Joyce based the framework of his novel on the structure of one of the greatest and most influential works in world literature, The Odyssey, by Homer. In this epic poem of ancient Greece, Homer presented the journey of life as a heroic adventure.
The protagonist of this epic tale, Odysseus (Roman name, Ulysses), encounters many perils–including giants, angry gods, and monsters–during his voyage home to Ithaca, Greece, after the Trojan War. In Joyce's 20th Century novel, the author also depicts life as a journey, in imitation of Homer. But Joyce presents this journey as humdrum, dreary, and uneventful.
Joyce's Ulysses is a Jew of Hungarian origin, Leopold Bloom, who lives in Dublin, Ireland. His adventure consists of getting breakfast, feeding his cat, going to a funeral, doing legwork for his job, visiting pubs or restaurants, and thinking about his unfaithful wife. His activities parallel in some way the adventures of Homer's Ulysses.
An example is Bloom's attendance at a funeral in a chapter entitled "Hades." This chapter parallels an episode in The Odyssey in which Ulysses visits Hades, the land of the dead (or Underworld) in Greek mythology. Bloom's unfaithful wife, Molly, represents the faithful wife of Ulysses, Penelope. A young aspiring writer, Stephen Dedalus, represents the son of Ulysses, Telemachus, who searches for his father. Although Dedalus is not Bloom's son, Dedalus nonetheless is depicted as searching for a father figure to replace his own drunken father.