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Leopold Bloom is the fictional protagonist and antihero[1] of James Joyce's Ulysses. Throughout the book his actions obliquely but comprehensively mirror those of Ulysses/Odysseus in The Odyssey.

The reader receives this distinctive introduction to Bloom:

Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods' roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.

Born in 1866, Bloom is the only son of Rudolf VirĂ¡g (a Hungarian Jew from Szombathely who emigrated to Ireland, converted from Judaism to Protestantism, changed his name to Rudolph Bloom and later committed suicide), and of Ellen Higgins, an Irish Protestant. They lived in Clanbrassil Street, Portobello. Bloom married Marion (Molly) Tweedy on 8 October 1888. The couple have one daughter, Millicent (Milly), born in 1889; their son Rudolph (Rudy), born in December 1893, died after eleven days. The family live at 7 Eccles Street in Dublin.

The majority of the chapters in Ulysses focus on Bloom's contemporary odyssey through Dublin over the course of the single day of 16 June 1904, and the various types of people and themes he encounters (although episodes 1 to 3, as well as 9 and to a lesser extent 7, concentrate more on Stephen Dedalus, who in the plan of the book represents Telemachus). Joyce aficionados celebrate 16 June as 'Bloomsday'.

As he goes about his day, Bloom's thoughts reveal him to be preoccupied with the affair between Molly and her manager, Hugh 'Blazes' Boylan (obliquely, through, for instance, telltale ear worms); and, prompted by the funeral of friend Paddy Dignam, the death of his child, Rudy. His absence of a son may be what leads him to take a shine to Stephen, whom he goes out of his way to take care of in the book's latter episodes, rescuing him from a brothel, walking him back to his own house and even offering him a place there to study and work. Also encountered are his somewhat chauvinistic attitudes, his penchant for voyeurism and his (purely epistolary) infidelity. Bloom detests violence, and his relative indifference to Irish nationalism leads to disputes with some of his peers (most notably 'the Citizen' in the Cyclops chapter).

Elsewhere in popular culture

Writer-director Mel Brooks adopted the name "Leo Bloom" for the mousy accountant in his film/musical The Producers. Leo is a nervous accountant, prone to panic attacks and who keeps a security blanket to calm himself. Nevertheless it is Leo who has the idea of how to make money from a failed play.

Former Pink Floyd bandmate Roger Waters references Leopold Bloom in his song "Flickering Flame" as sitting with Molly Malone.

It has also been suggested by Jeffrey Meyer in "Orwell's Apocalypse: Coming Up For Air, Modern Fiction Studies" that George Orwell's primary character George Bowling in "Coming Up For Air" was modelled on Leopold Bloom.

In The Daily Show with Jon Stewart presents America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction, a mock civics textbook, Leopold Bloom is mentioned in an example of a letter entitled "Writing your Congressman." The book suggests that if you have previously written to a Congressman, and you have not heard back, you should write one of the following combinations, "I live in your district and I vote/plan on registering to vote this time/will wake up on Election Day with every intention to vote but, like Joyce's Leopold Bloom, will find my day inexorably pulling me in every direction but that one toward which I intended to go."

Leo Bloom King is the protagonist and narrator of Pat Conroy's 2009 novel South of Broad. His mother is a huge fan of Joyce.

References

  1. ^ Sutherland, John. "Beautiful Losers: A literary critic analyzes the role of European antiheroes.", The New York Times, 9 May 1999. Accessed 16 October 2008. "The antihero emerges as a perturber and a disturber, a subverter of things as they are. The type evolves into heroes of inaction such as Proust's Swann and Joyce's Leopold Bloom."

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