Gerty MacDowell - “Ulysses” by James Joyce

A Comprehensive Analysis of Literary Protagonists - Sykalo Evgen 2023

Gerty MacDowell - “Ulysses” by James Joyce

A pivotal figure in James Joyce's "Ulysses" is Gerty MacDowell, a character who explores human dreams, wants, and the intricacy of the human psyche. By going through her character type, role in the story, background, personality traits, motivations and goals, conflicts and challenges, relationships, symbolism and archetypes, character arc, language and dialogue, cultural and historical context, and critical perspectives, we will follow the steps outlined above to conduct a thorough analysis of Gerty MacDowell.

Type of Character

One could classify Gerty MacDowell as a vibrant figure. She doesn't play a major role in the story, but during the book, she experiences a significant inward change. Her persona develops into a more sophisticated and self-aware person from an object of fancy and want.

Place in the Narrative

A supporting role is played by Gerty MacDowell in "Ulysses." In the "Nausicaa" episode, she plays a crucial role as the focus of Leopold Bloom's voyeuristic attentions. Her presence deepens the examination of voyeurism, sexuality, and how outside factors affect personal wants.


The work does not delve further into Gerty's past. She is described as having a physical impairment, nevertheless, and uses a crutch to walk. This particular element gives her character more sensitivity, which affects how she interacts with others and sees the world.

Personality Characteristics

Gerty is presented as a romantic and daydreaming figure. Her creative fantasies during the fireworks scenario on the beach demonstrate how vivid her imagination is. Despite being aware of her own attraction, she is still shown as being relatively naïve and idealistic. Joyce uses words that conjure images of sensuality and purity for her.

Motives and Objectives

The need for love and connection appears to be Gerty's main driving force. She longs for romantic encounters and is painfully conscious of how alone she is because of her physical limitations. Her craving for recognition and affection is evident in the beach scene, where she sees herself as the object of desire.

Difficulties and Conflicts

Gerty struggles with her fantasies and desires on an internal level. There is a complicated internal struggle that results from the conflict between her love ambitions and the reality of her physical condition. In addition, Bloom's voyeuristic stare gives rise to the outward conflict, which intensifies her interior difficulties.


In the book, Gerty's relationships are not given any attention. She seldom interacts with other characters; her bond with Bloom during the beach scene is the most important one. They have a complicated relationship that combines voyeurism, desire, and a transient bond.

Archetypes and Symbolism

One way to interpret Gerty MacDowell is as a symbol for the point when sensuality and purity converge. Her appearance on the beach, lit up by fireworks, represents the transient essence of desire and beauty. She can be the archetypal romantic heroine who longs for happiness and love.

The Character's Story

The "Nausicaa" episode features a small but profound change in Gerty's personality. She is initially portrayed as a passive object of desire, but as she becomes conscious of Bloom's gaze, she gains agency. Her character development culminates in this self-awareness, which highlights her transformation from an idealized object to a person with desires and agency.

Dialogue and Language

Gerty is a passionate and dreamy person, as seen by her words and inner monologue. Joyce uses a style known as stream-of-consciousness writing to explore her thoughts and reveal her inner world. Although she doesn't say much, her beautifully described thoughts and desires highlight her amorous and imaginative nature.

Historical and Cultural Background

Dublin in the early 20th century must be understood in the context of Gerty's character. Her ideas of love, beauty, and femininity are shaped by the expectations and social conventions of the day. Her interactions with others are further complicated by her physical impairment, which also adds a degree of social and cultural complexity.

Analytical Views

Scholars and critics have tackled Gerty's persona from a variety of perspectives. Some highlight her part in delving into the complexity of desire, while others concentrate on her narrative symbolism. Examining several critical vantage points can offer a more complex interpretation of Gerty's persona and her role in the novel's themes.

Layout Your Interpretation

We can arrange this analysis logically by going through the procedures listed in order to present it coherently. This guarantees a methodical investigation of Gerty MacDowell's persona, enabling a thorough comprehension of her function in "Ulysses."

Offer Proof

Direct statements and scenes from the "Nausicaa" episode can be used to bolster each point of the analysis. There is sufficient evidence in Joyce's complex and well-written story to delve deeply into Gerty's character, enabling a comprehensive and solidly substantiated analysis.

In conclusion, "Ulysses" explores love, fantasy, and the human psyche in depth through the nuanced portrayal of Gerty MacDowell. We are able to comprehend Gerty's significance in the greater scheme of Joyce's masterwork through a thorough examination of her character type, role in the story, background, personality traits, motivations, conflicts, relationships, symbolism, archetypes, character arc, language, cultural context, and critical perspectives.