Blazes Boylan - “Ulysses” by James Joyce

A Comprehensive Analysis of Literary Protagonists - Sykalo Evgen 2023

Blazes Boylan - “Ulysses” by James Joyce

A Character Study of Blazes Boylan in James Joyce's "Ulysses"

Blazes Boylan, the character created by James Joyce in his modernist classic "Ulysses," is a colorful and mysterious man of contradictions who is at once endearing and repellent, confident and insecure. His presence hovers over Leopold Bloom's thoughts, a continual reminder of the upcoming tryst with Bloom's wife, Molly Bloom.

Character Type

Blazes Boylan is a multifaceted character that experiences major transformations during the story. At first, he comes out as a confident and cheerful man, but as time goes on, his confidence conceals a deep-seated desire for approval.

Function in the Story

Boylan highlights Bloom's fears and introverted personality by acting as a counterbalance to Bloom. He is a metaphor for the self-assured, macho man Bloom wishes he could be but can't. Boylan's extramarital relationship with Molly highlights Bloom's feelings of inadequacy and marital conflict even more.


Little is known about Boylan's history. He manages a boxer and is a successful advertising man, indicating his savvy in business and social standing. His connection to well-known singer Molly implies he is drawn to successful, powerful women.

Personality traits

Boylan's flamboyance and confidence are what define him. He gives off an aura of confidence that verges on arrogance and is quick to brag about his accomplishments. But underneath this exterior is a deep-seated insecurity that is revealed by his response after losing a wager on the Gold Cup race.

Goals and Motivations

Boylan wants to establish his desirability and manhood. His relationship with Molly is a way for him to show women how attractive he is and to validate his own value.

Challenges and Conflict

Boylan's personal insecurities are the main source of his conflict. He seeks approval from others out of a need for affirmation and recognition, which leaves him open to manipulation and flattery.


Boylan's relationships are characterized by a lack of sincerity and superficiality. His relationship with Molly is primarily physical and lacks emotional nuance. His ambition to present a picture of success and desirability drives his relationships with other characters, which are frequently self-serving.

Boylan represents the character of the "confident trickster," using his charisma and charm to deceive people and cover up his own fears. He stands for the transience and shallowness of physical attraction in contrast to Bloom's inner world's persistent force.

Character Arc

Boylan's character arc is characterized by a slow but steady decline in his confidence. His concerns become more apparent, especially after he loses the bet and blows up. His meeting with Bloom in "Circe" reveals more of his weaknesses, including his fear of growing old and inadequate.

Language & Dialogue

Boylan's use of bold, self-important language is distinctive. His usage of slang and colloquialisms is a reflection of his working-class upbringing and his attempt to come across as personable and grounded. His words are frequently arrogant and self-serving, which exposes his desire for approval from others.

Cultural and Historical Context

Dublin's evolving social and cultural scene in the early 20th century is embodied by Boylan. His success and self-assurance are indicative of the expanding power of mass media and advertising, while his shallowness and desire for approval are a reflection of the emphasis society places on status and looks.

Critical Views

Literary critics have interpreted Boylan in a variety of ways. While some regard him as a sorrowful man caught in a cycle of self-doubt and seeking validation from others, others see him as a symbol of male chauvinism and the objectification of women.

In conclusion, Blazes Boylan is a nuanced and multidimensional figure who personifies the attraction and dangers of superficiality and the search for approval from others. His appearance in "Ulysses" highlights the divergent views of masculinity and the human yearning for acceptance and connection, acting as a counterbalance to Bloom's solitary style.