Leopold Bloom  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Leopold Bloom is the fictional protagonist and hero of James Joyce's Ulysses. His peregrinations and encounters in Dublin on 16 June 1904 mirror, on a more mundane and intimate scale, those of Ulysses/Odysseus in The Odyssey.

Leopold Bloom's character was inspired by James Joyce's close relationship with Aron Ettore Schmitz (Italo Svevo), author of Zeno's Conscience.

Bloom is introduced to the reader as a man of appetites:

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 Virág (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. He's uncircumcised. They lived in Clanbrassil Street, Portobello. Bloom converted to Catholicism in order to marry 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.

Episodes (chapters) in Ulysses relate a series of encounters and incidents in Bloom's contemporary odyssey through Dublin in the course of the single day of 16 June 1904 (although episodes 1 to 3, 9 and to a lesser extent 7, are primarily concerned with Stephen Dedalus, who in the plan of the story is the counterpart of Telemachus). Joyce aficionados celebrate 16 June as 'Bloomsday'.

As the day unfolds, Bloom's thoughts turn to the affair between Molly and her manager, Hugh 'Blazes' Boylan (obliquely, through, for instance, telltale ear worms) and, prompted by the funeral of his friend Paddy Dignam, the death of his child, Rudy. The absence of a son may be what leads him to take a shine to Stephen, for whom he goes out of his way 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. The reader becomes familiar with Bloom's tolerant, humanistic outlook, 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). Although Bloom has never been a practicing Jew, converted to Roman Catholicism to marry Molly, and has in fact received Christian baptism on three different occasions, he is of Jewish heritage and is constantly mistaken and ridiculed for being a Jew.

Elsewhere in popular culture

Writer-director Mel Brooks used the name "Leo Bloom" for the mousy accountant in his film/musical The Producers. Leo is a nervous accountant, prone to panic attacks, 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.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Leopold Bloom" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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