Grafton Street in Joyce’s Ulysses

James Joyce’s Ulysses is often considered one of if not the greatest novels of the twentieth century. The novel takes place over one day in Dublin, beginning at 8am on June 16 1904 and ending in the early hours of the following morning. Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom and Molly Bloom are the three major characters in the novel however; the city of Dublin itself must be considered as a central character in this novel. Ulysses can act as a guide to Dublin, with Dublin’s streets, shops, pubs and landmarks being at the heart of the novel. Grafton Street is one of the many city streets which feature in this epic novel.

Ulysses consists of 18 episodes, in Episode 8: Lestrygonians ‘Grafton Street, gay with housed awnings lured [Leopold Bloom’s] senses’. On his walk down Grafton Street Leopold Bloom remarks on the size of a woman’s ankles ‘Thick feet that woman has in the white stockings’, he then  passes by Brown Thomas and admires the garments in the window:

“He passed, dallying, the windows of Brown Thomas, silk mercers. Cascades of ribbons. Flimsy China silks… Gleaming silks, petticoats on slim brass rails, rays of flat silk stockings.”

In Episode 10: The Wandering Rocks, Blazes Boylan pays a visit to Thornton’s fruit shop at 63 Grafton Street which results in a humourous and flirtatious scene between Boylan and the blonde shop girl:

The blonde girl in Thornton’s bedded the wicker basket with rustling fibre. Blazes Boylan handed her the bottle swathed in pink tissue paper and a small jar.

— Put these in first, will you? he said.

— Yes, sir, the blond girl said, and the fruit on top.

— That’ll do, game ball, Blazes Boylan said.

She bestowed fat pears neatly, head by tail, and among them ripe shamefaced peaches.

Blazes Boylan walked here and there in new tan shoes about the fruitsmelling shop, lifting fruits, young juicy crinkled and plump red tomatoes, sniffing smells.

H. E. L. Y.’S. filed before him, tallwhitehatted, past Tangier lane, plodding towards their goal.

He turned suddenly from a chip of strawberries, drew a gold watch from his fob and held it at its chain’s length.

— Can you send them by tram? Now?

A darkbacked figure under Merchants’ arch scanned books on the hawker’s car.

— Certainly, sir. Is it in the city?

— O, yes, Blazes Boylan said. Ten minutes.

The blond girl handed him a docket and pencil.

— Will you write the address, sir?

Blazes Boylan at the counter wrote and pushed the docket to her.

— Send it at once, will you? he said. It’s for an invalid.

— Yes, sir. I will, sir.

Blazes Boylan rattled merry money in his trousers’ pocket.

— What’s the damage? he asked.

The blond girl’s slim fingers reckoned the fruits.

Blazes Boylan looked into the cut of her blouse. A young pullet. He took a red carnation from the tall stemglass.

— This for me? he asked gallantly.

The blond girl glanced sideways at him, got up regardless, with his tie a bit crooked, blushing.

— Yes, sir, she said.

Bending archly she reckoned again fat pears and blushing peaches.

Blazes Boylan looked in her blouse with more favour, the stalk of the red flower between his smiling teeth.

— May I say a word to your telephone, missy? he asked roguishly.

Laura Finn

 

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About Grafton Street

Grafton Street was named after Henry FitzRoy, The 1st Duke of Grafton, he was the illegitimate son of Charles II of England who owned land in the area and was developed from a country lane by the Dawson family in 1708, after whom the parallel Dawson Street is named.

Grafton Street runs from the top of St. Stephen's Green to (Trinity) College Green.