James Joyce Characters

This Study Guide consists of approximately 5 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of James Joyce.
This section contains 867 words
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James Joyce

James Joyce, as the subject of the biography, is the most important focus of the book. A constant and unchanging man, Joyce is cerebral, imaginative, intense and devoted to his family. He always has trouble with money and has no problems borrowing from friends. The sums of money he borrows, and the frequency with which he borrows it, are staggering. Even during times when money is less scarce—when he has sold a book, received a grant, or had help from a friend—he often buys frivolous presents rather than the necessities that his family needs. Still, he is extremely loyal and helps his friends to the best of his abilities, particularly where their writing is concerned. A particularly touching example of this is the help and comfort he provids Samuel Beckett after his stabbing. Joyce is devoted to his family. In his early life, he is very close to his father, who does not care for his other children and disinherits all but James when he dies. James and his father keep up a correspondence until his father's death. Joyce is similarly upset when his mother dies, coming back to Ireland from France (at the time, an expensive journey) to stay with her during her final illness. Later, though he is not married to Nora until later in their lives, he is devoted to her for years without the official bond of marriage. He has a good relationship with his son, Giorgio (also called George) and is absolutely distraught when his daughter, Lucia, begins to show early signs of the schizophrenia that will eventually overtake her. Joyce's later years are spent putting enormous time and money into the care of his daughter.

Nora Joyce (Nora Barnacle)

Nora Joyce, born Nora Barnacle and not officially a Joyce until her wedding in 1931, is presented in this biography as an exceptional woman. Uneducated, she is a hotel maid when she meets Joyce in 1904. However, she is very witty and has a blunt way of approaching the world that entices him and the two travel together for many years, eventually settling down. Joyce does not propose to her for several decades, and, though she confesses to Joyce's sister that she had wanted to get married, she never pushes the issue. It is not clear if she ever reveals the nature of their relationship to her own parents, but it is unlikely. Nora apparently never reads any of Joyce's work, though she works hard to keep a good home for him and their two children, Giorgio and Lucia, and celebrates the publication of his books, often throwing him parties and entertaining his friends. She is extremely patient with Joyce, who, by most accounts, is not easy to live with, though she does threaten to leave him on several occasions because of his heavy drinking (which waxes and wanes throughout his life). Though many other men express admiration and even love for her—including Joyce's brother Stanislaus, in his diary—she was loyal to Joyce and distraught whenever he jealously accuses her of infidelity. After Joyce's death, Nora stays in Zurich, where he is buried, dying more than a decade later, in 1955.

Stanislaus Joyce

James Joyce's younger brother and close friend, Stanislaus always feels that he is living in his older brother's shadow, though he has many talents of his own. He comes to join his brother and Nora in Trieste, where he teaches. James takes advantage of him in many ways, taking his wages, borrowing money that is never repaid and otherwise using his brother for his own ends. Stanislaus spends most of World War I in work camps due to his political beliefs and eventually marries.

John Joyce

James Joyce's father. John Joyce is a "bon vivant," drinking heavily and having a hard time holding down a job. He somehow manages to provide for his family of ten children, though he has to take out eleven mortgages to do so. Despite his problems, he is very close to his oldest son and the two keep up a long correspondence.

May Joyce

Joyce's mother. A musical and sensitive woman who dies relatively young and makes many financial sacrifices to satisfy James Joyce's whims. Ellmann writes that the Joyce family is extremely devastated at her death.

Harriet Weaver

The editor of an American magazine, who provides James Joyce with much financial and publication support throughout the years.

Ezra Pound

The ex-patriot American poet who works hard on Joyce's behalf to secure his publication in numerous periodicals. He provides Joyce with financial and material support as well, often searching out grants for the writer.

Sylvia Beach

The owner of the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore in Paris and eventual publisher of Ulysses.

Giorgio/George Joyce

Joyce's son, who marries an American and works for a time as a professional singer in the United States.

Helen Joyce

The wife of George and Joyce's daughter-in-law. Mentally unstable, Helen Joyce has several mental breakdowns.

Lucia Joyce

Joyce's daughter. Schizophrenic, Lucia Joyce nevertheless has quite a bit of creative talent and enjoys painting, dancing and singing. She is in and out of institutions for most of her life. She refuses to believe that her father has died.

This section contains 867 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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