Many have commented on coincidence in Ulysses using terms relevant to Joyce, but we need terms more widely applicable to realistic fiction. Coincidence, a convergence through contiguity or similarity of causally unconnected events, provokes us to question our assumptions about realism and narrative form. We generally expect that realistic fiction will present continuous, causally explainable sequences of events and employ only statistically probable combinations of such sequences. When a violation of these norms occurs, we expect that a unified perspective of either metaphysical augury or literary symbolism will substitute for naturalistic explanations. Joyce's use of coincidence forces us to reexamine these expectations by first encouraging them and then frustrating them, thus heightening our awareness of a discrepancy between naturalistic and symbolic levels.



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