Think You’re Escaping and Run Into Yourself: Quote Explanation

James Joyce’s Ulysses is widely regarded as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. It’s a complex and challenging work that explores the everyday lives of its characters in meticulous detail, as they navigate the streets and alleys of Dublin over the course of a single day. Among the many themes and motifs that run through the novel is the idea that sometimes the longest way round is the shortest way home. This phrase appears in various forms throughout the novel, and it’s become one of the most famous quotes from Ulysses. In this blog post, we’ll explore the origin of this quote, what it means, and why it’s so relevant to our lives today.

think you're escaping and run into yourself

The Origin of the Quote:

The phrase “Think you’re escaping and run into yourself” is actually a paraphrase of a line from Ulysses. In the “Proteus” episode of the novel, Stephen Dedalus, one of the main characters, is walking along the beach and reflecting on his life and his place in the world. At one point, he thinks to himself, “Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”

The phrase “longest way round is the shortest way home” appears in a slightly different form in the “Wandering Rocks” episode of the novel. In this episode, we follow various characters as they move through the streets of Dublin, and we see how their paths intersect and overlap. At one point, we read that “The longest way round is the shortest way home, as the adage has it, and the approach to Dublin by way of Kingstown pier is, though not the shortest way, the way I love best.”

What Does the Quote Mean?

At its most basic level, the quote suggests that sometimes the easiest or most direct route is not necessarily the best one. By taking a longer, more circuitous path, we might actually end up arriving at our destination more quickly or more easily. But the quote is also about self-discovery and the idea that we can’t truly escape ourselves, no matter how hard we try.

When Stephen Dedalus thinks to himself, “Think you’re escaping and run into yourself,” he’s acknowledging that no matter where he goes or what he does, he can’t escape his own thoughts and feelings. The same is true for all of us. We might try to distract ourselves with work, entertainment, or socializing, but eventually we’ll have to confront our own thoughts and emotions.

The idea of taking the “longest way round” is also related to the concept of mindfulness. By slowing down and taking a more deliberate approach to our lives, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us. We might take a longer route to work so we can enjoy a scenic drive, or we might take the time to prepare a meal from scratch instead of ordering takeout. These small acts of mindfulness can help us feel more connected to our lives and the people around us.

Further Analysis and Interpretation:

There are a few different ways to interpret the quote “Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.” Here are a few possible angles to explore:

  • The idea of the “longest way round” could be seen as a metaphor for the process of personal growth and self-discovery. In order to truly know ourselves and understand our place in the world, we might have to take a more circuitous route than we initially anticipated. This could involve trying out different careers, taking classes in subjects we know nothing about, or traveling to new places. By exposing ourselves to new experiences and ideas, we can gain a broader perspective on the world and our place in it.
  • The phrase “longest way round is the shortest way home” could also be interpreted as a caution against taking shortcuts or looking for easy solutions to complex problems. In our fast-paced world, we’re often encouraged to take the quickest, most efficient route to our goals, whether that means using a shortcut on our commute or relying on instant gratification through social media or online shopping. But these quick fixes can often lead to a sense of emptiness or dissatisfaction. By taking the longer, more challenging route, we might actually end up feeling more fulfilled and satisfied in the end.
  • The idea of “running into yourself” suggests that we can’t escape our own thoughts and feelings, no matter how hard we try. This can be a difficult truth to confront, especially if we’re dealing with difficult emotions like anxiety or depression. But by acknowledging our own inner experiences and taking the time to explore them, we can gain a greater sense of self-awareness and self-acceptance. This, in turn, can lead to greater resilience and emotional strength.
  • Finally, the quote “longest way round is the shortest way home” could be seen as a call to slow down and appreciate the journey, rather than focusing solely on the destination. We live in a culture that’s obsessed with productivity and achievement, and it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that we always need to be working towards something. But by taking the time to savor the small moments in our lives, whether that means spending time with loved ones, taking a leisurely walk in nature, or simply enjoying a cup of tea, we can find greater meaning and purpose in our daily lives.


The quote “Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home” is a powerful reminder that sometimes the most challenging path can lead us to the greatest rewards. By taking the time to explore our inner worlds, embrace mindfulness, and savor the journey, we can gain a greater sense of self-awareness, self-acceptance, and fulfillment. So the next time you find yourself trying to take a shortcut or escape your own thoughts, remember that the longest way round might just be the shortest way home.

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