Saturday, December 02, 2006

Hottentots, Comanches, Edomites, and Bygmester Finnegan

The person who is dreaming the contents of Finnegans Wake is this guy. His name is H.C. Earwicker, innkeeper, husband to Anna Livia Plurabelle, and father to Issy, Shem, and Shaun. Sometimes Joyce talks about him directly, but as this is a dream, Earwicker becomes other people and is often woven into the text with acrostics on the letters HCE, as if to register his consciousness permeating the dream. So for instance in the first 10 pages you’ll find :

"...brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation to Howth Castle and Environs."
"...this man of hod, cement, and edifices"
" Haroun Childeric Eggeberth..."
"Hic cubat edilis," latin for "Here lies the Magistrate." His wife is represented in the next sentence in her own acrostic "Apud libertinam parvluam" or "with the little freedwoman."

HCE is to be found in various father figures. For instance on the first passage in the book (quoted below in Return to Moocow), he is Adam, Tristram (sort of), St. Patrick, Isaac, Parnell, and Noah. Tonight I reread the first 10 pages with delight where HCE seems to take the form of the Duke of Wellington and (great name here) Finn MacCool.

Finn MacCool is the anglicized name of the mythical Irish hero Fionn mac Cumhaill. Naturally for a dream, he is confused with Tim Finnegan, of the song “Finnegan’s Wake.” Drunk old Finnegan in that song falls from a ladder to his death, and here Finn takes a mighty and fatal fall himself. Seeing as Joyce describes him as a literal giant, his fall is huge, and prompts that hundred-letter-plus word
) to describe his mighty crash. In the fluid dreamstate, the enormity of the fall is confused with that of Adam and Eve's, and also, I think, of Humpty Dumpty’s. Just like Adam, Tristram, Finnegan, and the rest it seems the dreaming HCE has had a “fall” of his own. What it is, and is it more than that vague guilt one sometimes feels in dreams? We shall see. Won’t we?


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