Analysis and Discussion - Book One Chapter One of Finnegans Wake.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

My Take on the Rest of Chapter One

I want to start some place unusual for this - the beginning of the book. If we look on page xxxi we note that the table of contents breaks down the contents of each chapter for us. In a normal text we would think "big deal" and get to the details, but here I think this helps. Note, it's not all bizarro wakean, it's written in english, albeit a tad sparse on the details. But it serves as a suitable guide to sort of help us figure out where we are in the big picture.

So, chapter one is:

Introduction - The Willingdone Museum - The finding of the letter - Pre-history of Ireland - Mutt and Jute - Jarl van Hoother and the Prankquean - The Fall - Finnegan's Wake - Introduction of HCE.

So let's break it down. We have already talked about the first couple of pages and a few themes thereintobefound. That takes us up through the introduction and means that the next section is the Willingdone Museum. As dan mentioned the other day there is a scene starting on page 8 with the "museyroom" - Kate, the old crone, is giving us a tour.

In the museum are artifacts relating to Wellington's victory over Napolean; "This is the big sraughter Willingdone, grand and magnetic in his goldtin spurs and his ironed dux and his quarterbrass woodyshoes and his magnate's gharters and his bangkok's best and goliar's goloshes and his pulluponeasyan wartrews. This is his big wide harse."(page 8, around line 17) I like that last. Anyway, we are getting a tour of all the stuff that relates to the conqueror of Napolean, sort of the New Guy In Town, the latest fad in triumphant generals. This goes on until "Phew!" on page 10.

Then we seem to get a whole section describing an old woman, presumably the one who has been telling us this story. But this is titled "The finding of the letter", so I guess we should try to find a letter in here somewhere. I will cheat - page 11, line 20ish, "all spoiled goods go into her nabsack: curtrages and rattlin buttins, nappy spattees and flasks of all nations...boaston nightgarters..." Boaston is Boston, the address to which this letter was mailed. Boaston Nightgarters is the letter, and kate the old crone has it in her nabsack. Then it starts talking about, I think, ALP; page 11, last paragraph, "She is livving [liffy river] in our midst of debt and laffing through all plores for us (her birth is uncontrollable)..." LAP -> ALP, Anna Livia Plurabella? There has been all this talk of nations and rising and falling, and conquest military and sexual, but there is the great line at the bottom of 11: "Gricks may rise and Troysirs fall..." but women are women and ALP is a woman lemme tell ya.

I think ALP and Kate are two versions of the same - Issy, the daughter, is the third version. There is only one woman in this text and we see her in various phases of life, Daughter Mother/Wife Crone.

Page 13! So This Is Dyoublong? (STID?) Hush! Caution! Echoland! [careful what you say, things are repeated here]. How Charmingly Exquisite!

Seems HCE is now on the scene, a few pages before he is officially introduced. We get vague references to history.

Page 13, Line 20ish. "Four things therefore, saith our herodatory Mammon Lujius in his grand old..." I believe this is a reference two four speeches at the wake for finnegan which begins on page 24. Keep it in the back of your mind. Mammon Lujius is Mamalujo, Mamalujo is Matthew Mark Luke and John, the evangelists and the Four Wise Men of this text, who act as a single character Mamalujo. They give the four speeches at Finnegans Wake on page 24.

Finishing up page 13, we are deeply embroiled in history. Note the year 1132 turns up. And something about a Deluge, which is the flood, which happend in 566AD?

Then a moment of Silence.

Then we reverse time and go from the year 556 to the year 1132. Is this a reference to Portrait of the Artist as a young man where the text turns completely in the center with a moment of silence as the priest checks his watch? Chiasmus.

See the second entry for 1132, on page 14. Two sons are born, one becomes and upright citizen and the other spends all his time drinking and writes a farce. These are our opposing brothers which represent all opposing forces.

And we hear that somewhere between the pre-flood period and the anna-dominant period some copyist must have fled with his scroll - the writer of the farce no longer has what he has written, it disappeared.

On to page 16. Mutt and Jute. A conversation between two figures that I suspect are the brothers, right? Mutt has a stutter that he got from drinking too much. Jute things that's hauhauhaudibble (which is at once making fun of the stutter, saying it is horrible, and calling it, oddly, laudible? Did I spell that right?

I like Jute's assertion toward the bottom of 16 that "Bisons is bisons" - bygones are bygones, but two sons are still two sons. These forces in opposition cannot be forced together.

Mutt's longest entry on page 17 seems to be discussing a funeral, possibly of the person who was "poached on in that eggtentical spot" in the last line of page 16.

Last sentence of 17, ALP on Earwig. Earwig is HCE, as we will find out in chapter 2. ALP is Anna Livia, his wife. Mutt is discussing them shagging in Babylon in olden times, and mentions a cemetary. This are his parents and they made love in a city destroyed by God. I guess I would drink too.

Page 18, the writing on the wall. In the old testament, the "Writing on the wall" was a list of currency names in order of descending value. The meaning was that the king's empire was crumbling, that his c-notes would shrink to pennies, as it were. I don't remember the name of the coins listed, but I do know that the order was MMTF. MMTF in that order represents the decline of civilization and the inevitability of fall. So: Many. Miscegenations...Tieckle...Forsin.

Sure enough, the top of page 19 seems to be an apocalypse. We get Seven Seals on line 2 and Ragnarok on line 4. We get chaos in that paragraph, destruction, the prairie rears up -

- yet on the second paragraph of page 19 we seem to be getting order. The names of various latin cases are strong into the text and the whole turns into an essay about grammar, ultimate structure. And the word "Meanderthalltale" in the middle of that paragraph is nice, a reference to a tall tale that meanders and is generally fit only for cavemen. IE, this book?

Cut to page 21 and the episode with the prank queen. Apparently there is a man named Jarl van Hoother, with two twins, Tristopher and Hilary. So he is upstairs in the lamphouse with his cold hands upon himself and and this chick called the Prank Queen comes up and says to his porter, "I am gonna ask you once, why do I am alook alike a poss of porter-pease?" And he tells her to bugger off, so she kidnaps one of the twins (Tristopher). Jarl stops wanking long enough to chase her for a bit, yelling "Stop, deef! Come back to my Ear!" But she refuses and goes off for 40 years with this baby. She converted him to religion, apparently. ""she convorted him to the onesure allgood and he became a luderman."

So then she comes back a second time, and Jarl is down in the cellar "Shaking warm hands with himself" and she asks someone wicked the same question. She gets the same non-answer so she puts down the first kid she had napped and kidnaps the other, Hilary. She then runs off again for 40 years and "she provorted him to the onecertain allsecure and he became a tristian." Tristan and Isolde? She provorted him = perverted him?

So she goes back a third time, with the kid, and asks the same question, but this time Jarl stops wanking and confronts her. He orders her to shut up and then we get our second thunder word, representing another fall. The fall goes from the thunderword until the second paragraph on page 24.

The song Finnegans Wake has a line at the end where Finnegan wakes up in his casket, whiskey having splashed on his face, and says something to the effect of "Ach, ye fools, did you think me dead?"

Well, see line 15. This is Finnegan waking up. We just had a fall - presumably, a Fall means Finnegan has completed another cycle of his phoenix-like life and is dying, getting ready for the next round. So here Finnegan has died again, and he sits up and says "What, do you think I am dead?" And then we get the wake, which consists of four speeches.

  1. "Now be aisy(24)...steep wall. (26)" Is speech one. This speaker is telling finnegan to go ahead and sleep. Human history has yet to unfold and if he knew what were in store for humanity he would rather be dead. Everyone loves him, it seems - the dead finnegan is a great hero. "Hero! Seven times thereto we salute you!"(p26, around line 10). Finnegan is the "abramanation", who "comest ever without being invoked, whose coming is unknown.." He is at once the nation of abraham and an abomination, and he keeps coming, with no order to it. And they love him.
  2. "Everything's going on the same (26)...dilate your heart to go (27)." The second speech is a status report, this is how things are getting on without Finnegan. We've got a report about the economy and then the update that "the lads is attending school nessons (nessons = night lessons, I think, a future chapter) regular, sir..." He says, "You'll be a grandfer yet entirely when the ritehand seizes what the lovearm knows." There seems to be a lot of masturbation in this chapter. Or is that the book as a whole? And here we get introduced to the sons. Kevin is your typical hard working kid, playing at being a postman, reliable etc. Jerry, on the otherhand, well, the devil gets into him sometimes, and all he does is write. Kevin and Jerry, the two sons, one a postman and one a writer. The postman is good and loved, and the writer is reviled and disrespected. Then something about women that I don't understand. A reference to Felix Day, which is a nice idea - Felix means happy but also Phoenix, so Felix Day is the day of his happy resurrection. Good to know that's waiting for him.
  3. "Aisy now, you decent man...(27) ...Finn no more!" (28) This is a report about the women. Especially the wife, ALP? Who is also kate? And the daughter? Hard for me to understand, but the speaker sounds not quite trusting.
  4. "For, be that samesake sibsubstitute...(28) ...hubbub caused in Edenborough." This is the last section from our table of contents, the introduction of HCE. There is a young whippersnapper on the premises, in Dublin's Chapel Izod ("Shop Illicit") district. He has "a pocked wife...three lice nittle clinkers, two twilling bugs and one midget pucelle." So, he is married and has three kids, two boys and a girl. The speaker here seems dubious of this newcomer but not quite willing to write him off entirely - "overseen as we thought him, yet a worthy of the name"? But ultimately, they know that he is to be "respunchable for the hubbub caused in Edenborough."
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is chapter one. To very briefly recap:
  1. Introduction: We are in Eden before the fall. Then there is a fall. We have the tower of babel, language is corrupted.
  2. The Willingdone Museum: There was a battle, and one great warrior replaced another. This is a museum dedicated to the winner, and a tour given by an indifferent old woman.
  3. The finding of the letter: Said indifferent old woman has an important document in her purse.
  4. Pre-history of Ireland: War.
  5. Mutt and Jute: Two brothers bicker - mutt spends too much time in the bar and has developed a stutter.
  6. Jarl van Hoother and the Prankquean - Original Female confounds Original Male, brainwashes his children while he masturbates. One of the children becomes Tristan.
  7. The Fall - Jarl gets wise and stops her. When she is stopped, there is a thunderword and the world falls apart.
  8. Finnegans Wake - After the fall, finnegan tries to wake up and his retainers hush him to sleep and wait for next time. They regale him with tales of his wife and three children - two sons and a daughter. One of the sons spends too much time in bars, writing. He is missing something that he has written.
  9. Introduction of HCE - As Finnegan lies in state, a young whippersnapper named HCE shows up. He has a wife and two sons and a daughter and moves into Finnegans old neighborhood. He will ultimately be responsible for some problems that are going to happen - so say the four wise men who seem to be know the past and future, and love old dying Finnegan.

That was not very deep but it covered all of chapter one. Do ya'll like the idea of these kind of general posts, or is this just ultimately too hard to follow and should we discuss things a little at a time?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Here is something I am gonna throw out, my notes on the first few pages of Chapter 1 as I go along. Please comment on this as well as post your own thread. I was thinking we could do chapter at a time but that is too much maybe? So just update this as you go along with things you notice. You don't have to do every page or anything but you can if you want and it would be appreciated.

Anyway, here is the beginning, my reading:

(3:1) riverrun: 1) French, "Let Us Dream"; 2) French, "See again"; 3) "err" is in there; 4) "Reverand"

I certainly don't plan to go as far in depth into every word, though I possibly could. I don't actually know french, I just have those notes in my book. Likely it is not exact french, it is just a liberal reading, much the way you can also get "Reverand" out of it. Why Reverand? Because this is a book, and a book is a work of text, and so it is a letter as well as a book, and it is all books and all letters, and if it is a letter it needs a recipient, so perhaps this is a hastily scribbled note to a priest. Hmm?

(3, 3) HCE: "Howth Castle and Environs"

(3, 4-14) This seems to be a paragraph of things that have not yet happened. There seem to be seven things?

  1. Sir Tristram (Tristan of Tristan and Isolde, the wagner opera, conflated with someone else?) has not yet come back to fight some sort of war.
  2. Tom Sawyers rocks had not yet exagerated themselves? Gotten bigger? Tom Sawyer had not yet gotten big rocks? Something about "doublin his mother" which is incest as well as our first refence to the city of Dublin.
  3. A voice had not yet bellowed "mishe mishe" from a fire. This is easy, Moses on the mountain. Mishe Mishe, my notes tell me (sorry, I dont mean to cheat!) means "I am, I am." This is god as a burning bush introducing himself to moses. But here, moses the lawgiver is identified with "tauftauf thuartpeatrick." Since this is after all about ireland, let us then assume that this is a reference to St. Patrick as a conflationary figure for Moses. That's my theory anyway.
  4. Not yet (though shortly afterwards) had a "kidscad buttended a bland old isaac." Well, this must surely be Jacob and Esau, where Jacob wears a goatskin to trick his blind father Isaac.
  5. The Sosie Sisters had not yet gotten angry at Nathan and Joeseph?
  6. Rot a peck of pa's malt - is this a reference to Noah the brewer getting drunk on his own wine and his son Shem mocking him?
  7. Not yet had the rainbow been seen above the water.

So what does this all mean? Well, I think this all means "before the fall." Items one through 6 are allusions to biblical sins; item 7 is the mark of god's forgiveness and of peace. Or does the rainbow simply mark God's sin, his destruction of the earth?

(3, 15) The fall. There are 7 100-letter "thunderwords" in this text. They each have a theme, usually with a dozen languages and loosely conflated vocab words. What seems to be the theme in this word?

Then we get something about the fall of a "once wallstrait oldparr". This is of course the crash of wallstreet, there is some humpty dumpty thrown in, and a vague image of a man sorta falling over. This is the fall, this is the apple, this is the sin of humanity.

Note we get orange and green, the colors of ireland I believe, and "devlinsfirst loved livvy." Dublin the city is on the Liffy River, and through this text we are gonna get references to a sort of romantic relationship between Dublin and Liffy, and all men and all women, and HCE and ALP, etc. It'll come.

Page four seems to open with descriptions of precivilized primal conflict, names of various tribes thrown in. Vague sense of war and bloodshed and chaos after the fall. Ostrogoths vs Visigoths etc.

(4, 14) Iseut! A reference to Isolde of Tristan and Isolde? We had him on page 3. He had not yet begun his war, it said. Maybe this is his war, his war is all human war and that is what was listed first in the "before the fall" list and now it is the first thing we get after the fall. And for a woman, so fall = phall, see below.

End of this paragraph: "phall if you but will, rise you must: and none so soon either shall the pharce for the nunce come to a setdown secular phoenish." So this is the fall, chaos, and he says "you will fall but you will rise." and there is a reference to a phoenix, the bird of regeneration. Also some dirty humor, I think, where he spells fall phall implying phallus - fall if you must, but you will rise again. Get it? Har. So we get redemption with rising with phoenix with penis.

That's the kind of book this is.

Next Paragraph is about Big Mister Finnegan, who lived apparently in those days, so long ago that no letters can reach him - not numbers or deutoronomy or helviticus or judges. These are all books of the old testament. Finnegan lived before the old testament?

And there we have him, trying to check his future in some sort of fortune-telling involving water when suddenly it is guiness. He was apparently a builder of some sort - Tower of Babel?

Line 28, Addle Liddle Phifie, ALP => Anna Livia Plurabella. This is the main female presence.

Line 32, Haroun Childeric Eggberth -> HCE

So we get him with a trowel and mason's tools and it is a reference perhasp to Leopold Bloom who was a mason in Ulysses, or not, but anyway he is building and he builds a sky scraper.

And this tower has a burning bush on top as decoration, it goes above the himalayas and into the heavens. I think we can safely call this the tower of babel.

Laurence O'Toole clamoring up and Thomas Beckett tumbling down. These two are very important figures in this book, old bishops. Someone wanna look up some details? I don't remember but they stand for opposites. They are the sons of HCE, I believe.

Then we get someone laughing at Mr Finnagain. And a reference to Mr. Finn, which I believe is Finn McCool, an Irish folkhero. He is the same person but not. Finn is told that he will be Finn Again. He is compared to wine, which becoms vinegar and presumably Wine Again (finnegan).

INTERLUDE: Finnegans Wake takes its title from an old irish folk song. In this song, the main character finnegan is a mason, he is standing on his ladder fixing some bricks or a wall or something and he falls off and hits his head and dies. They have a funeral and at the wake a fight breaks out, and in the process some whiskey splashes on his face. He revives and says "Ye fools, did ye think I was dead?" and that's the song. Joyce is equating that with the fall in the garden, and also with the tower of babel (the ladder). The tower is destroyed, language loses meaning (the text) and we are in a fallen state.

The text then works into discussions of this and that and a passage about what caused the fall. Some say (bottom of 5) that it was a loose brick and others that it was finnegans fault. There are 1001 stories (arabian nights). That paragraph seems to end with a poet masturbating? Which is perhaps JJ's acknowledgment of the worth of this literary misadventure.

And that brings us to the middle of page 6. I am gonna stop here. Feel free to explore any degree you want on this page. Big posts, small posts, comments - just participate!

What think you of my theories?

Welcome to the Wake, everyone. The next few weeks are going to be fun!

Off the bat, let me tell you what my professor told the class about this book. Your head will explode at some point. Just work through it.

You have all probably read the introduction to the text by this point and have probably paged through it a bit so I suspect you have some idea what you are in for. I will spare you the speech about "this is going to be X Y Z" etc.

Instead, I am gonna say this. Chapter One isn't the easiest part of this text and it isn't where my class started. But it is where we are going to start. It is the history of the world, more or less. It starts out before the Fall of Adam in the garden and then basically traces Adam's fall with parallels to various bits of history (waterloo), geography (eden is/isnt phoenix park in Dublin/Dyoublon?), and, believe it or not, some bit of plot.

In this chapter, we meet our protagonist, HCE. That is all I will really say for now, for this first chapter I just want you to dig in and give it a go. It's 27 pages and goes from rivverrun to trouble in edenburrough. Short, sweet, hard as hell and really interesting.

What can you come up with?