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?

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