Finnegans Wake – Book I Chapter 3

If Chapter 2 was easier going, chapter 3 gets much harder again.

I.  Hosty’s Decline and Fall

I’m reasonably sure it begins with a voice that’s cursing Hosty for his song, and then also bemoaning his (not HCE’s) fall from grace: “Chest Cee!  ‘sdense!  Corpo di barragio!  you spoof of visibility in a freakfog, of mixed sex cases among goats… of poor Osti-Fosti described as quite a musical genius in a small way… no one end is known” (48).  There’s a brief biography, which ends in the idea that he is thought to “by the coincidance of their contraries reamalgamerge in that indentity of undiscernibles.”  In other words, HCE and Shem blend back together (in spite, or maybe better, because of the opposition created by the ballad Hosty had written at HCE’s expense).

II.  HCE’s trial (?) and conviction (?)

Then the historian’s voice (with lots of interruptions by more gossipy and confusing voices, at one point [54] in at least a dozen langauge) lets us know that HCE “was semiprivately convicted of malpractices with his hotwashed tableknife” (50).  This whole section has that dreamlike quality where you keep trying to say something but are unable to.  Several different versions of HCE’s pleadings are interrupted by digressions which re-narrate what has happened.  During much of this section, HCE is cast as a down-on-his-luck hobo sort, sort of like James II after he was deposed.

A more old-style newsreel tone takes over (to me anyway) with “Television kills telephony in brothers’ broil” (52).  That also invokes the Shem/Shaun contrast – throughout, Shaun is associated with the visual, and Shem the aural.  There’s also a great bit of future prediction compressed in that line: Joyce was right, television did kill telephony (both of which barely existed in 1939).  Video killed the radio star.

Around 56, the four historians’ voices take over again, and a bit later, they conclude

Thus the unfacts, did we possess them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude, the evidenceigvers by legpoll too untrustworthily irreperible where his adjugers are semmingly freak threes but his judicandees plainly minus twos. (57)

The “freak threes” are the three soldiers that spotted HCE in the park; the “minus twos” are the two girls with whom he is accused of having committed an unspecified crime.

This is followed by the note that you can learn more about them in “our notional gullery.”  National Gallery/Notional Gullery is a really good pun – doubling what you’d see in a formal museum with the idea that you’d just see what you were gullible enough to want to see there – there’s also embedded metonomy (the gallery as a concrete symbol of the abstract idea – gullery).  As so often, the words themselves are more expressive than my explanation.

After this portion of the trial (?) wraps up, there’s an attempt to imprison HCE (perhaps) that echoes Finnegans forced retirement in chapter 1 (ECHoes = HCE backwards – a point Joyce makes a few times, including “Hush!  Caution!  Echoland!” somewhere).

Mester Begge, you’re about to be bagged in the bog again.  Bugge.  But softies seufsighed: Eheu, for gassies!  But lo! lo! by the threnning gods, human erring and condonable…”

…at which point the voice of the narrative declares “the worrlyd had been uncained” (59).  World/worry is another great doubling, implying that the worry that gave rise to the desire for “uncaining” was still present, even if the temporarily declared “Cain” was apparently gone.  As he’s being carried away (maybe?) he tells “Them two bitches ought to be leashed, canem!” 60).  Soon, “the girl detective (Miminerva)” comes along, and like the owl of Minerva, pronounces upon what has gone before, and seems to conclude “he should pay the full penalty” (61).

III.  Tales of HCE the Wrongfully Accused and Escaped Hero

The four historians take back over in their narrative even as conspiracy theories intercede (“I also think. Puellywally, by the seige of his trousers there was someone else behind it–you bet your boughtem blarneys” – 61) and tales of HCE’s escape begin circulating.  HCE either goes into exile or escapes, and emerges as “first pharoah, Humpheres Cheops Exarchas” (62).  That led me to think about how many people in the bible fled to Egypt – Joseph, the Jews as a whole, Jesus.  Then soon after that, ALP and a flood pour in:

and that after this most nooningless knockturn the young reine came down desperate and the old liffopotamus started ploring all over the plains, as mud as she cud be, ruinating all the bouchers’ shurts and the backers’ wischandtugs so that be the chandeleure of the Rejaneyjaile they were all night wasching the walters of, the weltering waters off.  Whyte (64).

That last couple of lines foreshadows the ALP chapter later in the book.  Then there’s a cluster of repeated phrases and what sounds like the newsreel ends: “and roll away the reel world, the reel world, the reel world!” (64).  Whoever was watching the movie (all of us) seem like they go out for dessert, which ends up being a reprise of the crimes of “Mr. Leer” (65).

The historians keep trying to re-establish order – “But resuming inquiries” (66) – there is talk of a letter (this letter takes greater significance in the coming chapters).  It is “written in seven divers stages of ink” (66).  That blends HCE (7 is a number generally associated with him – usually he’s wearing 7 items of clothing, different each time) and also Shem (the ink) and ALP (the different shades suggests they’ve been diluted by water).  The washing out of the ink is a dissolving of HCE’s sins, and the repeated attempt to establish order that the text keeps joking about.

It turns out, according to the “obverse” (of the letter?) that of the two girls

one delalah, Lupita Lorette, shortly after in a fit of the unexpectednesses drank carbolic with all her dear placid life before her and paled off while the other… Luperca Latouche… took to necking, partying and selling her spare favours in the haymow or in lumber closets or in the greenawn ad huck (68).

IV.  The Return of HCE

As the chapter winds down, HCE seems to have resumed normal life among his people, and we’re treated to another mock-epic catalog, this time recorded by “Earwicker (HCE) – compiled, while he moruned the flight of his wild guineese, a long list (now feared in part lost) to be kept on file of all abusive names he was called” (71): some of the highlights of the list:

Firstnighter, Informer, Old Fruit, Yellow Whigger… Godsoilman, Moonface the Murderer, Hoary Hairy Hoax… Acoustic Disturbance… Artist… Peculiar Person, Grunt Owl’s Facktotem, Twelve Months Aristocrat, Lycanthrope… Thunder and Turf Married into Clandorf…. [and my favorite] Armenian Atrocity (71-72).

The chapter ends with something like Finnegan’s return – “credidisti mortuum” (74) Latin for “did you think me dead?” which is close to Finnegan’s “did you drink me a doornail?” from chapter 1.  We learn, semi-authoritatively at the end, that rumors of his decline and death are greatly exaggerated…

Humph is in his doge.  Words weigh no more to him than raindrips to Rethfernhim.  Which we all like.  Rain.  When we sleep.  Drops.  But wait until our sleeping.  Drain.  Sdops (74)

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