Finnegans Wake – Book I Chapter 6

Chapter 6 is a Quiz with 12 questions (12 being the number of jurors, disciplines, months, etc.).  As you might imagine, this summary is not as helpful as it sounds.  The quiz has been written by a comically bad educator (or set of four I think) and each question has different problems that one commonly sees on a badly written quiz.

There is an introduction before the quiz begins – it sounds like a radio announcer: “So?  Who do you no tonigh, lazy and gentleman?” (126).  Is “lazy and gentleman” Izzy/ALP and HCE?  Are they the audience?  Then there’s a paragraph that seems to summarize several of the characters:

(Shaun mac Irewick, briefdragger, for the concern of Messrs. Jhon Jamison and Song, rated one hundrick and thin per storehundred on this nightly quisquiquock of the twelve apostrophes, set by Jockit Mic Ereweak.  He misunderstruck and aim for am ollo of number three of them, and left his free natural ripostes to four of them in their own fine artful disorder.)

I’ll do some close reading here.  “Shaun mac Irewick” = Shaun the son of Earwicker (HCE), but also “Irewick” implies Ireland.  Shaun son of Ireland (though Earwicker/Ireland reminds us that Ireland wasn’t pure in the first place, since Earwicker is of English stock).  And “mac” is Scottish, so Shaun is Irish, English and British.  “Briefdragger” echoes German “Brieftragger” – mailman.  “Messrs. Jhon Jamison and  Song” juxtaposes John Jamison and Son (distillers who produce Jamison Irish whiskey) with music (“Song”).  They’re the sponsor of the radio quiz perhaps?  The “nightly quisquiquock of the twelve apostrophes” means “nightly quiz of the twelve apostles” plus overloaded with Latin (quis-quid means who/what, and qui/quae/quod means who in all three genders).  they’re “apostrophes” also, because apostrophes have to do with omission and contraction – or maybe the rhetorical device of addressing someone?  They’re contracted/addressing apostles.  “The twelve” are often jurors at the trial of HCE, and patrons at his bar.  “Jockit Mic Ereweak” is somehow Shaun’s twin brother Shem.  “Mic” replaces “Mac” and the last name – “Irewick” becomes “Ereweak” – nearly the same but subtly different.  “Three of them” = the three soldier witnesses to HCE’s crime, and “four of them” = the four scholars, who, it would seem, wrote the quiz we’re about to take.

On with the quiz.

#1 – The trouble with this question is it’s 13 pages long (126-139) – and it’s answer is one line (139).  The “question” is actually a catalog-like listing of rumors, nicknames and accomplishments of HCE.  It reprises the list of names he’s been called, the one he himself collected and supplied back in chapter 3.  It’s one of those leading questions that gives away the answer, because the person writing it has so much ego involved that they can’t actually ask something.  HCE is here described as having “an eatupus complex and a drinkthedregs kink” (128-129), and also, revealingly, as “variously catalogued, regularly regrouped” (129).  He’s later the “likeliest villain of the place” and “heavengendered, chaosfoedted, earthborn” (137).  Also he’s likened to a deformed set of British monarchs: “woolem the farsed, hanreich the althe, charge the sackend, wrichad the thord” (138) – i.e., William I, Henry VIII, Charles II and Richard III.

The answer – “Fin MacCool!” (139) aligns HCE with Finnegan.  Finnegan being the Titan equivalent of HCE the Olympian.  Think Cronus/Zeus.

#2 – This question is absurdly personal and subjective – “Does your mutter know your mike?” (139).  This puns on “does your mother know your father?” and “when you talk quietly does the microphone pick it up?”  The answer has a lot to do with ALP (presumably, “your mutter”, whoever “your” is) and also HCE (“your mike”?).

#3 – This question – “Which title is the true-to-type motto-in-leiu for that Tick for Teac thatchment painted witt wheth one darkness…” (139) feels like the answer is Finnegans Wake itself.  But the answer in the text is “Thine obesity, O civilian, hits the felicitude of our orb!” (140).  That’s less an answer than an insulting reply, like the old “Celebrity Jeopardy” – “Trubeck, your mother is a whore!” sort of thing.

#4 – “What Irish capitol city…”  is a multiple choice question with 4 answers, that partially reveal the association of the four scholars with the four regions of Ireland.  The answers – “a) Delfas”, “b) Dorhqk”, “c) Nublid” and “d) Dalway” mirror Belfast, Cork, Dublin and Galway.  Each scholar has insisted on the inclusion of his answer, and in the argument about writing the test I suppose, all the answers have been corrupted so that none is correct.

#5 – “What slags of a loughladd…” is confusing and the answer is “Pore ole Joe!” (141).  I think that’s Shem.

#6 – “What means the saloon slogan summon the House-sweep Dinah?” (141) seems to refer to some of the feminine presence in the text but the answer is very brief and inconclusive.

#7 – “Who are those component partners of our societate” (142) is a question about the twelve themselves.  Just before the end of the question they’re listed: “Matey, Teddy, Simon, Jorn, Pedher, Andy, Barty, Philly, Jamesy Mor and Tom, MAtt and Jakes Mac Carty”.  The answer – “The Morphios!” references the god of sleep/dreams.

#8 – “And how war yor maggies” (142) is all about Izzy, who sometimes exists as 29 daughters (Joyce himself had at least six sisters, and 29 = 28 + 1, a leap-year’s worth.  They “cometh elope year, coach and four, Sweey Peck-at-my-Heart picks one more” (143).

#9 – Is barely a question.  It’s a dense paragraph of prose that has a question-mark slapped on at the end.  The answer, though, is another mashup word that gets quoted a lot – “A collideorscape!” (143).  Another one-word summary of Finnegans Wake itself.

#10 – “What bitter’s love but yurning, what’ sour lovemtch but a bref burning till shee that drawes dothe smoake retourne?” is more poetry than an answerable question. The answer again has a lot to do with ALP.  It goes on for several pages, at one point listing 29 names – “There’s Ada, Bett, Celia, Delia, Ena, Fretta, Gilda, Hilday. Ita, Jess, Katty, Lou, (they make me cough as sure as I read them) Mina, Nippa, Opsy, Poll, Queeniee, Ruth, Sausy, Trix, Una, Fela, Wanda, Xenia, Yva, Zulma, Phoebe, Thelma.  And Mee! (147).  Note that’s 28 + 1 – “And Mee!”

#11 Leads to the longest digression yet, and basically finishes out the chapter.  The form of the text shifts from quiz to storytelling about the Mookse and the Gripes – now the third (and longest) incarnation of the brother-conflict theme, after Jute/Mutt in chapter 1 and the Festy King and his attacker in Chapter 5.  The answer begins in pretentious academic talk about Talis and Talis:

Is Talis de Talis, the swordswallower, who is on at the Craterium the same Talis von Talis, the penscrusher, no funk you! who runs his duly mile?… (Talis and Talis originally mean the same thing, hit it’s: Qualis) (150).

The professioral voice gets more condescending and confusing:

As my explanations here are probably above your understandings, lattlebrattons, though as augmentatively uncomparisoned as Cadwan, Cadwallon an Cadwalloner, I shall revert to a more expletive method which I frequently use when I have to sermo with muddlecrass pupils.  Imagine for my purpose that you are a squad of urchins… (152).

So he finally settles on putting things like a fable – “The Mookse and the Gripes.”

It starts like the first page of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: “Eins within a space and a wearwide space it wast ere wohned a Mookse.”  The “Mookse” is his father’s favorite: “he set off with his father’s sword” (152).  He eventually meets up his rival (remember, rival from “riva” meaning shore):

And, I declare, what was there on the yonger bank of the stream that would be a river, parched on a limb of the olum, bolt downright, but the Gripes. (153)

The idea of “the stream that would be a river” suggests this is early in ALP’s life (later, in chapter 8, she’ll wash all this conflict away).  The Mookse is Shaun, the Gripes is Shem.  “Mookse” is like a moose, which signifies northern-ness, which always goes with Shaun.  “Gripes” puns on “grapes” (the Aesop’s fable of the Fox and the Grapes”) and also “gripes” – since Shem is the artist figure, who complains (gripes) instead of acts.

They have a confusing conversation that gradually grows more hostile – “and they viterberated each other, canis et coluber with the wildest ever wielded since Tarriestinus lashed Pissaphaltium.”  “Canis” = Latin “dog” (Shaun) and “coluber” = Latin “snake” (Shem).  There’s also one “Nuvolette in her lightdress, spun of sisteen shimmers… looking down on them, leaning over the bannistars and listening all she childishly could” (157).  She’s a sister figure they’re competing over.

The tale ends more like Ovid that Aesop:

And so the poor Gripes got wrong; for that is always how a Gripes is, always was and always will be.  And it was never so thoughtful of either of them.  And there were left now an only elmtree and but a stone.  Polled with pietrous, Sierre but saule.  O!  Yes!  And Nuvoletta, a lass (159).

Shem and Shaun become a tree and a rock – later on they’re “stem and stone.”  And as so often in Finnegans Wake, a female force is left to sort it out – “Nuvoletta, a lass.”

It goes on: “and into the river that had been a stream… there fell a tear, a singult tear, the loveliest of all tears… for it was a leaptear” (159).

Now Mookse/Shaun and Gripes/Shem morph into “Burrus” (Shaun/Brutus) and “Caseous is obvsersely the revise of him” (161) (Shem/Cassius), as they plot to kill Caesar (HCE).  Soon they are fighting over one “Margareen” (164).

Math and geometry become prevalent in the language of this part, and the scholar tells us “it will be very convenient for me for the emolument to pursue Burrus and Caseous for a run or two up their isocelating biangle” (165).  Now a big symbol of ALP in the text is a TRI-angle – like Delta, for change, and Delta, for the widening of a river into the sea (and the triangle of an ALPine mountain) and the vagina and the triangle in a capitol A.  The “isocelating biangle” emphasizes Shem/Shaun’s interchangeability and incompleteness without the third point that would make a triangle.

Confusingly, the triangle does get momentarily completed by “Antonius” – “Margareena she’s very fond of Burrus but, alick and alack!  … A cleopatrician in her own right she at one complicates the position while Burrus and Caseous are contending for her misstery by implicating herself with an elusive Antonius, a wop…” (166-167).  Then we come to “this Antonius-Burrus-Caseous grouptriad may be said to equate the qualis equivalent with the older socalled talis on tallis one” (167).  So the scholar’s voice returns as the inane talis-talis theory continues to be expounded, and as question 11 comes to a close.

Question 12 is short: “Sacer esto?  / Answer: Semus sumus!”

Latin for “be sacred?  We are Shem.”

Setting up the next chapter, which is the tale of Shem the Penman, a semi-autobiographical rant about/by Joyce.

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