Finnegans Wake – Book III Chapter 3

Two times previously, Finnegans Wake has devolved into a trial – in Book I, first Finnegan, then HCE met their many accusers; in Book II it was Shem/Buckley charged with the murder of the Russian general.  Now, we get the final trial – that of Shaun as he is deposed.  Not to get ahead of myself, but what I think is coming in Book IV is the return of the repressed, a new rule for Finn (I’m pretty sure at some point on the last page, “Finn, again!” appears).  Shaun’s removal from power clears the way for the Nietzschean eternal recurrence.  And Shaun is, more or less, Nietzsche’s last man: servile, conservative, bourgeois, moralistic, fundamentally uncreative.

III.3 becomes the trial of Shaun, but also allows one last recapitulation of almost all the main (male) motifs of the book – HCE, Shaun, the four old scholars, the twelve jurors.  Shem (the more feminine of the brothers), Issy and ALP all have a diminished presence in this 80-page chapter.

Really we can split it into three big sections – (a) the departure of Shaun and the near-return of chaos, (b) the re-presentation of the HCE theme (now seen through the lens of “the people” much more than back in I (or even II) where he was seen through his own eyes, or through that of his children), and then (c) HCE’s final impassioned apologia.

I.  The Trial and Departure of Shaun

The trial at first sounds like it’s just more pro-Shaun propaganda.  It’s being conducted by the book’s other Shaun-friendly types after all – the four old scholars, and the twelve anti-intellectual jurors who insist on using large -ation-type words.

Those four claymen clomb together to hold their sworn starchamber quiry on him… what do you think, who should be laying these above all other persons forenenst them only Yawn! (475-476)

Shaun’s name has moved from “Shaun” to “Jaun” and now “Yawn,” showing, through a plausible etymological evolution, the essential laziness that his rule embodies.  As a warmup to the trial, he is labelled both as a “satrap” (a delegated leader for a larger and absent empire), and a “poser.”  But beyond that, his accusers seem to realize, “he might in a sense be both nevertheless” (481) – both, Shem and Shaun, or for that matter, Finnegan and HCE as well.  In this chapter, something that’s been relatively muted over III.1 and III.2 becomes prominent again: the repeated “H…C…E…”‘s nestled inside the text.  The earlier reign of Shaun had no room for them; the official narrative was that there never had been any HCE, there had always been (and always would be) Shaun.  Now as Shaun’s reign nears its close, HCE (and to a lesser extent Finnegan) begin appearing in the sentences and phrases of the text.

The accusation takes many forms – of egotism, of laziness, of fakeness, but finally is bluntly stated on on 487:

My child, know this!  Some portion of that answer appears to have been token by you from the writings of Saint Synodius, that first liar!

The one thing Shaun can’t afford to be called is inauthentic – he’s staked his whole career on defining himself as such (again, the George W Bush parallel feels appropriate).

Something here (not sure if it’s spoken by the defense or by the accusers) that felt really prescient for 2014:

My dear sir!  In this wireless age any owl rooster can peck up bostoons! (489)

From here, the trial moves to asking a lot of questions attempting to reveal Shaun’s real identity – there is a lot of angst centered around whether he really is HCE after all – which means he’d not only be inauthentic, he’d be impure.  Purity was, again, a defining characteristic of Shem – the “pure puer” (puer = Latin for boy).

The trial’s comprehensibility continually degenerates – Shaun’s reign had the virtue of textual clarity, if nothing else – and that textual clarity recedes over the course of the chapter:

– Which was said by whem to whom?

– It wham.  But whim I can’t whumember (493).

As usual, ALP throws in her defense, maybe in the form of a letter, but only briefly:

If you won’t release me stop to please me up the leg of me.  Now you see!  Respect.  S.V.P.  Your wire.  Amn.  Anm.  Amm.  Ann (495).

A final angry demand (in jury -ation language) is made in pseudo-Latin, one that either inspired the title of, or refers to the title of, Beckett et al’s essay collection (not sure which was published first, Finnegans Wake or that collection, since Finnegans Wake was first Work in Progress, published serially in transition):

If there is a future in every past that is present Quis est qui non novit quinnigan and Qui quae quoi at Quinnigan’s Quake!  Stump!  His producers are they not his consumers?  Your exagmination round his factification for incamination of a warping process.  Declaim! (496)

The best I can make of the Latin is “who is it who does not know Finnegan, and who (masculine) and who (feminine) and what (French) at Finnegans Wake/earthquake”?  “His producers are they not his consumers” suggests to the reader that the people who made Finnegan are the same as those who consume him, as in – we all have a role in this process, not just the titular heads we accuse of crimes – that’s why HCE at one point is glossed as “here comes everybody.”  He’s all of us.

The response to the jury’s demand produces one more catalogue, listing people, places and things present at the wake.  All the assembled voices make less and less sense – “what static babel is this, tell us?” (499), until finally

SILENCE (501).

II.  HCE Returns (history repeats itself as farce)

What follows the SILENCE is an “act drop.”  The language turns to theatrical or perhaps movie-set jargon, and they’re re-rehearsing a scene: “Moisten your lips for a lightning strike and begin again.  Mind the flickers and dimmers!  Better?” (501).

Therein follows a long dialogue between voices that sound a bit like the washerwomen of I.8, or the tourguide of I.1.  This part of the text gets murkier, the language being more unwieldy, more Finnegan/HCE style than “the Shaun way.”  During the q-and-a the voices of the four commentators butt in now and again.  They’re really just surveying a landscape where HCE, Shem and Shaun are buried (“Is it that fellow?  As mad as the brambles he is.  Touch him” – 507) but along with this, there’s the show-business language (“follow the spotlight, please!” – 506).

The four begin protesting that they’re still not convinced, and the trial language restarts:

This is not guid enough, Mr Brasslatin.  Finging and tonguing and winging and ponging!  And all your rally and ramp and rant!  Didge think I was asleep at the wheel?  D’yu mean to tall grand jurors of thathens of tharctic [The Athens of the Arctic?  So we’re at Socrates’ trial perhaps?] on your oath, me lad, and ask us to believe you for, all you’re enduring long terms, with yur last food foremouthst, that yur moon was shining on the tors and on the cresties and winblowing night after night, for years and years perhaps, after you swearing to it a while back before your Corth examiner, Markwalther, that there was reen in planty all the teem? (519)

More bickering ensues, including one comment which Mark Schechner’s Joyce in Nighttown  makes a lot out of, though if I read the context correctly (obviously a big if), I think he’s misappropriating it:

– You’re a nice third degree witness, faith!  But this is no laughing matter.  Do you think we are tonedeafs in our noes to boot?  Can you not distinguish the sense, prain, from the second, bray?  You have homosexual catheis of empathy between narcissism of the expert and steatopygic invertedness.  Get yourself psychoanolised!

– O, begor, I want no expert nursis symaphy from yours broons quadroons and I can psoakoonaloose myself any time I want (the fog follow you all!) without your interferences or any other pigeonstealer (522).

Schechner cites “I can psoakoonaloose myself any time I want” in isolation, to suggest Joyce’s resistance to psychoanalysis, his denial, whatever.  “Psoakoonaloose” contains “soak,” suggesting that psychoanalysis is as fraudulent as “any other pigeonstealer” and identifying it was the “quadroons” (the four) suggests that it is an idle and post-hoc discourse that does no more than the braying of their donkey, a pseudo-intellectual venture that hides behind nonsense phrases like “homosexual catheis of empathy between narcissism of the expert and steatopygic invertedness.”  What I think Schechner misses is that this criticism may very well apply to his book, that at one point talks about “the normal Freudian footnotes” all applying to Joyce’s work.  Here Joyce is offering a criticism of psychoanalysis, not just resistance to it.  But of course, whenever one offers criticisms to such dogmatists, you get “that’s what we’d expect someone with your condition to say” and so on ad nauseum.  

Schechner also misses the irony of having this line spoken by someone like Shaun, and conflates this into Joyce himself.  Shaun is no more sympathetic than Buck Mulligan in Ulysses, and you’d hardly cite his words as proof of Joyce’s beliefs.

[end digression criticizing Joyce in Nighttown]

Hosty (original composer of the Ballad of Persse O’Reilly” from I.2starts appearing in the text at this point, as do fragments of corrupt versions of the ballad.

III.  HCE’s Closing Argument

From here the text oscillates back to the voice of HCE, as the tourguide/jurors/scholars’ voices all recede.  “Calm has entered.  Big big Calm, announcer” (534).  He retells his story in various formulations (“Tell the world I have lived true thousand hells… I gave two smells, three eats… Pity poor HAveth Childers Everywhere with Mudder!” (535).

At times he seems to plead for leniency, threatening appeal if things don’t go his way:

Well, yeamen, I have bared my whole past, I flatter myself, on both sides.  Give me even two months by laxlaw in second division and my first broadcloth is business will be to protest to Recorded at Thing of all Things, or court of Skivinis” (536).

“Thing” here isn’t just “thing,” it’s also an ancient Scandinavian legal assembly.  The “Thing of all Things” would be the largest primordial gathering possible – Finnegan at his table?

HCE also suggests that perhaps what he did is “allowed of in Deuterogamy as in several places of Scripture (copyright) and excluded books (they should quite rightly verbanned be)” (537).

He goes for bungled literary allusions as well – “I always think in a wodsworth’s of that primed favorite continental poet, Dauntry, Gouty and Shopkeeper” (539), i.e., Wordsworth, Dante, Goethe and Shakespeare.

Then there’s a plea for his accusers to remember history: “Things are not as they were.  Let me briefly survey” (540).  From here we get the fullest statement yet of the idea that HCE is EVERYBODY, that he committed all of our sins collectively, just as we did.  This comes off from a catalog of historical allusions involving Napoleon, the plain of Salisbury, the Rape of Lucretia and the Rape of the Lock, “German physics” (543), and many others.

Above all, HCE’s speech comes to be dominated by a simple middle-class notion: “respectability” (545) though he realizes he’s failed – “respectability unsuccessfully aimed at, copious holes emitting mice…” is the full quotation – though “respectability” and its cognates appear all over the last few pages of his defense.

Then there’s a talk about how he treated ALP – “But I was firm with her” (547), and though that sounds phallocentric/misogynist, it’s actually presented in much more humane terms than the earlier pseudo-scientific sexist advice given by Shaun to his sisters in III.2.

Near the end, he reminds us that “I foredreamed for thee and more than fullmaked: I prevened for thee in the haunts that joybelled fail light-a-leaves for sturdy traemen” (551).

Through the whole speech, the four have continued to reply, though their replies shrink and perhaps they are lulled to sleep by HCE’s story, like children at bedtime, gradually moving towards monosyllabic answers like “Hoke!  Hoke!  Hoke!  Hoke!” (552) and then finally “Mattahah!  Marahah!  Luahah!  Joahanahanahana!” (544).

That’s a long, unwieldy chapter but the overall sense is – Shaun’s rule was destined to fall, and when it did, chaos was destined to follow (but first a return of HCE).  But HCE is bound to fall as well (he already has).  The text is starting to rewind itself – we started with Finnegan, then HCE, then Shaun, now as Shaun has left, we return to HCE… and then, at last, to Finnegan…

Two chapters left.

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