Since the motivation and argument supporting my question is long, but the question itself is fairly short, I will state the question as a spoiler. If the answer turns out to be indeed yes, then it would certainly spoil a brave first reading of Finnegans Wake.

Surely, HCE and Finnegan are distinct characters in Heliopolis (aka. the 'real' world, as opposed to dreamland), but Finnegan is dead by the time the novel begins? Finnegan is Anna's first husband, HCE a second. Further, in Anna's monologue, surely the monologue is primarily addressed to Finnegan, not HCE?

I wish to first introduce the current accepted interpretations of Finnegans Wake, and rail against these on purely aesthetic grounds. I will then pose questions suggesting an alternative reading, which now appears obvious to me.

Finnegans Wake aside, Joyce has stayed with me, unlike most of the "difficult" postmodern texts, because Joyce's texts always resolve. The more you read the clearer Joyce becomes. Confusions clear into beauty. Once upon a time (and a very good time it was) I could not parse "a moocow coming down along the road"! Later for "Chrysostomos" and "Send us bright one, light one, Horhorn, quickening and wombfruit". There are now many readers' guides to Ulysses that (1) members of this forum would mostly agree on, and, (2) make an initial reading of Ulysses a pleasurable task.

Twenty odd years ago, I began reading Finnegans Wake, and was immediately dismayed. No matter how I tried I could not parse even a few pages in. Armed with A Skeleton Key and A Reader's Guide I forced my way through. I was very disapointed and neither of the texts lead to Finnegans Wake resolving for me. To this day, every text I have read on Finnegans Wake seems hollow. Until recently so did Finnegans Wake.

Here is the conventional wisdom.

The book discusses, in an unorthodox fashion, the Earwicker family, comprising the father HCE, the mother ALP, and their three children Shem the Penman, Shaun the Postman, and Issy. Following an unspecified rumour about HCE, the book, in a nonlinear dream narrative, follows his wife's attempts to exonerate him with a letter, his sons' struggle to replace him, Shaun's rise to prominence, and a final monologue by ALP at the break of dawn. The opening line of the book is a sentence fragment which continues from the book's unfinished closing line, making the work a never-ending cycle.

The introductory chapter (I.1) establishes the book's setting as "Howth Castle and Environs" (i.e. the Dublin area), and introduces Dublin hod carrier "Finnegan", who falls to his death from a ladder while constructing a wall. Finnegan's wife Annie puts out his corpse as a meal spread for the mourners at his wake, but he vanishes before they can eat him. A series of episodic vignettes follows, loosely related to the dead Finnegan, most commonly referred to as "The Willingdone Museyroom", "Mutt and Jute", and "The Prankquean". At the chapter's close a fight breaks out, whiskey splashes on Finnegan's corpse, and "the dead Finnegan rises from his coffin bawling for whiskey and his mourners put him back to rest”, persuading him that he is better off where he is. The chapter ends with the image of the HCE character sailing into Dublin Bay to take a central role in the story.

Part IV consists of only one chapter, which, like the book's opening chapter, is mostly composed of a series of seemingly unrelated vignettes. After an opening call for dawn to break, the remainder of the chapter consists of the vignettes "Saint Kevin", "Berkely and Patrick" and "The Revered Letter". ALP is given the final word, as the book closes on a version of her Letter and her final long monologue, in which she tries to wake her sleeping husband, declaring "Rise up, man of the hooths, you have slept so long!", and remembers a walk they once took, and hopes for its re-occurrence. At the close of her monologue, ALP – as the river Liffey – disappears at dawn into the ocean. The book's last words are a fragment, but they can be turned into a complete sentence by attaching them to the words that start the book.

The motifs I have seen suggest something like

  • Finnegan/HCE = Bloom, Joyce, Adam, etc., the master builder and the average man, overloaded with Homer, ?, Jesus, etc.
  • ALP = Molly, Nora, Eve, etc.
  • CAD = Blazes Boylan, Gogarty, The Snake?, etc., but also with overtones of CAD~Finnegan/HCE

Really? The genius who took Stephen to Bloom and Molly (with Boylan), had nowhere further to take this key structure than into the abstract? No fundamental movement? Sure Shaun and Shem is interesting, but we have already met Stephen+Mulligan. Come on. "(please stoop)"!

Joyce taunts us with the question "Who is he?" and tempts us with tidbits of answers.

[261.26] Terror of the noonstruck by day, cryptogam of each nightly bridable. But, to speak broken heaventalk, is he? Who is he? Whose is he? Why is he? Howmuch is he? Which is he? When is he? Where is he? How is he? And what the decans is there about him anyway, the decemt man? Easy, calm your haste! Approach to lead our passage!

But the answers I have met in texts about Finnegans Wake seem empty. He is every man, but impossible to pin down. But isn't Bloom every man? Finnegan is a mythical/historical pre-shadow to HCE. But what about Bloom and Homer? Finnegan is but one form of HCE in dreamland with no referent in Heliopolis. So why the title to the novel?

And the corollary question: Who is she?

The Joyce I know from Ulysses, wouldn't leave these questions without proper resolution. I don't think Joyce would leave it so open that all possible answers are the solution to the problem. I hope. A bit unrewarding for the amount of work the reader must put in.

And why no real drama for us to sink our teeth into? For example, both A Reader's Guide and Finnegans Wake: A Plot Summary read Anna's monologue as Anna awaking her husband HCE, in her mind, and then taking him on a stroll down memory lane. Is that really it? Not unlike Molly's monologue but without Blazes Boylan!


An Alternative

The novel ends with a woman's interior monologue. Part IV is a single chapter that begin in dreamland, with dawn breaking, and ends with ALP delivering an interior monologue, as the rain falls softly, but persistently, outside. Ten pages of uninterrupted interior monologue. A single paragraph readable to anyone familiar with Molly's monologue. By Occam's Razor, the owner of this monologue is the owner of dreamland, i.e., ALP dreams the wake (see In Finnegans Wake, surely the dreamer is this character?). So that answers "Who is she?".

Anna's monologue is primarily addressed to a male "you" whom she 'awakes'. "Rise up, man of the hooths, you have slept so long!". There is also a "him". While "there’s a great poet in you", "so has he as bored me to slump." While mostly addressed to "you", often about "him", the reader must cope with sudden pronoun-referent shifts characteristic of any realistic interior monologue. As ALP thinks about "him", "you" is prone to change in referent, i.e., "you" refers to "him" suddenly. And naturally, there are few proper nouns, none definitive!

But who are these male "you" and "he"? We are back to the question "Who is he?" but with a twist.

Anna/Joyce, frustratedly, give us the answer as we transition into the monologue.

[619.10] Here gives your answer, pigs and scuts!
Hence we’ve lived in two worlds.
He is another he what stays under the himp of holth.
The herewaker of our hamefame is his real namesame who will get himself up and erect, confident and heroic when but, young as of old, for my daily comfreshenall, a wee one woos.

Alma Luvia, Pollabella.

P.S. Soldier Rollo’s sweetheart. And she’s about fetted up now with nonsery reams. And rigs out in regal rooms with the ritzies. Rags! Worns out. But she’s still her deckhuman amber too.

Soft morning, city! Lsp! I am leafy speafing.

  • In Heliopolis there is a he other than HCE.

While HCE, the "herewaker" will get up and face a new day in Heliopolis, HCE is not the "he what stays under the himp of holth". "He is another he".

That other "he what stays under the himp of holth", will not be getting up to roam Heliopolis, because he is dead. In Heliopolis, he "stays under the himp of holth" "under our our mounding’s mass", "and their upturnpikepointandplace is at the knock out in the park where oranges have been laid to rust upon the green since devlinsfirst loved livvy". Sad, but true. Infact, "one yeastyday he sternely struxk his tete in a tub for to watsch the future of his fates but ere he swiftly stook it out again, by the might of moses, the very water was eviparated", since he had no future. "He addle liddle phifie Annie ugged the little craythur". But then, "wan warning Phill filt tippling full. His howd feeled heavy, his hoddit did shake. (There was a wall of course in erection) Dimb! He stottered from the latter. Damb! he was dud. Dumb"! The rest is herstory.

  • This other he is Finnegan, ALP's first husband. He has been dead for many years by the time the novel begins. He died without completing his "masterwork".

At the end of chapter one, "good Mr Finnimore, sir" is urged to "take your laysure like a god on pension and don’t be walking abroad" since "you’d only lose yourself in Healiopolis now". Finn is kept up to date about "the lads is attending school nessans regular, sir, spelling beesknees with hathatansy and turning out tables by mudapplication" (Shaun and Shem) and "queer Behan and old Kate" (Saunderson and Kate) and " your missus in the hall" (ALP), but no mention is made of Issy.

  • Finnegan and Anna are the parents of the twins.
  • Issy is not born of Finn and Anna.

Issy is born of Anna and "that samesake sibsubstitute of a hooky salmon". "There’s already a big rody ram lad at random on the premises", namely HCE, and it is HCE, not Finnegan, "who will be ultimendly respunchable for the hubbub caused in Edenborough". He is Anna's "P.S.". He is " Soldier Rollo". Oh, and he is "ensectuous", which means, amongst other terrible things, raping your daughter: "went nudiboots with trouters into a liffeyette when she was barely in her tricklies". HCE is horrible. "Rolloraped". Here comes every man. #metoo #mishemishe

  • Issy is born of Anna and HCE.
  • HCE is not the biological father of the twins.

So, in Anna's monologue, who is "you" and who is "he"?

[HCE] will get himself up [...] when but, young as of old, for my daily comfreshenall, a wee one woos.

The receiver of Anna's confession, her father confessor, does not seem to be HCE, but rather some "wee one".

So who is this "wee one"?

Let us resist jumping ahead to the monologue for clues, and attempt rather to let Joyce reveal the answer.

Since "wee" means small, one possibility is Issy. But the "you" in Anna's "comfreshenall" is most certainly male and hence not Issy. Issy features large in the monologue, but as "she".

Recently for me, the pun dropped.

Definition of wee. 1 : very small : diminutive. 2 : very early

The receiver of the confession, the "wee one", is the earlier one, i.e., Finnegan. He only existed earlier, and now only exists in the "wee" hours. (Of course, Finn is also late.) The symbol of "wee one" as small one is also valid, since Anna will shortly tell "you" that "You’re but a puny".

  • Anna primarily addresses her interior monologue to Finn, not HCE.

In Heliopolis, Anna "resurrects" Finn every morning in her daily waking morning interior monologue. He must begin again. Anna is conscious of this activity. In dreamland too is Finn nightly resurrected, but that is obvious, and Anna is not conscious of it.

This interpretation is supported by the monologue itself.

[619.25] Rise up, man of the hooths, you have slept so long! Or is it only so mesleems? On your pondered palm. Reclined from cape to pede. With pipe on bowl. Terce for a fiddler, sixt for makmerriers, none for a Cole. Rise up now and aruse! Norvena’s over. I am leafy, your goolden, so you called me.

Notice that it is the "man of the hooths" that Anna 'awakes', rather than the man of the house.

[622.16] You know where I am bringing you? You remember? When I ran berrying after hucks and haws. With you drawing out great aims to hazel me from the hummock with your sling. Our cries. I could lead you there and I still by you in bed. Les go dutc to Danegreven, nos? Not a soul but ourselves. Time? We have loads on our hangs. Till Gilligan and Halligan call again to hooligan.

It is Finnegan, not HCE, that Anna 'awakens' for this daily early morning "helpyourselftoastrool". The primary "you" is Finnegan. There is also, however, a "he".

[619.31] But there’s a great poet in you too. Stout Stokes would take you offly. So has he as bored me to slump.

  • The secondary "he" is HCE.

[627.36] And it’s old and old it’s sad and old it’s sad and weary I go back to you, my cold father, my cold mad father, my cold mad feary father, till the near sight of the mere size of him, the moyles and moyles of it, moananoaning, makes me seasilt saltsick and I rush, my only, into your arms.

"You", "my cold father" confessor, is Finnegan, and "him" is HCE. That's drama.

[... Note that John Gordon has "you"=HCE, because there is no Finnegan, and no explanation as to who might the "he" of the monologue might be. Further he has "wee one" = Issy, with no explanation as to why Anna confesses to a male. William York Tindal has the "you" in the monologue being HCE, although morphing into Finn at times, and with no analysis of the "you" and "he" in the monologue ...]

Alternative Motif

  • Finnegan = Bloom, Joyce, Adam, etc., but dead before completing their "master work". Finns sin, "finfin", is an affair with Kate.
  • ALP = Molly, Nora, Eve, etc., but after the death of their first husband (Finn), but now married to HCE.
  • HCE = Blazes Boylan, Gogarty, The Snake?, etc., i.e., the average man, and he is not nice. HCE's sin is, amongst other things, an 'affair' with Issy.

Joyce is able to look beyond his death, and truly write a "Book of the Dead", since he still lives in Nora's mind. Nora, has had to move on, and here comes everybody.

While Finnegan/Joyce/Bloom/Adam died (in this story) without completing their "master work" (Finnegans Wake in Joyce's case), ALP/Nora/Molly/Eve still reads this work, and dreams with its language.

[623.31] Scratching it and patching at with a prompt from a primer. And what scrips of nutsnolleges I pecked up me meself. Every letter is a hard but yours sure is the hardest crux ever. Hack an axe, hook an oxe, hath an an, heth hith ences. But once done, dealt and delivered, tattat, you’re on the map.

As an example of how this reading makes things clearer, consider the mystery of the four wise men "mamalujo". Who are they? Look in any text on Finnegans Wake and you will find the answer disappointing. With this reading, however, they are certainly Finnegans childhood friends, still very much alive tonight.(1)

Summary of Question

  • Surely, HCE and Finnegan are distinct characters in Heliopolis, but Finnegan is dead by the time the novel begins?

    1. Like HCE, Finnegan too has a referent in Heliopolis (not only in dreamland).
    2. Finnegan is not HCE.
    3. Finnegan was Anna first husband, but is dead before the novel begins. He died without completing his "master work".
    4. Finnegan and Anna are the biological parents of the twins.
    5. HCE is Anna's husband/partner by the time the novel begins.
    6. HCE and Anna are the biological parents of Issy.
  • Further, in Anna's monologue, surely the monologue is primarily addressed to Finnegan, not HCE?

Expected Answers

In am expecting answers of the forms, "No Finnegan is unlikely to be Anna's first husband because...", or, "No, in the monologue, Anna is more likely to be addressing her (current and only) husband HCE, because ...", etc. Explanation, however, would need to be given to the "pigs and scuts" answer, as well as to the "you" and "he" in Anna's monologue. I am also interested in any references to analyses of Anna's monologue.

P.S. Y'all know about this beautiful but abridged reading and these complete readings (some beautiful, some terrible, but between the lot of them, good readings of all chapters), right? Finnegans Wake, is best appreciated in spoken word. Most precious of all is this, which despite its title, is a reading of Part IV (with Anna's monologue) riverrunning into a reading of I.1. Enough to make you cry. The text of course is online in many forms. This is a call to arms.

And now there is this!

(1) It has become clear to me that the four wise men, Mamalujo, are Anna's childhood friends. In fact the very first Mark-Iseuld-Tristam triangle is Mark=Mark-of-the-Mamalujo, Iseuld=Anna, and Tristam=Finnegan! Way back when they were teenagers/young-adults.

(2) While Finnegan is certainly not Issy's father, it has become clear to me that neither is HCE. Who is Issy's father? This becomes a puzzle of Finnegans Wake, there are 1001 possibilities, and currently I think it is Saunderson. HCE suspects the Cad: "for the honours of our mewmewe mutual daughters".

(3) HCE is almost certainly not married to Anna. He wishes he was! By Irish law all Anna's inherited property (house and inn/hotel) belonged to her husband Finnegan, who had thrown her (as the Prankquean) out after Issy was born. The house and inn were all his, and divorce was impossible in Ireland at the time. But then he fell from a ladder and died. The property is Anna's again. "O foenix culprit!" Is our freed bird going to give it all away again?

  • Do you reckon you may have enough material in this post for a self-answer? It's great to include motivation for a question, of course, but there so much motivation here that I wonder if it could become evidence to support an answer (not the conclusive answer, but a reasonably supported answer). [Disclaimer: I haven't read Finnegans Wake, nor fully read all of this question.] – Rand al'Thor May 24 '20 at 18:29
  • I am writing a book, a walk through in fact, and really would like a critique of this position by someone who has that strength of understanding, given that this is so radical a reading. I only updated because I re-read after someone bumped, and spotted misunderstanding I made earlier. The updates are demarcated at the end. – fundagain May 24 '20 at 18:36

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