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2.4 The First '(Silent.)'

While there are numerous references to 'silence' in Finnegans Wake, there are three silences where the narration is halted due to a silence in the text. Only one of these silences, the second, is integral to the 'narrative' events of the Wake; the other two are narrative recollections of a past fall and consequent silence. In effect, each silence is shown as preceding the rise to dominance of another HCE. The feminine silence surrounds events long past, or which, as intimated in Book IV, may occur in a future preceding the 'restart' of the Wake's cycle. In the textuality which marks the beginning of the Wake, or of culture itself, the signature to the letter must be 'seen', and is a visual reference to the sin as well as indicative of authorship: 'till the rising of the morn, till that hen of Kaven's shows her beaconegg, and Chapwellswendows stain our horyhistoricold and Father MacMichael stamps for aitch o'clerk mess and the Litvian Newestlatter is seen, sold and delivered and all's set for restart after the silence' (FW 382.10-14). As indicated in the latter quotation, a further silence may be be that which follows the conclusion to the Wake. Book I, a series of informational and historical chapters detailing the drama of the Earwicker family, is itself akin to the picture in that it represents a blurred account of past events elicited from remnants or witnesses in the Wakean 'present'. The focus of Book I is the reconstitution of the Earwicker family from a fragmented and largely silent past, and as an unearthing of document number one the silence which occurs in it is an explanation of, and antecedent to, the appearance of the landlord/deity HCE of Book II. The first '(Silent.)' (FW 14.06) comes between four dates which describe the cycle of events in Finnegans Wake, and is a reinterpretation or appropriation of the Viconian cycles Joyce claimed to have used as his 'trellis'.13

It is worth briefly examining the contents of this abbreviated summary of events in Finnegans Wake, and for convenience it is reproduced below:

1132 a.d. Men like to ants or emmets wondern upon a groot hwide Whallfisk which lay in a Runnel. Blubby wares upat Ublanium.

566 a.d. On Baalfire's night of this year after deluge a crone that hadde a wickered Kish for to hale dead turves from the bog lookit under the blay of her Kish as she ran for to sothisfeige her cowrieosity and be me sawl but she found hersell sackvulle of swart goody quickenshoon and small illigant brogues, so rich in sweat. Blurry works at Hurdlesford.


566 a.d. At this time it fell out that a brazenlockt damsel grieved (sobralasolas!) because that Puppette her minion was ravisht of her by the ogre Puropeus Pious. Bloody wars in Ballyaughacleeaghbally.

1132 a.d. Two sons at an hour were born until a goodman and his hag. These sons called themselves Caddy and Primas. Primas was a santryman and drilled all decent people. Caddy went to Winehouse and wrote o peace a farce. Blotty words for Dublin. (FW 13.33-14.15)

The silence certainly provides no definite answers about the past, and any interpretation or understanding imposed upon the remaining archaeological pictures must be provisional. Each of the descriptions associated with the four dates ends with a comment concerning Dublin, a Dublin which on one level is ALP. The following analysis overtly focuses upon a sexual interpretation of the time scheme and is not intended to eclipse alternative interpretations:

1. The initial 1132 A.D. describes men upon a whale and/or wall, concluding that there were economic 'Blubby wares' up or at Dublin. Amid a number of possible interpretations, the Wake's original sin, coitus, is apparent in the statement that a 'Whallfisk lay in a Runnel'.

2. The next date 566 A.D. records a miracle after the 'deluge' where a crone with a basket collecting turds instead finds highly worked artifacts in her sack. The 'blurry works' of Dublin describe the uncertain picture contained within feminine container, and on one level indicates ALP's pregnancy as a genetic blurring of HCE.

3. The '(Silent)' following implies a disappearance of the logos into the female signifier, the aftermath of a deluge or revolution, but certainly the biological silence of the female and disappearance of the male following sexual creativity. The narrator's subsequent comment upon the '(Silent)' suggests that 'Somewhere, parently, in the ginnandgo gap between antediluvious and annadominant the copyist must have fled with his scroll' (FW 14.16-18), signalling the disappearance of both the author and letter.

4. The next date 566 A.D. concerns HCE's sexual violation of his daughter as a reproductive plelude to his 'second coming' (see below, *) and the conception by ALP/Issy of the twin sons who akin to Jacob and Esau begin their conflict, and religious wars, in the womb: 'Bloody wars' in Dublin.

5. The final date 1132 A.D. concerns the succession to power of the twins, of whom, Shaun is the vehicle of military/religious values, while conversely Shem writes 'o peace a farce' for ALP, the 'blotty words' for Dublin. The twins represent the 'turb' (FW 111.31) of the fallen HCE, collected and 'unfilthed' (FW 111.32) from ALP's womb. Shem's writing, however, is an inverted echo of ALP's faith in her departed husband: he depicts HCE for ALP, albeit in so doing undermines the centrality of the logos.

The periods before and after the silence are divided into male and female ages: 'antediluvious and annadominant'. Thus the cultural activities or events associated with Dublin, namely, trade, the collection and production of artifacts or art, wars and written language, are divided into male and female enterprises; trade and war are male oriented, while artifacts and writing are female. The 'Blurry works' are associated with the picture, or the archaeological document number one version of the letter, and the 'Blotty words', with the letter of Finnegans Wake, the document number two of the second coming. The picture is maintained both in language and the feminine materiality of the earth, and is also genetically represented in the succeeding generations who receive the cultural picture of HCE.

The closing of ALP's door as a cause of the silence recalls the Prankquean episode, where Jarl van Hoother's spoken word is equated to the turd: he 'ordurd' and she is rendered mute. In other instances, a door of life is closed by a Dane, 'the Dannamen gallous banged pan the bliddy duran' (FW 14.20-21), with Biddy Doran herself likened to the door. Later, the door is closed by a Sigurdsen type, 'till Daleth, mahomahouma, who oped it closeth thereof the. Dor' (FW 20.17-18); and, 'Ere the sockson locked at the dure. Which he would, shuttinshure. And lave them to sture' (FW 371.16-17). The phrase 'shut the door' is also incorporated into one of the hundred lettered falls (FW 257.27-28), indicating that shutting the door is significant to the cycle of HCE's regeneration and fall. ALP is described elsewhere as the latch to the door of life, 'Ani Latch of the postern' (FW 493.32), and HCE provides the necessary phallic key: 'But there's leps of flam in Funnycoon's Wick. The keyn has passed. Lung lift the keying!' (FW 499.13-14). The use of the 'key' to lock ALP's 'door' is one reason for the silence, but as a closing action which spells the demise of HCE it subsequently opens the door for his descendants.

According to the schematic, textuality begins long after the originator has departed, leaving only archaeological traces of himself, a blurred picture lingering in the religion, customs, language and artifacts of a civilisation. The potential resurrection of a terrifying HCE following the death of ALP will not be a textually recorded event. The time frame of Finnegans Wake, its narrative 'present', resides entirely in the 'annadominant' period in which Shem writes the letter. In Book I, the deified HCE's attempt to rise from the grave is stymied by a narrator when he is asked to 'be aisy, good Mr Finnimore, sir. And take your laysure like a god on pension and don't be walking abroad' (FW 24.16-17). Rather, Book I of the Wake is an attempt to render as text (or textually approximate) the archaeological remnants of HCE; in effect it is itself the silence of the schemata. The reader is urged to perceive his remains in the textuality of the archaeological picture:

Yet may we not see still the brontoichthyan form outlined aslumbered, even in our own nighttime. (FW 7.20-21)

His clay feet, swarded in verdigrass, stick up starck where he last fellonem, by the mund of the magazine wall. (FW 7.30-32)

Hence when the clouds roll by, jamey, a proudseye view is enjoyable of our mounding's mass, now Wallinstone national museum. (FW 7.36-8.2)

(Stoop) if you are abcedminded, to this claybook, what curios of signs (please stoop), in this allaphbed! (FW 18.17-18)

The picture and the letter are correlated with male and female periods of history respectively. Judging from the scope of the titles of 'Her untitled mamafesta memorialising the Mosthighest' (FW 104.4) listed at the outset of Book I.5, the letter that Shem writes for ALP is an analogue of Finnegans Wake itself, although, as Patrick McCarthy points out, none of the interpolated letters provide 'a key to the book's core meaning'.14 Both types of creativity, picture and letter, however, signify HCE, with the signifier a form of ALP. In his 'Guilty but fellows culpows' (FW 363.20) speech, HCE is aware of ALP's concealment/incarceration of him: 'Popottes, where you canceal me you mayst forced guage my bribes. Wickedgapers, I appeal against the light! A nexistence of vividence!' (FW 366.1-3). The silence examined in the context of the schemata is not itself a causal prelude to a new Wakean age, but occurring in Book I forms part of a larger reflection upon the silence of history and elucidation of the fragmented Wakean 'now'. As part of Book I, however, the silence of the schemata precedes the emergence of an HCE character in Book II.

13 Mary and Padraic Colum, Our Friend James Joyce (1958), 123, cited by Ellmann, James Joyce, p. 554. For Vico, see also Donald Phillip Verene (ed), Vico and Joyce (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987); James S. Atherton, The Books at the Wake: A Study of Literary Allusions in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake (London: Faber and Faber, 1959), pp. 31-32; and Adaline Glasheen, Third Census of Finnegans Wake: An Index of the Characters and Their Roles (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977)

14 Patrick McCarthy, 'The Last Epistle of Finnegans Wake', James Joyce Quarterly, 27 (1990), 725-34 (p. 725).