3.5 Relationship between the Wall and Letter
In a number of instances Shem writes using mud, or taking the Russian General's act of creativity one step further, his own feces. Mirroring the production of the picture, Shem is depicted as 'making encostive inkum out of the last of his lavings and writing a blue streak over his bourseday shirt' (FW 27.10-11). Shaun is similarly described as 'chalking oghers on walls' (FW 27.6-7), for Shaun's bloody destruction of HCE is the event which creates the blurred historical picture of HCE. Consequently, in the Mime of Mick, Nick and the Maggies, Shaun's character description alludes to a picture created from both chalk and blood: '(Mr Sean O'Mailey, see the chalk and sanguine pictograph on the safety drop)' (FW 220.11-12). The narrator of the Ballad chapter similarly describes a former 'prodromarith period, [...] when enos chalked halltraps' (FW 30.4) where 'halltraps' on one level indicates 'hall trappings' or pictures upon a wall, and on another the trepan of the hunt itself. There are similar occurrences of the wall being used for writing in the 'Questions and Answers' chapter; for instance, where part of Shem's question concerning Finn MacCool ominously asks which mythical erector has 'the handwriting on his facewall, the cryptoconchoidsiphonostomata in his exprussians' (FW 135.15-16). In addition to handwriting, HCE is also portrayed as 'a footprinse on the Megacene' (FW 137.16-17), which suggests that the Magazine Wall depicts the scene of the picture. In another phrase, HCE is addressed as a stone building or quarry in a letter from a flower girl in the present who anticipates his reincarnation in the Wake's cycle: 'Dear Hewitt Castello, Equerry, were daylighted with our outing and are looking backwards to unearly summers, from Rhoda Dundrums' (FW 135.29-31). The various pictures of HCE through time, and thus in motion, form a motion picture of the past, a visual letter of sorts, 'hearken but hush it, screen him and see' (FW 134.28), with Finnegans Wake Joyce's textual account of just such a movie played upon a wall: 'the writing on the wall will hue it' (FW 118.19-20) (further references to movies in Finnegans Wake, are discussed below,*, *, *).
HCE is himself the wall or the product of his own creativity, and is alternately 'assembled and asundered' (FW 135.6-7). In the Night Lessons chapter, a marginal note by Shem associates childbirth with the events of Babel, as the creation of genetic as well as linguistic difference associated with the demise of the singularity: 'Rockaby, babel, flatten a wall' (FW 278.L12-13). The fall of HCE is depicted elsewhere as the 'renting of his rock' by three 'fun coverters', whose buggery of HCE destroys his signified, leaving only his material and linguistic debris as the 'dumb scene' of the wall:
It was Chudley Magnall once more between the deffodates and the dumb scene? The two childspies waapreesing him auza de Vologue but the renting of his rock was from the three wicked Vuncouverers Forests bent down awhits, arthou sure? Yubeti. (FW 88.24-28)
The Tower of Babel, undermined by a confusion of languages, reflects the fragmentation of HCE's own sign, the semiotic multiplication of signifiers relating to the material signified, which is associated with his act of sexual creation. The Wake's language can be considered in much the same light as the letter discovered in the tip, a fallen, blurred language, buried and partially reconstituted, not yet 'unfilthed' (FW 111.32) and thus open to interpretation. The wall and letter, material civilisations and accompanying languages past and present, share a symbiotic relationship where a crumbling wall is implicitly a crumpling of a letter, and the creation of the letter an echo of the building of its walls.5
Inside the wall/tomb which conserves him, HCE, a deified father figure, listens to the blasphemies occurring without, and carefully writes them down: 'Earwicker, [...] in the sititout corner of his conservatory, behind faminebuilt walls, [...] compiled, [...] a long list (now feared in part lost) to be kept on file of all abusive names he was called' (FW 70.35-71.6). In parallel with the 100 names of YHWH, the deified HCE is reduced to a list of names rather than a potential life of the future. The deity is transposed from life to textuality. The wall is an envelope containing the picture HCE, just as the feminine envelope Shaun describes in Book I.5 (FW 109) contains the biological message of HCE. Shem is portrayed as feminine, and linked to ALP, in part because he gives birth to the textual existence of the deified singularity. It is the picture on the wall, or the enveloped names of HCE, as opposed to the future biological incarnation or 'second coming' of HCE, which first become fetishes, and then become deified. The remnant of HCE is the focus of the both retrospective and sexually-oriented Issy/ALP, who claims not to need Shem's letter to appreciate HCE's history and his undoing by Shaun:
every school filly [...] and every colleen bawl aroof and redflammelwaving warwife and widowpeace upon Dublin Wall for ever knows as yayas is yayas how it was Buckleyself (we need no blooding paper to tell it neither) who struck and the Russian generals, da! da! instead of Buckley who was caddishly struck by him. (FW 101.16-22)
The truth of HCE's fate is known both to Shem, the exponent of new writing, and to the god-fearing women of the Wake, and Shem's interest in ALP is founded upon her culturally embedded knowledge (see below,*). Although HCE is safe from his pursuers within the tip, ALP however 'pleads' that the city 'let him rest, thou wayfarre, and take no gravespoil from him! Neither mar his mound! The bane of Tut is upon it. Ware!' (FW 102.20-22). In a biological sense, however, that mound is herself, and she is defending both HCE and herself from Shem's prying perception.
5 For a further discussion of Babel in Finnegans Wake, see Derek Attridge, 'The Wake's Confounded Language', in Coping with Joyce; Essays from the Copenhagen Symposium, ed. by Morris Beja and Shari Benstock (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1989), pp. 262-68, and Jacques Derrida, 'Two Words for Joyce' in Post-structuralist Joyce: Essays from the French, ed. by Derek Attridge and Daniel Ferrer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 145-60.