4.2 HCE as Revenant
The divinity of HCE extends beyond allusions to the Judeo-Christian god, incorporating many spiritual references, including Egyptian and Greek deities, and Confucius and Buddha.6 HCE is also equated with prophets such as Mohammed and Noah. HCE is also a spirit, a bogey, haunting the material world from the world of the dead. In Joyce's perception of the supernatural, both superstition and religion are unified in A Portrait, where Stephen sick in bed imagines ghosts, and thoughts of them occur alongside his prayers to the deity (P 18). Note too the merging of 'god' and 'ghost' in Finnegans Wake in the phrase, 'for ghost sake' (FW 561.27-28), and that the Four Historians' gospels are described as 'gastspiels' (FW 393.35). While some fallen fathers become deities, others are demonised. There are a number of references to Lucifer (in particular as the snake of the Garden of Eden), Set and Loki, the defeated in the war of the fathers. In one representation of HCE, he is deified after defeating the 'founder' in an echo of both the conflict between the deity and Satan and in particular the persecution of Shem by Shaun: 'That is a tiptip tim oldy faher now the man I go in fear of, Tommy Terracotta, and he could be all your and my das, the brodar of the founder' (FW 481.31-33). Schlossman considers the Wake as giving 'the impression of being an encyclopedia of religions', and that the 'heresy of Joyce the Catholic is the assumption, in Finnegans Wake, of all possible symbolic positions in all religions, all sects'.7 The male creator, paring his fingernails in A Portrait, is extended to include Joyce's deification (and also ridicule) of himself in Finnegans Wake; although frequently depicted as a struggling artist or Shem-figure, Joyce also factors himself as an emergent dominant male.
Schlossman focuses upon HCE as a fallen or impotent deity, rather than as an omnipotent father. This is partly the consequence of her perceptions concerning the sin which emphasises a combination of HCE's desire and phallic failure as the trigger of his fall:
Hce's obvious phallic failure of the first sin is the foundation of this enormous gossip, the liar's enunciation - intimate and inevitably deformed by its passage from subject to subject - that structures Finnegans Wake. It is this point of origin that engages all subjects in a movement of fall and resurrection, triggered by the first throw of the dice, the coupling of Hce and Alp.
The present study suggests that rather than impotence, the first sin comprises the initial coupling of HCE and ALP; HCE's impotence is consequent to that sin, as Temple in A Portrait points out: 'Reproduction is the beginning of death' (P 208). The coupling indicates his phallic success in every sense of the phallus. It is his potency which results in the sin, for its converse impotence, logically, is a non-event. HCE is impotent, however, in his inability to evade death, 'Macool orra whyi deed ye diie?' (FW 6.13), and his subsequent replacement as the phallocentric logos. Like Ibsen's Bygmester Solness and Tim Finnegan, HCE's sin results from his ability to build. Moreover, it is his enormous creativity, his potency, which highlights the flaw of his mortality, and the contrast is central to the Gracehoper's response to the Ondt, namely that neither HCE nor his heir Shaun in Book III, can 'beat time':
Your genius its worldwide, your spacest sublime!
But, Holy Saltmartin, why can't you beat time? (FW 419.7-8)
The threat contained in the Cad's question concerning time is echoed in the import of the Gracehoper's jeering lines. The inability to evade death in the familial drama leads to cultural strategies which seek to avoid death. Where access to females and biological reproduction (and thus biological escape into time) is precluded, cultural immortality is effected by the through visual and textual strategies. As Shaun ousts both HCE and Shem from sexual access to Issy/ALP, the latter must instead rely on the visual/textual letter and its delivery through time to avoid disappearing entirely (see below,*).
6 See for example, Atherton, James S., The Books at the Wake: A Study of Literary Allusions in James Joyces's Finnegans Wake (London: Faber and Faber, 1959); Mark L. Troy, Mummeries of Resurrection; The Cycle of Osiris in Finnegans Wake (Stockholm: Doctoral Dissertation at the University of Uppsala, 1976); John Bishop, Joyce's Book of the Dark: Finnegans Wake (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986); and, Adaline Glasheen, Third Census of Finnegans Wake: An Index of the Characters and Their Roles (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), also glosses numerous of deities.
7 Schlossman, Joyce's Catholic Comedy, p. 72.
8 Schlossman, Joyce's Catholic Comedy, p. 101.