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4.4 HCE as Genetically Entombed

All forms of creativity, sexual and artistic, and in particular building, are an affront to the dominant power structure in Finnegans Wake as each represents a means of escape through time. Sexual creativity in Joyce's writings is additionally charged with an awareness of the catholic taboo. HCE's sin is clearly associated with some form of sexual transgression, yet contrary to the teachings of Judeo-Christian religions, Joyce attributes the original sin to the supreme deity rather than to a derivative concept of man, simply because the HCE deity in Finnegans Wake was a man subject to mortal desires: 'Behose our handmades for the lured' (FW 239.10). Issy/ALP, the temptress and object of such desire, provides the genetic link between past and future HCE types. It is the cultural reproduction enabled by the female and her cultural and biological 'river' or genetic memory, her sack of treasures, which both facilitates the perpetuation of the concept of HCE, and allows his reincarnation. Genetic entombment and the sexual sin are complementary concepts in perpetuating HCE through time.

Joyce's female characters both reproduce the past and yet also create the future. Interestingly, all his major female characters are believers in a deified ancestor. ALP's defence of her husband mirrors Molly Bloom and May Dedalus's firm belief in the Christian god. Such belief perpetuates the cultural memory of the deified dead ancestor. To a large extent the role of ALP in Finnegans Wake as preserver of cultural history is centred upon her role as a preserver of HCE's history:

All schwants (schwrites) ischt tell the cock's trootabout him. (FW 113.11-13)

I wrote me hopes and buried the page when I heard Thy voice [...] and left it to lie until kissmiss coming. (FW 624.4-6)

The opening of the letter in the latter instance is equated to the coming of Christ, in that it is left to lie buried in the dump 'hit or miss', 'kissmiss' or 'Christmas coming', merging the reincarnation of HCE with the delivery of the letter. Sexuality and religion in Finnegans Wake are two different aspects of the one phenomenon. The opposition of sexuality and religion follows the opposition of the tree and stone motifs; both are aspects of HCE, the first relating to future HCE incarnations, and the latter to the preservation of historical HCE figures. In A Portrait, Stephen abandons his guilt-based religious faith for a belief in life and its biological processes, a belief he projects upon the image of the girl by the sea. He opposes the Christian preoccupation with death with an acceptance of sexuality and of life remarkably similar to the biological cycle of regeneration Joyce would elaborate in Finnegans Wake: 'To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life!' (P 156).

In general the Christian churches have continued the age-old appropriation of the contribution of women to humanity into masculine mythology and the consequent silence of the female in the cultural canon. The agony of birth, and birth-related deaths, are events which are comparatively absent from a literary-historical-religious canon dominated by stories of the painful sacrifice of male warriors/saviours. The truly devout catholic abandons sexuality altogether for the love of an abstract male god; Shaun as Professor Jones exclaims, 'My unchanging Word is sacred. The word is my Wife [...] Till Breath us depart! Wamen' (FW 167.28-31). The Christian duality between death and sexuality identified in A Portrait is partly reconciled in Finnegans Wake in the mythic cycle of HCE's resurrection through sexual reproduction. This is not to suggest that the revaluation of the sexual in the cycles of Finnegans Wake depicts relationships of sexual equality; on the contrary, sexual values relate to the reproduction of HCE and in general correspond with traditional roles.

ALP's contribution to cultural development rests with her procreative ability which passes to the future the genetic pattern of HCE, 'Ouhr Former who erred in having down to gibbous disdag our darling breed' (FW 530.36-531.1), which is the all-important male message Shaun posts to the future, of which the narrator comments: 'praises be to thee, our pattern sent' (FW 472.24-25). Moreover, HCE's oscillating reincarnation can be differentiated from the rebirth of ALP, which is a continuous flow, with no spectacular achievement expected. The 'annadominant' ascendance of ALP described in the Wake's time scheme is dependent upon HCE's decline, during which time cultural and genetic relics are preserved in anticipation of an apocalyptic future ascendancy. The genetic aspect of the entombed HCE is as real, or more so, than his material remains, for history may belong to the Four Historians, but there is always the possibility of his descendants unearthing him from the genetic and cultural treasures contained in ALP womb/sack: 'The quad gospellers may own the targum but any of the Zingari shoolerim may pick a peck of kindlings yet from the sack of auld hensyne' (FW 112.6-8).