5.10 Subverting the Cyclic Reproduction of HCE
With the rise of Nazism in Germany and various forms of fascism dominant in other European countries following the economic collapse that sparked the Great Depression, Joyce would have appreciated the potential of a fall of the mass-man democracy in Europe, whether through a Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin or other totalitarian dictator of both humble origin and grand design. After the economic collapse of Shem/HCE in Book III.4, Book IV similarly posits the potential reincarnation of a new HCE. Taken at face value, there appears little scope in the cyclic nature of the Wake for planning the future intelligently. Rather, human development in the Wake is a process of dialectic between opposites, a movement between unity and difference, represented by motifs such as the tree and stone, and the synthesis consists of individual HCE figures who are consistently random in form: 'Willed without witting, whorled without aimed' (FW 272.4-5).
While HCE is often characterised as an omnipotent warrior-dictator, and as a consequence even a deity, all cooperative decision-making bodies of authority, such as the Doyles noted above, are suspect. This is not peculiar to Finnegans Wake, as Stephen Dedalus, at the outset of Ulysses, enunciates his 'masters' as the 'imperial British state' and the 'holy Roman and apostolic catholic church', and a third, who wants him only for 'odd jobs', is constituted by the Irish (U 1.638-44).22 He is suspicious of the nationalist fervour of the Irish republican movement, and similarly of the idealism of AE (George Russell), which in Stephen's mind condemned humanity to be 'the sacrificial butter' (U 9.64) of a realm of ideas. Rather, Stephen's answer to nationalism in the Circe chapter is individualist: 'But I say: Let my country die for me. Up to the present it has done so. I didn't want it to die. Damn death. Long live life!' (U 15.4473-74). The ideology of Ulysses refutes the demand of the state upon the individual to die in its wars. Yet, socialism's failure to unite the workers to prevent World War I may well have suggested to Joyce (writing during the lead up to World War II) that faith in pacifism alone was unlikely to prevent war. Indeed, Christ's pacifism has historically been raised as a rationale for war and genocide rather than a converse toleration. The principle of 'turning the other cheek' has never been accepted in Christian society,23 and to illustrate the point it is the Christian Shaun who derides Shem in Book I.7 for avoiding, like Joyce himself, World War I: 'our low waster never had the common baalamb's pluck to stir out and about the compound while everyone else of the torchlit throng, slashers and sliced alike, mobbu on massa, waaded and baaded around' (FW 178.12-15).
In the age of the deity, HCE is described as, 'Loud, hear us! | Loud, graciously hear us!' (FW 258.25-26), and consistently the ricorso of Book IV begins with a blessing in preparation for the awaking of the HCE deity following the economic ruin of Shem/HCE. The dawn is heralded by a cock crowing, the phrasing of which simultaneously alludes to the fornication with, or destruction of, an Osiris or Iron Duke in the age of humanity: 'Conk a dook he'll doo' (FW 595.30). Ultimately, however, neither the sun nor HCE rise. While the identity of HCE is ambiguous, indeed kaleidoscopic, should he rise, he most likely would be a warrior, and quite bloodthirsty at that. Shem describes HCE as 'Terror of the noonstruck by day, crytogam of each nightly bridable' (FW 261.26-27), and of the many allusions to deities and other 'great males' in Book IV, there are numerous warlike characters, both mythological and historical:
Osseania. (FW 593.5)
Foyn MacHooligan. The leader, the leader. (FW 593.12-13)
genghis is ghoon for you. (FW 593.17-18)
Arcthuris is comeing! (FW 594.2)
Arans Duhkha. (FW 595.22)
nolly. (FW 621.18)
The anti-violence of Stephen Dedalus is parodied in the character of the peace-loving Shem, and the theoretical notion of a lasting peace is consistently portrayed as a 'farce'. Finnegans Wake acknowledges the destruction implicit in human conflict, and suggests that it is all but inevitable. As the Four Historians rise following the fall of HCE in Book II.3, on the eve of HCE's resurrection in Book IV they and their desire for knowledge are again laid to rest: 'Mildew, murk, leak and yarn now want the bad that they lied on' (FW 598.22-23). The possibility that the rising HCE will be a victorious Hitler may be surmised from the Nazi slogan 'Strength through Joy' contained in the following phrase of Book IV: 'And your last words todate in camparative accoustomology are going to tell stretch of a fancy though strength towards joyance, adyatants, where he gets up' (FW 598.23-25). As an alternative, however, the implicit anti-authoritarian, anarchist tolerance of 'strength through Joyce' can also be derived from the above quotation.
Joyce's attitude toward HCE appears ambivalent. At the outset of the Wake, the Four Historians are described as persuading HCE to remain in his coffin, 'Hold him here, Ezekiel Irons, and may God strengthen you' (FW 27.23-24). The story of HCE is 'the tale [...] of a Mons held by tent pegs' (FW 113.18-19). In Book IV Joyce is perhaps reluctant to portray a risen HCE, and indeed it would be incompatible with the textuality of the Wake, for such a unified political state, as the twentieth century can amply demonstrate, is antithetical to the subversive difference of art. The rise of an HCE is the end of one civilisation and the beginning of another. What has passed, and its memory, will be destroyed, and 'the pitcher go to aftoms on the wall' (FW 598.21-22), but this is no matter in the philosophy of the Wake, for in the dump, genes, literature and civilisation, all resurface:
What has gone? How it ends?
Begin to forget it. It will remember itself from every sides, with all gestures, in each our word. Today's truth, tomorrow's trend.
Forget! Remember! (FW 614.19-22)
Similar to the idealism of AE which Stephen notes in Ulysses, the cycle of violence in Finnegans Wake itself becomes unreal in Joyce's idealised literary model of historical development. Commenting upon the overt cycles of Wakean history but without reference to the subversive implications of Shem's non-participation, Sheldon Brivic suggests that in the Wake 'Violence is transformed into a puppet show or comedy routine, seen from a distance, recounted by a scholar, isolated from feeling or associated with mythological rebirth: ''Phall if you but will, rise you must'' (FW 4.15-16). No one really gets hurt; and the painful aspect of sex is censored, as the benign harmlessness of father H.C.E. indicates'.24 Yet, there is a danger in taking the Wake's representations of the violent cycles of masculine reproduction at face value. Whether HCE will rise in Book IV, despite ALP's calls for him to do so, is open to question. Despite the narrator's demands that 'Health, chalce, endnessnecessity! Arrive [...]. You yet must get up to kill (nonparticular)' (FW 613.27-33), HCE's reincarnation is left as a potentiality. ALP changes her attitude toward her living husband, who she decides is 'but a puny' (FW 627.24), as she drifts away out into the massive arms of her spiritual father, the ocean. Yet, the terrible omnipotence of the sea-deity leads the reader to suspect that HCE is ultimately a fantasy of potency sustained by his widowed wife. This perception of HCE is in turn nurtured by ALP within their descendants and thus, in the heart of culture, can manifest itself as the omnipotent warrior. The potential return of the deified singularity is less obvious in the final monologue of Ulysses with its promise of a reinvigorated and masculine Bloom, but it is explicit in Finnegans Wake. The irrational terror of death is inculcated by the ferocious enormity of ALP's approaching father, and Joyce indicates what the apocalyptic return, or judgement day, of a true HCE might entail. With Nazism's prelude of genocide, propaganda, manipulation of sexuality and racial, cultural and political 'cleansing' - had Hitler won World War II, Joyce's fears for Western civilisation might well have been realised.
22 Stephen's inability to work as an artist in Ireland is discussed further below.
23 Bertrand Russell in a 1922 essay noted that it was illegal to express disbelief in the Christian religion, but also 'illegal to teach what Christ taught on the subject of non-resistance', Sceptical Essays (1935; London: Unwin Books, 1961), p. 102.
24 Sheldon Brivic, Joyce between Freud and Jung (Port Washington: Kennikat Press, 1980), p. 212.