5.7 Shem and Peace
In Ulysses, the three main characters, Bloom, Molly and Stephen share one major ethical perspective: each states that he or she is opposed to violence. Molly considers that the world should be governed by women as 'you wouldnt see women going and killing one another and slaughtering' (U 18.1435-36). Similarly, Bloom and Stephen express scepticism regarding the motivation behind the use of violence and emphasise its futility:
I resent violence and intolerance in any shape or form. It never reaches anything or stops anything. A revolution must come on the due instalments plan. It's a patent absurdity on the face of it to hate people because they live round the corner and speak another vernacular, in the next house so to speak.
- Memorable bloody bridge battle and seven minutes' war, Stephen assented, between Skinner's alley and Ormond markets. (U 16.1099-1105)
The letter Shem writes, his book 'o peace a farce', in one sense refers to Ulysses. While both HCE's sons at the conclusion of the Prankquean episode, and Jarl van Hoother's creative defecation, were assigned the role of keeping the peace, 'the jimminies was to keep the peacewave' (FW 23.13), Shaun's acquisitive practices and repressive function as the soldier/policeman rather maintains the unequal social structure he overthrew with violence. Given its cyclic structure, Finnegans Wake in general is fatalistic concerning both inequality and violent human conflict. Rather than entering the fray of human conflict to seek a more just society, the narrator instead seeks to temper existence with self-knowledge: 'Loud, heap miseries upon us yet entwine our arts with laughters low' (FW 259.7-8). In Book IV, the narrator asserts that where there is 'no runcure' there is also 'no rank heat, sir' (FW 613.25). The meek only inherit the earth temporarily in a process of raising consciousness, when Shaun's 'wage-of-battle bother' (FW 469.26) becomes a battle-of-wages period in Book III.4. This final age of humanity is attained in Finnegans Wake through social and intellectual evolution away from the repression associated with Shaun in the age of heroes. Despite the falling away of the pre-eminence of the military in this period, the Wakean age of humanity is nevertheless characterised by a parasitic economic domination of the mass of society by the few who have inherited power.
Viewed over time, a higher state of civilisation is unlikely to be permanent, and the imminent Viconian ricorso is summarised as simultaneously a round of beers and vale of tears at the conclusion to Book III.4: 'Tiers, tiers and tiers. Rounds' (FW 590.30). Following the confrontation between Patrick and Balkelly in Book IV, where the arch druid appears to 'shuck his thumping fore features' up Patrick's 'Ards' (FW 612.34-35), Patrick is subsequently mounted upon a 'skyfold' and bid 'Adie' (FW 613.2-3), and the reader is informed that 'Only the order is othered. Nought is nulled. Fuitfiat!' (FW 613.13-14), or in other words, 'Let it be'. This phlegmatic understanding of history metamorphoses into amusement at the violent fate awaiting future HCE characters, and writers such as Shem who explicate their work at their own risk to the Shaun characters of society, as ALP's letter suggests: 'Conan Boyles will pudge the daylives out through him, if they are correctly informed. Music, me ouldstrow, please! We'll have brand rehearsal. Fing! One must simply laugh. Fing him aging!' (FW 617.14-17).
In Joyce's Freudian family romance, built into an eternal Viconian cycle of Brunolian dialectic, no alternative program of action is immediately apparent that is not subsumed into the vicious evolutionary blur of Wakean history. In addition to alcohol, the misery of life can be assuaged by the illusion of a heaven, although as might be expected in the sexually charged Finnegans Wake, Shaun's conception of the afterlife is closer to a Muslim paradise complete with houris than the asexual Christian reward for obedience: 'A tear or two in time is all there's toot. And then in a click of the clock, toot toot, and doff doff we pop with sinnerettes in silkettes lining longroutes for His Diligence Majesty, our longdistance laird that likes creation' (FW 457.21-24). Other than escapism, there does not seem to be any proposed avenue 'out', as Joyce has refrained from providing a utopian vision for the future. Nor is any form of cooperative long-range planning for the future seriously considered, as all power relationships, and even those of the proletarian Doyles, are portrayed as strategies of action which are in competition for domination, and thus perpetuate the cycle. Moreover, the higher consciousness achieved by Shem/HCE through the evolution of civilisation is of limited utility in terms of a just society. The age of humanity (which in Ulysses sees Odysseus become Bloom) in Finnegans Wake is likewise a period of bourgeois millionaires and extreme class inequality, and the process of social change is an organic process similar to the flowers in Quinet's field whose lifecycle parallels the rise and fall of civilisations.
That the development of the artistic and mass-man consciousness of peace is evolutionary rather than an effort of individual will in the Wake's cycles is indicated by the fact that Shem never mounts an overt attack upon his brother. As he repeatedly points out, it is time which cannot be beaten. Rather, the repression of Shem is generally the norm in Finnegans Wake, as when he is described as 'wringing his handcuffs for peace, the blind blighter, praying Dieuf and Domb Nostrums foh thomethinks to eath' (FW 149.2-3). As the owner of the tavern in Book III.4 in the age of humanity, he is engaged in the key activity of fornication, the sin of reproduction, and in a genetic sense, writing a letter. Shem/HCE's act of fornication, however, is the sexual parallel of the textual letter, in that while so evocative of life, and, in this instance, the reproduction of life, his creative efforts do not result in offspring. As he is wearing a condom, he does not 'wet the tea' (FW 585.31) and thus represents a halt to evolutionary time (see below, *). Both Shem's letter and his use of a contraceptive intercourse are acts of rebellion against the Church and Irish State, and while only the latter act of creativity involves the use of a condom, neither 'wets the tea'. The Shaun-like professor of Book I.7 notes that 'Lefty takes the cherubcake while Rights cloves his hoof' (FW 175.29-30), and commenting on the games of Finnegans Wake which Shem refuses to play, also alludes derisively to Shem's use of a condom: '(none of your honeys and rubbers!)' (FW 175.34). Moreover, as a work of literature which focuses explicitly upon the act of fornication in Book III.4, it is in every sense a mimicking of biological reproduction, although it never can be a 'prologue to the swelling act' (U 9.259). That time cannot be beaten is a persistent theme in the Wake, yet the halt to time that Shem's contraceptive sexual and artistic practice implies is intended to provide no purchase for the repressive tendencies of a future Shaun. The achievement of lasting peace thus ultimately requires the unthinkable: the halt of biological time. Yet Shem's rebellion is subsumed into the cycle of the Wake for the new potent HCE who ALP so fervently hopes will rise with the sun is a reunified combination of the violent 'rapier' (FW 224.32) Shaun, and the creative textuality of the 'thother' (FW 224.33) Shem, for while Shaun as Father Michael provides the biological letter of HCE, Shem provides the textuality of the future.