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5.8 Class in the Wake

Despite the persistent but blurred cultural memory of a solitary originator, a 'Dunnohoo' (FW 439.20) deity, murdered, buried, and awaiting genetic resurrection, no individual human is represented in Finnegans Wake in total isolation from a plethora of other like individuals. Humanity in its entirety is encapsulated by the handful of Wake character types, each of whom are engaged in an eternal and generally savage competition for power. The loss of individual identity even extends across character types. For instance, Old Joe as discussed above can at times be perceived as any of the male character types, albeit in a fallen condition. Shaun, protecting Issy's chastity against Shem, at least subconsciously acknowledges the interconnected identity of himself with his twin: 'We'll he'll burst our his mouth like Leary to the Leinsterface and reduce he'll we'll ournhisn liniments to a poolp' (FW 442.29-31). Yet, as a particular male character type dominates each age, society and social change are described in terms of class rather than individualism. Despite the presence of evolutionary social dialectic, it is not a Hegelian or Marxist class-based analysis, as Joyce's classes are defined as much by Freudian family romance as socio-economic position. Where for Marx historical evolution is inexorably linear, in the Wake the enslaved worker is himself a fallen HCE and, envious of the ascendant HCE he serves, may replace him over time through social mobility. The twelve jurors or twelve hours in the clock of the Wake's fall-scheme are represented by the siglum O, and are described like Kate and Joe as servants. The 'component partners of our societate' (FW 142.8) they fill roles such as 'the doorboy, the cleaner, the sojer, the crook, the squeezer, the lounger, the curman, the tourabout, the mussroomsniffer' (FW 142.8-10). They are the 'porters of the passions' (FW 142.17) of the age of humanity, and also the 12 members of the jury. When armed, however, they form the military: 'doyles when they deliberate but sullivans when they are swordsed' (FW 142.26-27). As both the jurors and warriors who judge and dispossess HCE, they are his reciprocal, the fallen but vengeful caste which judges Shem/HCE in the age of humanity. The Doyles as jurors are hostile toward the latter, who is described as 'still extremely offensive to a score and four nostrils' dilatation' (FW 558.5-6). The offensive smell Shem/HCE emits in Book III.4 recalls Shaun's comments concerning Shem, 'the evilsmeller' (FW 182.17), in Book I.7, specifically that 'no-one, hound or scrublady, not even the Turk, ungreekable in purscent of the armenable, dared whiff the polecat at close range' (FW 181.22-24). Nor does the violent cycle of Finnegans Wake allow for the evolution of the 12 warrior/jurors into Marxian commune participants sharing equally productive output. Rather, unenlightened, they are closer to Irish catholics, waiting for the manifestation of the deity in the second coming:

Numerous are those who, nay, there are a dozen of folks still unclaimed by the death angel in this country of ours today, humble indivisibles in this grand continuum, overlorded by fate and interlarded with accidence, who, while there are hours and days, will fervently pray to the spirit above that they may never depart this earth of theirs till in his long run from that place where the day begins, ere he retourneys postexilic. (FW 472.28-34)

The incitement to the Finnegans to rise suggested in one reading of the title is not so much directed to the mass-man as to a mass of enlightened or creative individuals in an anarchy of creative difference. Such an event, however, requires that the Doyle's first learn the lesson of disobedience Celine asks of us at the conclusion of Voyage au bout de la nuit.