Contents

Next Section

Previous Section

7.11 The Peace of the Future

The principle of abandoning a direct political struggle for a faith in the long term effect of art likewise informs the peace of Finnegans Wake. Accordingly, the acolyte Professor-Shaun character of Book I.5 emphasises patience: 'Now, patience; and remember patience is the great thing, and above all things else we must avoid anything like being or becoming out of patience' (FW 108.8-10). Patience is required for reading the incomprehensible text of the Wake/letter, and also for the dissemination of its significance. Shaun's parting message in Book III.2 also exhorts patience, blending allusions to Moses' forty year search for the promised land19 with the forty days and nights of the flood, and he intimates the possibility of achieving a number of future states of peace, such as the Egyptian Elysian Fields, Holy Communion or Heaven, communism and even an elitist aristocracy, all of which exist outside time:

Lo, improving ages wait ye! In the orchard of the bones. Some time very presently now when yon clouds are dissipated after their forty years shower, the odds are, we shall all be hooked and happy, communionistically, among the fieldnights eliceam, élite of the elect, in the land of lost of time. (FW 453.29-33)

Shaun's appeal for hope, however, savours of the displacement of present pleasure for the sake of a grand future, a timeless political and religious canard used to manipulate society. Characteristically, the future peace promised by Shaun is to occur after death and is not available to the living, its linear progression to paradise merging with the cycle of rebirth espoused in the Wake:

Shunt us! shunt us! shut us! If you want to be felixed come and be parked. Sacred ease there! The seanad and pobbel queue's remainder. To it, to it! Seekit headup! No petty family squabbles Up There nor homemade hurricanes in our Cohortyard, no cupahurling nor apuckalips nor no puncheon jodelling nor no nothing. With the Byrns which is far better and eve for ever your idle be. You will hardly reconnoitre the old wife in the new bustle and the farmer shinner in his latterday paint. It's the fulldress Toussaint's wakeswalks experdition after a bail motion from the chamber of horrus. (FW 454.33-455.6)

In a description which sheds light on the use of the future in political vision, Albert Camus notes that when utopias replace god with the future, that vision of the future displaces ethics, and 'the only values are those which serve this particular future. For that reason utopias have always been coercive and authoritarian'.20 An artistic version of the future which displaces the deity has the same potential for transcending ethics. The utopias extended by the intellectual, religious leader or political leader are all equally fictitious, but as an escape from life each has the potential to transform that reality. Artists who 'wreak their will' (U 9.357-58) upon the future, transcending good and evil, are the reciprocal of the dominant Shaun who, like the sentimentalist in Stephen's telegram to Mulligan (U 9.550-51), would 'enjoy Reality without incurring the Immense Debtorship for a thing done'.21 As Stephen perceived of Plato's Republic, 'Which of the two [...] would have banished me from his commonwealth?' (U 9.82-83), the artist conversely indulges in a social fantasy without due regard to the victims of its future implementation. Moreover, Albert Camus points out that the sanction of time, here sought in the artist's escape, similarly ignores such debts:

When good and evil are reintegrated in time and confused with events, nothing is any longer good or bad, but only premature or out of date. [...] But the victims will not be there to judge.22

Stephen's awareness of his dilemma as an artist no doubt informs his appreciation of history as a 'nightmare from which I am trying to awake' (U 2.377) and that it is fashioned, as he informs Deasy, by an array of people who have 'sinned against the light' (U 2.361). Thus, Shem/HCE's use of a condom in Book III.4 is an attempt to put a halt to the future, to beat biological time. In his 'Guilty but fellows culpows' speech, HCE notes that ALP/Issy can either conceal or cancel him, and he conversely appeals against the 'light', his descendants who have replaced him: 'Popottes, where you canceal me you mayst forced guage my bribes. Wickedgapers, I appeal against the light!' (FW 366.1-2). During his speech HCE also alludes to Ibsen's nihilistic comment: 'You deluge the world to its topmost mark; with pleasure I will torpedo the Ark'. In the Wake, however, Noah's ark is merged with the rainbow arc of female sexuality: 'They seeker for vannflaum all worldins merkins. I'll eager make lyst turpidump undher arkens' (FW 364.28-29).23 The implicit nihilism of Ibsen's gesture rings of the suicidal premise 'all or nothing' with its correlated shedding of ethics which has underpinned some of history's greatest crimes. The dilemma of the Joycean artist is in part the result of the appreciation that reality is founded upon the spiritual void of the male: 'the church is founded and founded irremovably because founded, like the world, macro and microcosm, upon the void' (U 9.840-42). Declining to paint a utopian future, the use of the condom in Book III.4 and the suspended conclusion of Book IV suggests that the nihilistic 'nothing' Joyce counterpoises against the potential 'all' of ALP's desire for a re-emergent HCE is itself characteristic of the 'fundamental' male.

The long term reality of a visionary or founder, and appurtenant peace, historically is enforced by the 'dominant' Shaun characters of society. Moses' prophecy of a Hebrew promised land is secured by Joshua only through genocidal murder in Canaan. This act is referred to in Circe, where Dolly Gray gives the two British soldiers the 'sign of the heroine of Jericho' (U 15.4418-19) indicating that god's 'coughmixture with a punch in it' (U 14.1590) as promised to Stephen by Alexander J. Christ Dowie is imminent. In Circe, Stephen is at the receiving end of the long term effect of another founder's vision, the very same violence that conceivably may be inflicted upon others in the future in Stephen's name. This idea is not so extravagant when one considers the crimes of the various Christian churches undertaken in the name of Christ, evangelist of universal love, who was himself crucified for blasphemy at the instigation of his countrymen. As Manganiello points out, in the first draft of A Portrait the unnamed hero declares: '''To those multitudes not as yet in the wombs of humanity but surely engenderable there, he would give the word'' (P 265)'.24 Consequently, the instruction 'peace' issuing from King Edward the 'peacemaker'25 to pacify the Nighttown crowd indicates that violence rather than peace will ensue:

(slowly, solemnly but indistinctly) Peace, perfect peace. [...] We have come here to witness a clean straight fight and we heartily wish both men the best of good luck. (U 15.4459-62)

The 'clean straight fight' between the soldier and the intellectual, Britain and Ireland, dogma and freethought, is echoed in the Nightlessons chapter of Finnegans Wake where the soldier Shaun knocks the writer Shem unconscious following his explication of the letter, and a 'rayingbogeys' (FW 304.9) of peace is seen. In this respect the Wake follows Genesis where the rainbow signifies the conclusion of a most extreme act of repression. Yet, as Talia Schaffer points out, the sexual peace will be succeeded in its cyclic history by yet another war:

Finnegans Wake makes us think it will 'be wound up for an after-enactment by a Magnificent Transformation Scene showing the Radium Wedding of Neid and Moorning and the Dawn of Peace, Pure, Perfect and Pertpetual, Waking the Weary of the World' (FW 222.16-20). But the next line is 'An argument follows' (FW 222.21). It always does; the war asserts itself eternally.26

19 See Numbers 14.33.

20 Albert Camus, The Rebel, trans. by Anthony Bower (1952; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981), p. 176.

21 George Meredith, Richard Feverel, XXVIII, cited in Weldon Thornton, Allusions in Ulysses, p. 186.

22 Albert Camus, The Rebel, p. 177.

23 Ibsen, Til min Ven Revolutions-Taleren: 'I sørger for vandflom til verdensmarken. Jeg lægger med lyst torpédo under Arken'; slang, merken: cunt; in McHugh, Annotations, p. 364.

24 Manganiello, 'The Politics of the Unpolitical', p. 253.

25 Weldon Thornton, Allusions in Ulysses, entry 330.37, p. 287.

26 Talia Schaffer, 'Letters to Biddy: About that Original Hen', James Joyce Quarterly, 29 (1992), 623-42 (p. 638).