Next Section

Previous Section

7.14 Biological Enslavement of the Female

As the suspended conclusion to the Wake would suggest, Joyce offers no signposts for the future, rather its cycles function as a mirror and in showing the past also depict a potential future. Its equivocal ending, namely the death of ALP with no living HCE figure an obvious successor, indicates that there can be lasting peace only when biological time and socio-political evolution is rendered static. Book IV, as a ricorso, would need to remain permanently outside time, with HCE continuing his slumber indefinitely. That it is momentarily outside the cyclic succession of great males is indicated by the fact that the 'annadominant' ALP signs the final letter; as a Prankquean-figure she is no longer struck dumb in the 'bargain' involving an exchange of HCE's fecal creativity for the requirement for her to 'shut up shop' (FW 23.5). Repressed by males in a sexual 'peace' sanctioned by religion, the non-participation of females in the political process is similarly apparent in Ulysses, where the silence of the female is predicated upon the existence of dominant, violent males such as the British soldiers:


(shakes Cissy Caffrey's shoulders) Speak, you! Are you struck dumb? You are the link between nations and generations. Speak, woman, sacred lifegiver!


(alarmed, seizes Private Carr's sleeve) Amn't I with you? Amn't I your girl? (U 15.4646-52)

At her response, Stephen accuses her of being merely a sexual object, for attracted to the 'dominant' English soldier she has betrayed her individuality to be his sexual plaything, and Stephen's response describes her in terms that would befit the narrowly defined sexual being of the rainbow girls:


(ecstatically, to Cissy Caffrey)

White they fambles, red thy gan

And thy quarrons dainty is. (U 15.4653-56)

Just as Bloom urges Cissy Caffrey to speak and break the spell of domination, the ambiguous end to the Wake depicts ALP speaking and she fittingly concludes one cycle of male repression.

ALP's views, however, do not 'beat time' (FW 419.8), where time as Adaline Glasheen points out is HCE.32 ALP's final monologue, while belittling her husband, is not the intellectual discourse that a Stephen or Shem might have spoken on her behalf, and is reminiscent of Molly's coda to Ulysses in her faithfulness to an HCE deity. Shaun informs the reader that ALP's letter was 'not out to dizzledazzle with a graith uncouthrement of postmantuam glasseries from the lapins and grigs' (FW 113.1-2), rather ALP 'just feels she was kind of born to lay and love eggs (trust her to propagate the species' (FW 112.13-14). While she is intellectually blind to the implications of the sublime terror inspired by her father-originator, it is a terror she has no choice but to accept. The demise of ALP mirrors more closely the departure of Stephen's mother who is portrayed as committed to the reproduction of the deity, and as a Kate figure nearing death ALP's concern is consistent with that of Kate described in the Mime of Mick, Nick and the Maggies, namely that with respect to the regeneration of HCE 'the show must go on' (FW 221.16).

Another potential future rests with Issy, the younger woman prepared like Nora to shake off the patriarchal hold upon the production of the letter. While the future is not predetermined by Joyce, the option exists for women to continue to speak out and the 'annadominant' period to continue. Of course, also an option is HCE's or Father Michael's return, as indicated by the echo of 'reverend' in the first word of the Wake. True peace perhaps lingers between death and rebirth, or between birth and sexual fall, but to linger there resisting desire may in Stephen's longer term view prove impossible, as ALP herself suggests:

My great blue bedroom, the air so quiet, scarce a cloud. In peace and silence. I could have stayed up there for always only. It's something fails us. First we feel. Then we fall. And let her rain now if she likes. Gently or strongly as she likes. Anyway let her rain for my time is come. (FW 627.9-13)

It is the irresistible tug of sexual desire in Finnegans Wake which motivates violent conflict between males for sexual union, and it is the satisfaction of that desire which constitutes a temporary peace. As sexual reproduction, free or otherwise, serves the interest of the deified HCE, only the use of a condom of Book III.4 counters his biological re-emergence following Book IV. Yet, as ALP's letter indicates, the Wake's mothers want the 'show' to go on, and they desire Father Michael as the biological messenger of HCE to restart time and pour forth his half of the sexual miracle: 'Femelles will be preadaminant as from twentyeight to twelve. To hear that lovelade parson, of case, of a bawl gentlemale, pour forther moracles' (FW 617.23-25).

32 See entries for Tim and Time in Adaline Glasheen, Third Census of Finnegans Wake: An Index of the Characters and Their Roles (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), pp. 284-85.