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The Rainbow

The rainbow motif appears upon the first page of Finnegans Wake in a paragraph which summarises a number of the events yet to come: 'Rot a peck of pa's malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface' (FW 3.12-14). The rainbow also appears where a peace, reconciliation or victory/defeat occurs, such as the capitulation of Jarl van Hoother to the Prankquean, where he is described as 'like a rudd yellan gruebleen orangeman in his violet indigonation' (FW 23.1-2) or the 'rayingbogeys rings' (FW 304.9) Shem perceives after he is hit by Shaun in the Nightlessons chapter. As a symbol of peace, the rainbow can correspond to sexual union and thus signify success in the masculine struggle for power. Shem's literary endeavours are also related to peace (see above, *) and an identical sexual/textual duality exists in the 'peacefulness' of Finnegans Wake as can be found is in the manufacture of the biological and literary letters. Just what peace is in Finnegans Wake is not straightforward, and its significance as an absence of violence is undermined by the frequently violent process by which such a state is achieved. This chapter proposes to explore the nature of the peace associated with the rainbow girls and biological letter, and to contrast that with the peace sought by the male letter-writer Shem.