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The Kaleidoscope

The description of an all-inclusive yet fragmented 'view' of both history and the present in the 'collideorscape' question of Book I.6 marks it for particular attention in this study due to its relationship with the picture motif. Joyce described the questions and answers of Book I.6 as 'a picture history from the family album' (Letters III 239), although just which family member the kaleidoscope question describes is open to debate. Adaline Glasheen suggests that it focuses upon the flower girls as their constitution as seven colours of the rainbow.1 Yet, in addition to the rainbow motif the kaleidoscope question makes reference to all the characters of the Wake's family romance, and indeed, to the flood of humanity that accompanies the rainbow. While the kaleidoscope question certainly brings the rainbow motif into focus, its content, in the sense of what can be read into the image of the rainbow, is rather more inclusive. The 'collideorscape' describes a merging of the material female form with the 'incertitude' of male content, the union of Wakean signifier and signified. Such a vision also depicts the textual/sexual union of male and female in the Wake's original sin.

The word 'collideorscape', broken down into constituent components signifying 'collide or escape', echoes the choice confronting Stephen with respect to his literary challenge of state and religion. In the Wake, these two approaches, collide or escape, can be associated with Shaun and Shem respectively. Collide, the competition in the present for control of economic resources and biological reproduction, matches the physically competitive bent of the military-religious Shaun. Using violence to maintain his control over space, as the Ondt he lacks neither wealth nor a harem. The escape of the artist Shem represents the converse case, and after his defeat in the Nightlessons chapter he is sighted retiring to the antipodes with plans of revenge over time. Nevertheless, as discussed above (see *), social outcasts such as Shem have a propensity to return, like Stephen's octave, at a later date and in a reconstituted, higher form.

As HCE's genetic/textual time capsule and vehicle to the future, the biological materiality of the Wake's females facilitates HCE's 'escape' in the 'collideorscape' configuration in much the same manner as Shem's art sends his letter forward through time. Neither ALP nor Issy are direct combatants in the violent struggle for control of the logos but rather participate in its production over the longer duration. As the principle avenue of masculine escape they form the focus of such competition. The genetic and archaeological residue of the past HCE is preserved by ALP's womb/tomb, and the HCE of the future must be born of Issy: 'it is always tomorrow in toth's tother's place. Amen' (FW 570.12-13). If biological reproduction represents the movement of time in the Wake, paradoxically the female is portrayed as a form of space critical to the production of time. While ALP/Kate preserves the past, petrifying time in matter, Issy/ALP creates the future by releasing it once again. Similarly, as the sons Shaun and Shem are incarnations of the spiritual HCE, and one 'dominant' and the other 'fundamental', they side respectively with the preservation of the past (space) and the creation of the future (time). A diagrammatic representation of this perspective is as follows:

Diagram 2: Relationship of characters to time and space

The constituent parts 'collide' or 'escape' can similarly be perceived in terms of the dual manifestations of the letter: as document number one (analogous to the archaeological picture) and document number two (incorporating both the creativity of Shem's literature, and the biological reproduction of HCE through ALP/Issy). The picture of Finnegans Wake in question nine relates to the concept of space, the past frozen in matter, while the letter, in both biological and literary senses, is conversely aligned to the production of time. Moreover, the kaleidoscope question itself is formulated around the separate concepts of space and time, and the earlier part of the question focusing upon the artifact of the HCE singularity, while the latter the dynamic literary/genetic echo of HCE consequent to his creativity.

The burying of the sexual, textual and excretory letter, and its soiling and containment in the feminine tip before being 'unfilthed' (FW 111.32) is the source of masculine conflict. Wellington's wiping the lipoleum's hat upon his 'big white harse' (FW 10.11), the Russian General's use of a sod of turf to wipe himself and Patrick's 'wipenmeselps' (FW 612.24) using a handkerchief of shamrock green, each trigger the violent demise of the perpetrator. The soiling of the ideological letter is mirrored by an ejaculatory staining of the biological letter by HCE, whose mark signs all the Wake's letters bar ALP's final missive (see above, *). If the burying of the letter in the womb/tip equates to an escape, the masculine conflict such a soiling action provokes relates to the 'collide' of the 'collideorscape'. The duality of the letter provides for both Shaun's biological escape and Shem's textual escape from mortality. Religion, art and sexual reproduction are perceived as escape routes from death, and thus Shem's eschatology becomes Shaun's escapology, and the latter is reassured upon his departure at the conclusion of Book III.1 that he will 'round up in your own escapology some canonisator's day or another' (FW 428.21-22). HCE is accordingly described as the 'escapemaster-in-chief from all sorts of houdingplaces' (FW 127.10-11). In Ulysses, the escape provided by eternity is not only afforded by the symbolic afterlife of the deity, but by Plato's world of the ideal: 'Through spaces smaller than red globules of man's blood they creepycrawl after Blake's buttocks into eternity of which this vegetable world is but a shadow' (U. 153). Elsewhere, Shaun in his preoccupation with space thinks of the 'deeps of the undths he would profoundth', while Shem's focus upon scripture and the escape it affords leads him to 'feeled of the scripes he would escipe' (FW 158.15-17). The masculine competition of the Wake revolves about the question of which individual is to escape into the female sexual/textual signifier. Neither a diet of the symbols of eternity nor healthy vegetables, will evade the carnage of death, which in the following instance is identified with HCE:

Scant hope theirs or ours to escape life's high carnage of semperidentity by subsisting peasemeal upon variables. Bloody certainly have we got to see to it ere smellful demise surprends us on this concrete that down the gullies of the eras we may catch ourselves looking forward to what will in no time be staring you larrikins on the postface in that multimirror megaron of returningties, whirled without end to end. (FW 582.14-21)

The following discussion focuses upon the content of the kaleidoscope question in more detail, reproducing the text at length for the reader's convenience.

1 Adaline Glasheen, Third Census of Finnegans Wake: An Index of the Characters and Their Roles (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), p. xl. See also entry for 'seven', p. 259.