Finnegans Wake: Book 2.1

Book 2 opens in the form of the program for a play. This chapter seems to suggest that Book 1 was in fact some kind of pantomime and only now do we see the cast and have some sort of explanation as to the plot. We find ourselves in Feenichts Playhouse and are presented with ‘The Mime Of Mick, Nick and the Maggies’. The Maggies have popped up a couple of times before and I am unsure quite what or who they represent but possibly pretty young ladies of some description. As for Mick and Nick – ‘Mick’ is a slang term for an Irishman and Nick could be ‘Old Nick’, or the Devil. But I could be barking up the wrong tree entirely.

Anyway, here are the characters, the name of the actor that supposedly played them and a note of who they represent from the story:

Characters

GLUGG : (Mr Seumas McQuillad) Shem. The bad guy. He is in disgrace because he knew too much.

THE FLORAS : (Girl Scouts from St Bride’s Finishing School) possibly The Maggies. A sprightly bunch of pretty maidens.

IZOD : (Miss Butys Pott) Ladies in general‘A bewitching blonde who dimples delightfully…’ She has jilted Glugg and is now enamoured with his brother, Chuff.

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A bewitching blonde who dimples delightfully. Maybe.

CHUFF : (Mr Sean O’Mailey) Shaun. A fair-haired and handsome chap who is the sworn enemy of his brother Glugg.

ANN : (Miss Corrie Corriendo) ALP. The mother and lady of the house, married to Hump.

HUMP : (Mr Makeall Gone) HCE. A well-dressed and upstanding gentleman, ‘having partially recovered from a recent impeachment due to egg everlasting…’, the cause of all troubles and the landlord of a pub.

THE CUSTOMERS : (Components of the Afterhour Courses at St Patricius’ Academy for Grownup Gentleman) Pub customers / jury. Twelve gentlemen who drink a lot.

SAUNDERSON : (Mr Knut Oelsvinger) Someone who works in the pub and has nothing to do with the story.

KATE : (Miss Rachel Lea Varian) Kate Strong (Tip!) Provides the food at the pub and is a palm reader in her spare time.

The play is set in the present and is described as such: ‘With futurist one-horse balletbattle pictures and the Pageant of Past History worked up with animal variations amid ever-glaring mangrovemazes and beorbtracktors by Messrs. Thud and Blunder.’ Right. Apparently, the ‘jests, jokes, jigs and jorums’ are lent from the estate of the late Mr T M Finnegan. There then follows credits for a great number of people who put the play together and more information about the play itself.

This would be a good chapter to start with, if one where to think about tackling Finnegans Wake. The linear order of the chapters is pretty much irrelevant anyway and at least here we get an introduction to some of the characters and a bit of a clue about what is supposed to be happening. Amid the ‘program’ itself it suggests that to start at the beginning is madness and requires some kind of divine assistance. It also says that certain parts of the story have been omitted from the play on the basis that they didn’t happen. The play closes with the ‘Magnificent Transformation Scene’, when night weds morning and the dawn wakes the world – in other words, it ends at the beginning.

I’m not sure if the next bit is supposed to be the play, or is a scene occurring outside of that, however it is littered with references to Oliver Goldsmith’s work ‘She Stoops To Conquer’, another piece based on misunderstandings and mistaken identities. Glugg and Chuff (Shem and Shaun) are vying for the attention of a group of girls. Glugg is having a particularly hard time of it and appears to be conversing with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It isn’t clear exactly but the group seem to be school children.

There is some kind of competition or guessing game, where the prize is dubious-sounding affection from the undisclosed amount of girls present. Whatever the game is, Glugg loses and leaves in disgrace. Isa is sad that he is gone, but reasons that she will soon find another chap to catch her eye. Or a girl, she isn’t fussed which. One of the girls appears to be drinking paraffin. They then tease Glugg in song and he pretends to cut off their heads with scissors.

Anyway, Glugg goes away, has lots of fights, does a poo in a river and then goes home. The girls then turn their attentions to Chuff (Shaun), describing him in glowing and affectionate terms. Then Glugg appears to be dead, but rises from the grave when offered sausage and mash – which is rather similar to Finnegan rising up at his own Wake when he is offered whiskey. Eventually, HCE then shouts at the children and tells them to go home for tea. As the chapter closes, the children’s game ends and the curtain comes down. They are all sent home to say their prayers.

Other things going on in this chapter:

Someone considers going to Pennsylvania to meet with Mrs Gloria of the Bunker’s Trust.

There is a game of strip poker.

Musings on whether or not it is worth killing oneself over poetry. Apparently not. I chose to interpret this part as encouraging those losing the will to live reading this book, not to give up.

The girls’ choir sings hymn 29.

Discussion on which houses are better – red brick or wood – and the importance of having a nice letterbox. A great house will be built and it will be the envy of the town. Chubby will be the chauffeur. Many guests will arrive and sing a song, but they only know the chorus.

Religion again takes a bit of a bashing – there is a bishop who is fond of handsome young men, jibes about how Islam views women and a general suggestion that all religions are equally ridiculous.

The foolish one of the family is at home with Nancy Hands and the dog has run away.

Biddy the hen summons some kind of hen army.

Thoughts

In many ways, this chapter is relatively plain-speaking and if I had read the ‘cast list’ before I started the book, things might have been a bit clearer. But as is typical with Joyce, just when you think you are getting the hang of his prose, he throws you off kilter once again and I was soon returned to my usual state of merry confusion. Ironically (and no doubt deliberately), the parts where he is earnestly being clear and concise are the parts that cause the most deliberation. Either way, good to see Biddy making a reappearance and taking some kind of positive action.

Favourite Lines

‘…she’ll prick you where you’re proudest with her unseat speagle eye.’

A cautionary tale of getting involved with pretty ladies.

‘Radouga, ran will ye na pick them in their pink of panties. You can colour up till you’re prawn while I go squirt with any cockle.’

This just has to be rude.

‘The swayful pathways of the dragonfly spider stay still in reedery. Quiet takes back her folded fields. Tranquille thanks. Adew.”

I thought this was rather nice.

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