Genetic Joyce Studies - Issue 4 (Spring 2004)
Oversystematizing the Wake: The Quiz Chapter as the Key to a Potential Schema for Finnegans Wake
Robbert-Jan Henkes & Erik Bindervoet

Chapter I.6, the Quiz, the Questionnaire or the Picture-Gallery from the Family Album, presents the protagonists in the form of twelve riddles and answers. The chapter is strategically placed at the end of the two big questions raised in the previous chapters that are by no means resolved: what is Earwicker's secret sin and what was the letter all about?

Joyce started the chapter in the spring of 1927. Book I was by then already well under construction, as well as Book III, the Four Watches of Shaun with the delivery of the letter that was dug up earlier, in chapter I.5, but will be dug up again and again. In December 1926 Joyce met Eugene Jolas, the aboriginal axe from Babel in Lorraine, who kindly offered to publish Joyce's Work in Progress piecemeal but on a regular basis in his brand new magazine for the benefit of the revolution of the word and of fields of knowlegde of interest. The first issue of this magazine, transition, was issued on March 13, 1927, and in it shone the first installment of Work in Progress, the Ouverture, chapter I.1. And already that same seminal spring of 1927 Joyce was very very busy with the preparations of the first five chapters for publication. They appeared seriatim like clockwork from the orangerie, every month from March to July 1927.

Then, after revising the first four chapters of Book I, Joyce collapsed. He wrote to Harriet Weaver: "I finished my revision and have passed 24 hours prostrate more than the priests on Good Friday." (16 April 1927, Letters I, 251) When he got up or was resurrected (our sources differ on this matter), he decided, not to continue revising the remaining two chapters of Book I, Shem and Anna Livia, but instead to launch a whole new chapter into orbit, as a sequel to I.5 The Letter.

At this particular moment, April 1927, the structure of the entire book is as good as worked out, after four years of boring parties through the mountain. Joyce has the plan ready to cook in his brainpan. Book I consists of the Overture, HCE and its sequels, The Letter, Shem and Anna Livia. Book II is still largely unwritten, but Joyce knows the component parts: by the end of 1926 he has outlined the basic structure (JJA 51:3) on a piece of paper the size of a beermat; he knows that the end will be the Roderick O'Conor-skit. Book III is as good as finished and Book IV will be short; he knows where he wants to go from here and he has enough overview to see what he still lacks.

Joyce now feels, with all protagonists firmly delineated, the need to introduce them once more and for all in a more or less orderly fashion. To that end he now writes The Questionnaire. However, he has very precious little time to do so. The new chapter had to be finished by Friday evening! And that was in three days, the 29th of July. For the first time Joyce wrote for a deadline and it was a 'very racking' experience. He worked night and day and on the 14th of a beautiful August he was able to send the chapter in two neatly bound packages to Miss Weaver. En passant he took the opportunity to reply to some of the criticism he had endured in the previous year: Jack the Ripper, monster, poet of the shabby-genteel, impoverished intellectualism of Dublin and circumambient peripherizator being among the most friendly epithets he got thrown at him by his former admirers. Moreover, Joyce, in his own words, needed the chapter as ballast, and the whole piece was to balance the Watches of Shaun more accurately (14 August 1927, Letters I, 258).

The Quiz is the last substantial new episode Joyce invents: what he writes after this was already thought out. From that year onward he also began to be extremely secretive about the Progress of his Work. That is not to say that the work speeds up, now that he knows what is to be done. On the contrary, it slows down dramatically. It is as if he loses a major part of his interest in the project now that he has his final structure lined out. "The words," he writes to Harriet Weaver on 22 November 1930, "come out like drops of blood" (Letters I, 295)

In the composition of Finnegans Wake 1926 is a turning point of no return. It highlights the consolidation of Joyce's sigla, his most private way of summarizing the protagonists. In 1924 there were ten sigla, and in 1926, on the eve of The Questionnaire, they had evolved into a dozen. In these two years, several major changes took place: the sigla for Patrick and Tristan were dropped; the snake, $S evolved from a reptile to the male servant of the Earwicker household, Sigerson; and the original siglum for Kevin $K Joyce now applied to Kate the slop. The new sigla he invented were $O, the twelve customers of the pub as well as a unique siglum, $XO, known as The Dream. Together with $E (HCE), $A (ALP), $[ (Shem), $/\ (Shaun),$I (Issy), $[] (the Container-siglum), $X (the four old men) and $I.29 (the leap year girls), these are the twelve final definitive protagonists with whom Joyce will people his book. This finally sorted out, he decides to introduce them properly for once and for all.


The Magic Key

Everything points to the inevitable conclusion that, if there is a magic key to the door to the source code of the structure of the Wake (and a big if it is), then it should be - not in Shakespeare or in Genesis, as some Wakeologists maintain - somewhere around here, when Joyce has crystallized his ideas about the structure so far as to be able to give a kind of synopsis. Exactly how finished the structure is in his mind is borne out by a very strange move he contemplates in these months. He considers to lay down his pen and to have the book finished by another writer if he would become unable to do so. Joyce felt himself an engineer, he writes on 16 April 1927 to Harriet Weaver, "and one of the best in the world". The book was a machine, the Instructions for Use were ready, as well as the vital parts, so somebody else would have to be able to get the machine going, with some words of explanation by the Masterbuilder himself. "It's a wheel, I tell the world. And it's all square."


On the 12th of May 1927 (Letters I, 252) he was so exhausted that he wanted to quit: "I lay down my pen anyhow and if I knew anyone who I thought had the patience and the wish and the power to write Part II on the lines indicated I think I would leave the chair too and come back in a few years to indicate briefly how Part IV should be done. But who is the person? There is no such absurd person as could replace me except the incorrigible god of sleep and no waster quite so wasteful though there is one much more so." Eight days later he informs Miss Weaver that he asked Miss Beach to get into closer relations with James Stephens. (20 May 1927, Letters I, 253). Joyce eventually regained his strength, but two and a half years he is again seriously thinking of handing over his pen. In November 1929, he invites Stephens to Paris, and within a week, strolling along the Seine river, in the shadow of the Eyefultower, Joyce explains the basic plan of the Wake to his prospective successor or stand-in. What would a Wakeologist give if he could have been present at these walks and talks! Willingly he would offer his limbs, some or maybe all of his senses, his year-income, his wife and children if he could but get a glimpse of these conversations, of which not a word has come down to us. It is high time that somebody reconstructs this major episode in world literature. The material is ideally suited for a fictionalized docudrama. (Scene. Exterior. We see two Irish beauties stroll along the bank of the River Seine, the deaf one leading the blind. They talk. Fumes and plumes of condensed breath come out of their mouths. Especially the blind one is talking. We hear music. We see swans. Cut to Interior of the Royal Flemish Academy in Brussels. Two simple Dutch translators continue their talk.)


Back to the Questionnaire. If there is a structure hidden, what is it? Over the years, scholars have tried to make Ulysses-like Linati, Gorman and Gilbert plans and outlines for the Wake. The big difference of course is that for Ulysses Joyce made the schemes himself, parallelling the Odyssee. And such a selfmade outline in Joyce's hand for Finnegans Wake has as yet not come to light. Did Joyce in fact use a tight structure for the Wake? Most probably not. He felt already that he had oversystematized Ulysses, as he admitted in a conversation with Samuel Beckett in 1937 (Ellmann, 702); his employment of Homer was "a whim" and his collaboration with Gilbert "a big mistake" (1937, Ellmann, p.616).


Fear of oversystematizing some Wakeologists know not. And so many a post-factum scheme for the Wake was designed. Campbell and Robinson started in 1944, and they stressed the system Giambattista Vico designed for his ultimate world history and that Joyce admitted to have used as "a trellis". Clive Hart uses the same structure to penetrate even the micro-structure of the Wake. He sees cycles everywhere, even in words, not only Vico's cycles, but also those of Madame Blavatsky, Yeats and other Eastern tinkers and thinkers. Clive Hart comes closest to a Ulysses-like scheme. He accords each chapter its own time, location, on a naturalistic as wel as a narrative-symbolic level, its own symbols, art, and technique.


Adaline Glasheen just makes a long list in which she identifies the five members of the Earwicker household with a host of historical figures who make their appearance in the story. Her name for this list is Who is who when everybody is somebody else. She was convinced there had to be a master plan somewhere that Joyce wrote down and kept secret. Maybe it still exists, lying in the vaults of the Bank of Ireland in a big brown-paper envelope, with a big teastain on it and the words: "to be opened by my beloved grandson when the world has ended and to be burned by him before anybody reads it." Jorn Barger suspected that the master plan was written on the later torn out pages of notebook VI.B.25 from July-August 1923 but only in 1926 Joyce had progressed far enough to see some light at the end of his seemingly endless tunneldigging. John Gordon reads Finnegans Wake as a map of the bedroom, on a very naturalistic level. Such is his key to the Wake. It is an interpretation, and as such, it is an interpretation. The only graphic plan retrieved from the archival midden heap is the map of the battle of Waterloose (in I.1). In 1926 Joyce drew the warring parties as sigla, but only the members of the Earwicker family take part in the battle. It is a scheme, but it is very local. It is a plan, but it is not a master plan.


Roland McHugh in his Sigla takes the bull by the horns and focuses not on the characters, but on their substratum, the sigla themselves, and consequently on the compositional process. The sigla are the elementary particles of the composition. And from the fact that they have changed from 1922 till 1927, we can deduce that Joyce struggled with the composition, as his own testimonial bears out. On the ninth of October 1923, exactly 17 years before the birth of one John Winston O'Lennon, he wrote to Harriet Weaver, about the first sketches he had written and sent to her, in a very telling quotation and straightforward mood: "The construction is quite different from Ulysses where at least the ports of call were known beforehand. [...] I work as much as I can because these are not fragments but active elements and when they are more and a little older they will begin to fuse of themselves."


Up till now it was assumed that the 'fragments' Joyce mentions referred to the sketches themselves, Mamalujo and Patrick, but notebook research suggests that Joyce was busy condensing and reducing the number of protagonists in the History of the World he was writing. The fragments that should fuse eventually were not the pieces, but the protagonists themselves, the four gospellers and Saint Patrick. They were the colonists Joyce left behind on his treasure island to populate and make up his night piece.


Using the sigla Joyce thought out and fleshed out the bare boneworks of his characters. And in 1926 the sigla had evolved enough for Joyce to devote a chapter to them. The main characters were by then able to carry the archetypal characteristics that Joyce envisaged, characteristics that are distinguishable throughout the Wake. If there is such a thing as a scheme for the Wake, a Wake-lock to be picked, then this gallery of twelve could be it. Not for nothing did Joyce - immediately after writing the chapter - suppress the sigla in the answers to the questions, just like he eventually suppressed the Homeric chapter titles in Ulysses. Now, he wouldn't hide them if they weren't of vital importance, would he? (Proof ex absurdo contrariis.)


In his groundbreaking Sigla-book McHugh called the notebooks "the debris of composition", but in fact they have been shown to be the building blocks. In reading, Joyce made notes and in many cases he immediately assigned sigla to the words and phrases he copied. The self-proclaimed "scissors and paste-man" then sifted out his notebooks during the composition of an episode.


When you arrange all notes in the notebooks by siglum, you get an impression of the characteristics of the characters that Joyce had in mind. Another unforeseen happy circumstance is, that doing this, we can make a first step in distilling the Notebook from the Notebooks: to sort out the notes Joyce didn't use, the notes for a Finnegans Wake that he never wrote. Maybe one day somebody else can make a virtual companion piece to the actual Wake, preferably somebody who is born on the second of February 1882. And if that proves to be impractical or impossible, the writing couple by the names of Joyce Earwicker and Livia James, both to be born on Bloomsday 2004, one in Brussels in the shadow of the Royal Flemish Academy and the other in Krzeszowice, near Krakow in Poland, now part of the EU. There is so much left to be wished in the world!


The Schema

Now our 12 part scheme of the main characters of the Wake, in the order of the Quiz chapter. We'll supply them with their archetypal characteristics, as visible in the Wake. They have a symbol (or siglum, or sign). They have their capacities, that is, their place in the book: what do they do. They have a position: what is their place and role. They have a situation: what happens. They have a technique: a way in which they are invariably presented. They have a colour, a costume, a language, or a family of languages with which Joyce associates them. They have their own tone of voice, a way of speaking, which is a very important characteristic, because that is really how they make themselves known, how you can recognize them. They have a geographic equivalent, they have their own Ulyssean art, their own recognizable body part and their own accompanying animal.


We will also tell as much as possible, and as much as we know (and that is not so much up till now, because still so many notebooks are unedited), about the way they came into being in the composition process. And finally we will give some instances of words and phrases that Joyce assigned his sigla to, but most of the time didn't use. Most examples come from Notebook VI.B.6 (January-February 1924), compiled shortly before the letter to Miss Weaver in which he announced the invention of the sigla (24 March 1924).


1. Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker

Symbol: $E

Capacities: publican, masterbuilder, giant, mountain

Position: outsider, orangeman

Situation: he has fallen, lies under attack

Technique: stammering, self-defence

Colour: a somewhat murky orange-brown

Costume: in seven parts

Language: Nordic (Scandinavian, German, Dutch)

Tone: excusing himself

Geographic equivalent: city

Art: architecture

Body part: hump

Animal: salmon, earwig, fox

History: The vignette HCE Joyce writes as the sixth 'active element' in 1923 develops into the glowing germ cell of the book coming into being. It is the most frequent sign in the notebooks. In VI.B.14 (August-November 1924) he is associated with, among others, national property (6), Babel (9), the SS Palme (78), an overgrown child (115), Cromwell (143), a married priest (144), an ostrogoth (150), a Dane salmon (171), a gazebo (171), bald hills (176), Sir William Wilde, the father of Oscar (186), a dismissed god (216), tree strips (222) and Joyces notes: "$E seven times married to $A" (221). In February-March 1930 Joyce has large parts of the Encyclopedia Britannica read to him for the piece Haveth Childers Everywhere, the companian piece to the Anna Livia Plurabelle chapter. He makes notes on cities, parks and mayors. even in this notebook, VI.B.29, compiled only for Earwicker, he still now and then adds the siglum, seven times in all. The Anna Livia sign $A makes its appearance six times and $O (the Twelve) and $X (the Four) once.


    VI.B.06 (January-February 1924): 2, 3, 45, 54, 55, 57, 63, 94, 100, 101, 108, 109, 113, 114, 127, 149, 150, 156, 160, 168;

    VI.B.14 (August-November 1924): 116


2. Anna Livia Plurabelle

Symbol: $A, Delta

Capacities: the wife, the missus, bringer of life, triangle, stream

Position: fundamental, basis

Situation: she stands up for her husband through thick and thin

Technique: lisping, hitherandthithering, watery, splashing

Colour: auburn, chestnut-brown

Costume: her swirling flowing locks

Language: Anglo-Irish

Tone: persuasive, persuading, reasonable

Geographic equivalent: river

Art: aquarelle

Body part: the birth channel, the fallopian tubes

Animal: trout

History: Anna Livia was born on page 109 of the first Finnegans Wake-notebook, VI.B.10 (October 1922-January 1923) as Dame Alice Barbara Esmonde, wife to Humphrey Chimpden, who's name is not yet Earwicker but Coxon. He was Pop, she was Mop and the two of them are the parents of Isolde, who we find to be older than her parents. On VI.B.3.123 (March-July 1923) we have a foreshadowing of the Letter, when Joyce notes: 'Mum - letterwriter'. The first time she turns into a siglum is on page 2 of VI.B.11 (September-November 1923): '$A whistles'. In the next sixteen years Joyce continues to make notes for her, e.g. VI.B.12.106 (June-August 1926): '$[ makes castle of mud, $A runs to it', on VI.B.18.57 (March-July 1927) '$E fed by $A', on VI.B.35.23 (beginning and end 1932) '$E sol $A luna (her phases)', on VI.B.40.27 (February 1935 - beginning 1936) '$A seaweed on walls mud flats tin cans, dead dogs, old boots all sewage discharged in'. Her capacity as triangle, like in the figure on page 293, for the first time appears on VI.B.14 (August-November 1926) '$A triangle'.


VI.B.6 (January-February 1924): 3, 4, 37, 41, 50, 94, 100, 101, 107, 108, 113, 114, 115, 117, 128, 129, 134, 136, 149;

VI.B.14 (August-November 1924): 116


3. The Title

Symbol: $[], Square

Capacities: name (of the book, of the pub), Anna Livia's letter, the telegram

Position: the thing in itself that is unknown

Situation: is lost after having been written and delivered

Technique: question without answer

Colour: teabrown

Costume: envelope

Language: Babelian, Bablical

Tone: low comedy

Geographic equivalent: coffin, mound, midden heap

Art: epistolary

Body part: stomach

Animal: elephant

History: Between February and April 1924 Joyce notes in VI.B.1.67: 'competition for name of N'. In May the siglum has become (VI.B.5.1) a 'temperance hotel'. A year later it is a 'lunatic asylum' (VI.B.9.100). In July-September 1925 it has become or is busy being being a 'coffin shop' (VI.B.8.63), but also an 'Old House', a 'poor house', 'adjacent house of worship', and a 'maison de rendez-vous' (VI.B.8.31, 145, 148, 172). So it is not just the title of the book, but also the name of the hotel or tavern. In VI.B.6.102 we read: 'all tongues in F.H., tower of Babel'. This is one of the notes that make it probable that the secret title of Work in Progress for some time at least may have been Finn's Hotel.


VI.B.14 (August-November 1924): 7  

VI.B.19 (July-November 1925): 178, 181, 191

VI.B.20 (March-April 1926): 95

VI.B.18 (March-July 1927): 50, 86, 116

VI.B.29 (February-March 1930): 221

VI.B.32 (May-October 1930): 83

VI.B.37 (September-December 1936): 183


4. The Four, Mamalujo

Symbol: $X, Cross

Capacities: Quartet, 4 gospellers, annalist, points on a compass, seasons, bedposts, ages of man, ingedrients in a salad, judges, corners of the ring

Position: questioners

Situation: powerless old men who can only watch and question

Technique: senile

Colour: greybrown

Costume: monk's habit

Language: repetitive, each in his own Irish brogue of the four provinces

Tone: groping

Geographic equivalent: the four Irish provinces, waves, corners of the earth

Art: history and historiography

Body part: limbs

Animal: ass

History: Mamalujo came even before HCE. It was the first part of Work in Progress to be published, in the Transatlantic Review of April 1924. Joyce associates Mamalujo in his notebooks with the four waves of Erin, compass points, (VI.14.76), with 'cold, warm, moist and dry' (VI.B.17.91), and Blake's Zoas (VI.B.13.228)


VI.B.6 (January-February 1924): 107, 108, 109  

VI.B.14 (August-November 1924): 84, 140, 141  


5. Sigerson

Symbol: $S

Capacities: male servant, an old version of HCE, police officer, HCE's eternal adversary

Position: serviceable but unreliable

Situation: makes his appearance now and then. What's all this then? What do we think we are doing?

Technique: slimey, grovelling, servile

Colour: bearbrown (Sackerson is the name of a bear kept near the Globe Theatre in Shakespeare's time)

Costume: uniform

Language: Skandinavian with a sniff of Dutch. As cad the vernacular (Irish). Compare Haines in Ulysses, the English usurper speaking Irish with the milkmaid, who doesn't understand him: 'Is it French?'

Tone: self-willed, the haughty way of speaking of servants, his people's voice

Geographic equivalent: the cold north, the park (as paradise), the round, the beat

Art: not so fine

Body part: forked tongue

Animal: snake

History: $S is the Snake and as such HCE's opponent. He is the cad in the park, as well as the karl on the kopje (the watchman on his beat), Magrath and Sully. The cad is such a major character in the Wake that he can't be without a siglum. $S is his siglum. The 'cad' is the 'cop' is Sigerson. In III.iv Joyce already changes 'cad' into 'cop' in the very first draft, and on VI.B.21.47 we read unambiguously: 'spying cop $S'. The recurring question in different languages: 'How are you today, my black gentleman?' is posed by him.


VI.B.6 (January-February 1924): 33, 59, 89, 108, 115    

VI.B.14 (August-November 1924): 206

VI.B.17 (April-May 1926): 99                    

VI.B.15 (September 1926-January 1927): 118  

VI.B.4 (January- April 1929): 132, 183          

VI.B.27 (May-July 1929): 105         

VI.B.28 (March-April 1930): 47              


6. Kate the slop

Symbol: $K

Capacities: female servant, an old version of Anna Livia, guide

Position: subordinate, cleans and delivers messages

Situation: as a hen she finds the letter on the tip behind the houe

Technique: indignation: I just scrubbed the floor!

Colour: soapsuds-brown

Costume: apron

Language: music while you slave, 'tip!'

Tone: O! O! O! O! That this should happen to me! Grumpy

Geographic equivalent: midden heap, the museum

Art: fine, clean

Body part: hands sticking out from  rolled-up sleeves

Animal: hen

History: Kate Strong was a tyrannical Dublin street sweeper from around 1630. In Finnegans Wake she does the house-cleaning and guides people round in the museum. Whenever a 'tip' is heard, she is mostly around. An earlier siglum $K was for Saint Kevin, who for some time Joyce chose to be the main character in Book IV with a number of orisons. On the 21st May 1926 Joyce still mentions him in a letter to Harriet Weaver, but in the list of sigla he sends her on the 15th of July, less than two months later, his name is dropped from the record. Astonishing. Kevin is fused with $/\, the siglum for Shaun, and Kate takes the siglum $K.


VI.B.14 (August-November 1924): 150   

VI.B.18 (March-July 1927): 86             

VI.B.4 (January- April 1929): 132          

VI.B.33 (February-April 1931): 190     


7. The Twelve

Symbol: $O

Capacities: disciples, guests, hours of the day, members of the jury, tribes, everything that comes in twelves

Position: thirteen in a dozen, vox pops

Situation: they represent the background noise, the pestering audience, the pack of wolves of the public opinion

Technique: pompous, public

Colour: nazibrown

Costume: their name

Language: latinized words on -ation

Tone: pub-cynicism

Geographic equivalent: the nation, the homeland, great-bigotry

Art: circumabient, unanymous

Body part: fangs

Animal: wolf, hound

History: No pub without guests. No drinking without drinkers. At the end of Notebook VI.B.8, in September 1925, they are accorded their own siglum, just as the leap year girls. The siglum appears often in VI.B.18 (March-July 1927).


VI.B.13 (December 1925-March 1926): 127  

VI.B.18 (March-July 1927): 9, 13, 67          

VI.B.24 (August 1929-February 1930): 64     


8. The leap year girls

Symbol: $I.29

Capacities: gang of girls, Issy and her friends, 28 days of the lunar cycle and a leap day, letters of the alphabet, the seven rainbowgirls

Position: around Issy

Situation: around Shaun

Technique: evasive, mysterious, tempting

Colour: all colours of the rainbow

Costume: flowers

Language: cascading, hymn-singing

Tone: praising, glorifying

Geographic equivalent: rainbow

Art: polyphonic floral singing

Body part: anything that turns you on

Animal: butterfly

History: In December they make a sudden first flash appearance, in notebook VI.B.8. Also they serve as offshoots of Issy's multiple personality. In 1931, when Joyce starts writing the Mime of Mick, Nick and the Maggies (II.1), they become The Floras and play a big part in driving Shem crazy.


VI.B.15 (September 1925-January 1926):85     (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 = 28)

VI.B.18 (March-July 1927): 103                       


9. The Dream

Symbol: $XO

Capacities: mandala, caleidosope, word (every word is a miniature Wake), the cyclical structure and the four part division

Position: allencompassing, central

Situation: geodetic, caleidoscopic

Technique: the theory of relativity plus quantum mechanics divided by the returnal of the eternal is the squaring of the circle. The large in the small and vice versa.

Colour: prismwhite with spots of brown

Costume: mantle of invisibility

Language: dreamlanguage

Tone: precise, exact (the opposite of vague)

Geographic equivalent: the globe

Art: geography

Body part: the brain

Animal: the dreamadory

History: According to Clive Hart (Structure and Motif, 77) this is the central symbol, the pillar of the Wake. Roland McHugh (Sigla, 121) maintains that $[] (the square siglum) refers to the book as physical object in space, and the mandal siglum to the book as buddhistically contemplated in time or out of time. Danis Rose remarks (Textual Diaries, 88): 'Two years later [that is, in 1926] and perhaps contemporaneously with his abandonment of the title Finn's Hotel, Joyce, circling the square, invented the new symbol $XO, which replaced $[] as the symbol for Finnegans Wake.' But most probably it refers not so much to the title or container or Square Siglum, but to the way the book is written. At any rate, the only place this siglum surfaces is in the second list of answers in the I.6-manuscript. In the first list (JJA 47:2), the answer is still a blank.


JJA 47:28 (summer 1927)


10. Issy

Symbol: $I

Capacities: daughter, sister, little cloud, a young Anna Livia, writer of footnotes, one side of her mirror image; with her mirror image she fuses schizophrenically into the two temptresses in the park

Position: young and tempting

Situation: lusted after by her brothers, her father and all boys, she only loves her mirror image

Technique: schizophrenic

Colour: quicksilver, heliotrope

Costume: Eve's costume

Language: Swift's little language, his secret language in his letters to Stella, with many p's and t's. Joyce accords the three children each his own metre in the first draft of I.6 (JJA 47:35; 47473-137), upper left). Issy is a trochee (long short).

Tone: lewd, independent, capricious

Geographic equivalent: the source of the river

Art: temptation

Body part: the body

Animal: puss

History: A very difficult character, in every sense of the word. Multiple neurotic psychotic. In March 1924 Joyce designed the siglum $I with its leg in the air for Isolde, being at that point the counterpart of the siglum T, Tristan, who went on to be (con)fused with the Shaun-figure. In 1927 Joyce doubled the sign: one for Issy (Isolde La Belle) and one for her mirror image (her rival Isolde Blanchemains). The first leg to the left, the second leg to the right. Sometimes they share the stage, as the two Issies. The Dublin suburb which is the place of action, Chapelizod, is Issy's chapel (in the word chapel is HCE and ALP). Some say that not Joyce but Issy wrote Finnegans Wake, and more than that, not Issy but her real-life prototype Lucia Joyce, the Wake being 'the fall Is retaled'. Every 'is' is a reference to her. Isolde split in two for the first time in VI.B.17 (April-May 1926), but a premonition appears already in VI.B.14.216 (August-November 1924), and also on VI.B.14.82 you can see the two Issys when Joyce makes a note sideways on the page.


VI.B.6 (January-February 1924): 101 

VI.B.14 (August-November 1924): 22, 46, 78, 82, 89, 204, 216, 223, 226  

VI.B.17 (April-May 1927): 49         

VI.B.18 (March-July 1927): 270, 271       

VI.B.33 (February-April 1931): 120


11. Shaun

Symbol: $/\

Capacities: hero, the second-born and better of the twins, beloved action man, mailman, know-it-all, usurper. Fuses with his brother Shem into Shemshaun, and the three of them, Shem, Shaun and Shemshaun feature as the three soldiers pestering HCE.

Position: main character of Book III, when he is 'a postman travelling backwards in the night through the events already narrarted' in 'a barrel rolling down the river Liffey' (24 May 1924).

Situation: fratricidal struggle, love for his sister proclaimed in a rather aggressive fashion

Technique: boastful, scientific, ethical-moralistic, apollonian

Colour: a mixture of blond, white, pinko-grey, verging on light-brown

Costume: well-clad, uniform

Language: wise, haughty, authoritarian, his metre is the spondee (long long).

Tone: commanding

Geographic equivalent: the stone on the left bank of the Liffey

Art: rhetoric

Body part: muscles, hart and eye

Animal: ant, sheep

History: Joyce gave Shaun many characteristics of his own brother Stanislaus, but countless other important figures attributed their idiosyncrasies to Shaun, like the singer John McCormack, Wyndham Lewis, the Biblical Jacob and Abel etc. In 1923 and 1924 Joyce for a considerable time studied the legend of Tristan and Isolde. He wanted to turn it into a modern burlesque-heroic story, like he had done with Ulysses from the Odyssee. This plan was still in existence in 1924, when Joyce noted in VI.B.6.100 (January-February 1924): 'torn letters, snowflakes, pigeons, record office / T & I'. But the siglum T for Tristan gradually disappears when it gets gobbled up by $/\ Shaun. The same happens to two other figures that drew a lot of attention from Joyce in the early years, Saint Kevin and Saint Patrick. They also fuse into Shaun and in Shemshaun.


VI.B.6 (January-February 1924): 112

VI.B.14 (August-November 1924): 78, 89, 115, 139, 140, 141, 142, 223  

VI.B.20.74 (March-April 1926)          


Notebook Shemshaun:

VI.B.16 (April-May 1924): 104     

VI.B.14 (August-November 1924): 197, 198    

VI.B.13 (December 1925-March 1926): 186    

VI.B.17 (April-May 1926): 54, 59, 91     

VI.B.12 (June-August 1926): 168    

VI.B.18 (March-July 1927): 19, 107       

VI.B.15 (September 1926-January 1927): 45, 163  

VI.B.21 (January-April 1928): 118        

VI.B.31 (April-November 1931): 109, 111   


12. Shem

Symbol: $[

Capacities: anti-hero, the firstborn and the worse of the twin brothers, unloved, fallen angel, penman. With his brother Shaun he fuses into Shemshaun.

Position: eternal butt, does everything wrong

Situation: brotherly hatred, loves his sister, unrequited, shifty

Technique: alchemical, esthetical, amoral and immoral, dionysian

Colour: black, black, black (verging on dark-brown)

Costume: shabby

Language: so sharp as to be blunt, his metre is short-short, the tylus of the dac, the ana of the pest, the amphi of the brachus (short short)

Tone: ironical and failed ironical

Geographic equivalent: the tree on the left bank of the Liffey

Art: literature

Body part: pen, head and eye

Animal: grasshopper, goat

History: Shem has the honour of having written Anna Livia's letter. He is the penman, carrying many unsavoury characteristics of the author of his days and his alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, or 'SD', out of whom the Shem-figure organically developed in the notebooks. Shem, in VI.B.14, August-November 1924 is the black sheep, inventing diplomas per se, has second sight, falls downstairs whenever he has a new theory (VI.B.14:117, 119, 200). The Shem siglum $[ is second only to $E in number of occurences in the notebooks. In VI.D.5.60 (August-September 1926) he is outlined as the author of Finnegans Wake: '$[ writes immense letter to posterity'


VI.B.6 (January-February 1924): 40, 92, 101, 106, 107, 108, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 117


The Conclusion

This is how far Joyce was in the first months of 1927. By then his team of twelve players was complete. There wouldn't be any others. All 8000 names in the Wake are emanations of these twelve archetypes. With this chapter I.6, the most productive years of Joyce's writing career and of the compostion of Work in Progress come to an end. Joyce has thrown into the pan the active elements, lighted the fire, put the pan on the fire, asked if James Stephens would keep an eye on it if he would have to leave, but he had to do it himself for the best results.


Does this imply that in 1927 the book was already tasty and ripe to be savoured? That the elements had already fused? No, they were just beginning to fuse. Tristan and Patrick have dissolved into the greater archetype, the Shaun-character, as well as in Shemshaun. And Shemshaun has fused with his brothers Shem and Shaun into the three soldiers, as well as all other threesomes of Tom-Dick-and-Harrys that populate the book. Issy and her mirror image have become the temptresses in the park and they have multiplied themselves into the rainbow and leap-year girls. Most interesting is the fusion of the Snake, the S-Siglum, into the Eternal Adversary in the shape of the servant Sigerson, the cop and the cad in the park.


Joyce's nuclear fusion of characters is not unique to Finnegans Wake. He did something similar in Ulysses. In a letter of 20 July 1919 he writes to Miss Weaver (Letters I, p. 128): "If the Sirens have been found so unsatisfactory I have little hope that the Cyclops or later the Circe episode will be approved of: and, moreover, it is impossible for me to write these episodes quickly. The elements needed will only fuse after a prolonged existence together. I confess that it is an extremely tiresome book but it is the only book which I am able to write at present." Fusing was an essential part of Joyce's writing strategies.


After 1926 there is no addition to the cast of characters. No new sigla appear. Some sigla however become less prominent and seem to fall into disuse. In the Mime of Mick, Nick and the Maggies, the lifeless sigla $[] and $XO are missing, and also the Four-Siglum $X. The Doodles family on page 299 lacks $XO the Mandala, $O the Twelve, $I.29 the Leap Year Girls, $S Sigerson and $K Kate. Obviously the elements did not stop fusing, just as in a nuclear reactor the processes can't be stopped. Or in cell-divison, or in climate changes, or in the evolution of species itself. The fusion stopped only when the book was published. In other words: the master plan for Finnegans Wake is Finnegans Wake itself.


The more notebooks will be annotated and published in the exemplary fashion of the Brepols-edition, the more we will learn about the process of character fusing that was so important to Joyce in writing his universal history of the world. And only when all notebooks have been published we can start preconstructing the Notebook, separating the notes Joyce used from the ones he didn't use, and writing the book Joyce never wrote, the duplicate accounts of the book of the night of the fraudulent bell-ringer Shem the Penman.