CRIB SHEET for (a days' worth of) Finnegans Wake
by Kathryn Conrad
assisted  by Roland McHugh’s Annotations and William York Tindall’s A Reader’s Guide to Finnegans Wake

FINNEGANS WAKE was in part inspired by the raucous song “Finnegan’s Wake,” about Tim Finnegan, a heavy drinker who falls off a ladder and is presumed dead; he is “waked” by his relatives and friends who think him dead—but then he arises.
Go to the Joycean links portion of the class website for a link to a couple of recordings of this song.

A major shaper of the book:
Giambattista Vico, author of The New Science.  (paraphrased from Tindall and McHugh)
He believed that nations all go through the following cyclical pattern:
1. the age of gods—God’s thunder drives people to the cave.  Religion, the family. Gestures, pictures, fables.  Birth.  (there are ten “thunders” in the Wake)
2. the age of heroes—Revolution of the lower classes against the aristocracy.   Alphabets, metaphors, proverbs; vulgar and abstract speech.  Marriage.
3. the age of people—The levelling off after revolution.  Cities and laws, popular government.  It destroys itself.  Burial.
4. ricorso (resurrection)—which starts the cycle again.

The book goes through this cycle repeatedly.

A ridiculously incomplete cast of characters:

HCE:  the main male character; the father; H.C. Earwicker.  His head is at Howth (HCE stands for, among other things, Howth Castle and Environs), his feet in Phoenix Park.  He has “fallen”—been brought down or committed some sin.
ALP:  the female character; the mother; Anna Livia Plurabelle.  She is the River Liffey that flows through Dublin.

Their children:
Shem (the Penman)
Shaun (the Postman)
--the brothers.  Rivals, often indicated by other pairings:  Nick/Mick, Jerry/Kevin, Nolan/Browne, Mutt/Jeff.  They sometimes come together in opposition to HCE.  They sometimes appear as washerwomen, airing HCE’s “dirty linen.”

Issy—the daughter.  Often accompanied by 28 girls, known sometimes as the floras or rainbow girls.  Also can be seen as a version of ALP.

Other characters:
Twelve men:  disciples, mourners, customers at HCE’s pub, jurors, etc.
Four men:  Matthew, Mark, Luke John (mamalujo)
        judges of HCE
       The Four Masters (authors of the history “Annals of the Four Masters”)