Greek Influence in Finnegans Wake Essay example

Greek Influence in Finnegans Wake Essay example

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Finnegans Wake exhumes mythologies and theologies of cultures encompassing the whole of human experience. Not the least researched are references and correspondences to classical mythology, but the family of gods in the Greek creation myth offers a unique parallel to Joyce's ever-expansive Wakean family. In doing so, I will use as a guide a scholar of both classical mythology and the institution of family, Giambattista Vico.

In the Greek creation myth (and also in Genesis), an unnammable god divided timeless and formless Chaos--"joepeter's gaseytotum" (FW, 426.21; 'Jupiter's gaseous universe,' L totum)-- into heaven and earth, the male Uranus and female Gaea. Uranus "the Rainmaker" (FW, 87.06) impregnates Gaea's clefts and rivervalleys with rainwater, spawning the powerful Titans, or the Giants, which are etymologically "sons of Earth." (NS, 13) Uranus's strongest son, Cronus (the Roman Saturn), murders his father and castrates him with an enormous sickle--"an exitous erseroyal Deo Jupto." (FW, 353.18; 'exit of the once royal god, Jove'). This occurs in the "golden age" of Greece, or the divine age in the Viconian cycle (NS, 69). Gold is also the color Clive Hart assigns to this age. (Structure and Motif, 19)

The Wakean family's genesis also begins with the usurpation of power by a stronger, younger heir. Tim Finnegan, the god-like giant is replaced by Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, or HCE, representing all heroes and mock-heroes. The scope of HCE's character is so immense that it includes Tim Finnegan and all the manifestations of him that recirculate in the living world--"the father of fornicationists." (FW, 4.12) Similarily, in the male line of Greek gods, the heir must commit "regicide" (FW, 162.01) in order to make room...


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...amily cycle continues as the Viconian historical cycles turn, "Gyre O, gyre O, gyrotundo!" (FW, 295.23) Prometheus's son, Deucalion, and Epimetheus' daughter, Pyrrha, become the new Adam and Eve, HCE and ALP. In the new cycle, man is created again by the domesticism of marriage where, "in the names of Deucalion and Pyrrha," (179.09) stones (bestial man, Jute) are throne over their shoulders to become civilized men (Mutt). (NS, 79)

 

Works Cited.

FW Joyce, James. Finnegans Wake. Viking Press : New York, 1976.

AP Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Viking Press : New York, 1968.

NS Vico, Giambattista. The New Science of Giambattista Vico. 3rd ed. (1744). trans. by Bergin, T. G. and Fisch, M. H. Cornell University Press : London, 1991.

Hart, Clive. Structure and Motif in Finnegans Wake. Northwestern University Press, 1971.

 

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