Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Finnegans Wake is an expression of the dreaming collective psyche as it relives the major conflicts of myth and history. This psyche is divided into the two sexual principles, the major representations of which are Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (HCE) and Anna Livia Plurabelle (ALP). As the archetypal husband-father, HCE (Haveth Childers Everywhere/Here Comes Everybody) is burdened with guilt over an indiscretion in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. This obscure event is central to the entire dream. A lone man encounters two girls and performs an obscure offense, an incident witnessed by three soldiers or boys, and news of it spreads by the gossipy Four Old Men. The retellings through rumor, gossip, and popular song render everything about this Original Sin unreliable, except that it happened. Protesting his innocence, HCE goes to sleep. In his dreams, however, he encounters previous versions of his crime, which, encrusted with sexual and scatological innuendo, further cloud the precise nature of the offense.
News of this sin is carried throughout the dreambook of history through rumors and documents, lectures and arguments, accusations and recriminations. Interrogators appear in fours, accompanied by twelve bystanders: variously jurymen, apostles, mourners, and drinkers. As HCE is identified with the Dublin landscape—from Chapelizod to “Howth Castle and Environs”—his wife is the personification of the River Liffey (Livia) flowing through that...
(The entire section is 946 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Finnegans Wake Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!