Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Dublin. Capital of Ireland in which the events of the novel that take place in the “real” world are set. Major city landmarks, such as Howth Castle, the Liffey River, and Phoenix Park are used symbolically as points of departure into the fantastic dreamworld that parallels the narrative.


Bedroom. Upstairs, above a public house in Chapelizod, a suburb of Dublin, Mr. and Mrs. Porter, their waking names, are asleep in their bed. In the novel’s dreamworld they are known as Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker and Anna Livia Plurabelle, usually as HCE and ALP respectively. Down the hall are the bedrooms of their children, twin boys Kevin and Jerry and daughter Isabel, or Issy. These characters also take different names during the dream narrative. The “real” setting of Finnegans Wake—that is, the location in the waking world—is one of complete normality, even banality, and so stands in deliberate contrast to the fantastic settings of the dream actions of the novel. Almost all of these scenes and many of the characters are drawn from the domestic setting of the middle-class Irish bedroom. For example, the four posts of the bed become in the dream the four authors of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, who sometimes merge into a single figure, Mamalujo. Throughout the novel fantasy retains firm, if slight, connections with reality.

*Howth Castle

*Howth Castle. Hill and medieval fortification overlooking Dublin harbor. In the novel this area becomes the setting of many of HCE’s early, mythic adventures; later,...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Bishop, John. Joyce’s Book of the Dark: “Finnegans Wake.” Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986. Joyce’s determination to represent noctural experience accounts for the form, shape, direction, and language of Finnegans Wake. Relates Finnegans Wake to dream theory and interpretation, thanatology, optics and phonetics, embryology and gender, sexuality and power.

Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce. Rev. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. Elegant and authoritative biography providing valuable information on the writing of Finnegans Wake, Joyce’s intentions, his methods, and the difficulties he encountered.

McCarthy, Patrick A, ed. Critical Essays on James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake.” New York: G. K. Hall, 1992. Twenty essays surveying past criticism and broad concerns: studies of structure, voice, narration, language, and interpretation, analyses of important themes, and readings of passages in ways that pose crucial questions about Finnegans Wake as a whole. Shows how enjoyable an experience reading Finnegans Wake is.

McHugh, Roland. Annotations to “Finnegans Wake.” Rev. ed. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991. A line-by-line explication of foreign words, English overtones, place names, personal names, phrases parodied, song titles and quotations, literary sources, historical events. Basic reference tool, designed to be consulted in tandem with a reading of Finnegans Wake.

Rose, Danis, and John O’Hanlon. Understanding “Finnegans Wake”: A Guide to the Narrative of James Joyce’s Masterpiece. New York: Garland, 1982. A section-by-section synopsis of Finnegans Wake. Very useful companion for the beginning reader, it clarifies the main techniques and themes in the form of a running commentary.