A more accurate title, many will find
Despite these obstacles, readers and commentators have reached a broad consensus about the book's central cast of characters and, to a lesser degree, its plot.Finnegans Wakenote
is a 1939 novel written by James Joyce
. It took him 17 years to write, and may take nearly as long to read, as it is completely written in an idiosyncratic, made-up language that vaguely resembles English spoken with a thick Irish brogue (although it contains elements, usually obscure puns, from over 60 world languages).
Critics and scholars disagree about a lot about this book, but most agree that it portrays a man's dream, and that it's full of complex, layered allusions and jokes. Arguments still rage as to whether it has a plot.
Some people have suggested that reading it out loud is the easiest way to understand it, but if you attempt this feat, TV Tropes disclaims all responsibility
for any long-term effects on your throat, vocal chords, or sanity.
If you would like to read a description written in the same style as the book, see the self demonstrating page
Finnegans Wake contains examples of these tropes:
- All Just a Dream: A common Epileptic Tree, possibly supported by Word of God. Not to mention the word "wake" can mean either a funeral ceremony or waking up.
- Arc Number: 1132 appears repeatedly, both as a date and in various addresses. note
- Arc Words: more like Arc Cadences, really. Many phrases throughout the book — such as "Buckley shot the Russian general", "hitherandthithering waters of. Night", "Earwicker", and of course "Finnegan's wake" itself — reoccur in highly modified forms, so that often only the broad rhythm survives. The effect is like that of variations in a musical theme.
- Author Avatar: To a certain degree, HCE does represent Joyce; but he also represents many other things as well. Shem the Penman can also be seen as a stand-in for Joyce, and is used frequently by Joyce to view himself critically.
- Beast Fable: "The Mookse and the Gripes" and "The Ondt and the Gracehoper" are two quite fun examples.
- Bilingual Bonus: More like Nonalingual Bonus. As the Hurricane of Puns entry below states, you'd have to be fairly knowledgeable in nine different languages (not including English) to even understand more than half the jokes.
- Book Ends
- Call Back: In the penultimate chapter, ALP comforts Shaun after he has a nightmare about "phanthares in the room", mirroring Haines' nightmares about a panther in Ulysses. The book is also full of hidden references to Bloom and Stephen's experiences in the earlier books, and even several passages fully rewritten in "Wakese".
- Doing It for the Art: The man spent 17 years writing a novel that's borderline impossible to read. The man had gone partially blind by the time he finished it. Parts of it were dictated. Read a paragraph and just imagine having to write and edit it without being able to see what you're writing it on.
- Footnote Fever: Many scholarly editions of the book.
- Genre-Busting: To the point where The Other Wiki, which is usually very good at finagling a book into a particular genre, simply gives its genre as sui generis.note Of course, the first sentence of the article identifies it as "a work of comic fiction" as well.
- Guide Dang It: A rare non-video game usage of the trope, as the richness of references used in Finnegans Wake need to be listed and referenced in a separate volume which will typically be about as massive as the text itself.
- Her Codename Was Mary Sue: HCE, as noted above; plus a number of the minor characters are based on his acquaintances.
- Hurricane of Puns: Almost every single word of the book is a wordplay of some sort, or part of a wordplay. And Joyce didn't limit the puns to English, either — by some official estimates, he crammed words from about sixty separate languages into the book, and you would have to know at least nine different languages other than English (including Latin, Greek, and especially Gaelic) to get half of the jokes.
- I Have Many Names: Most everyone, thanks to the shifting dream-like writing.
- Long List: Used frequently.
- Mind Screw: No shit, Sherlock.
- No Ending: Take a look at the first and last 'sentence'.
- No Plot? No Problem!
- Patter Song: The Ballad of Persse O'Reillynote has elements of this and Word Salad Lyrics.
- Perfectly Cromulent Word: So full of them that you'll reach the same level of comprehension if you tried to achieve osmotic pressure by holding the book in your hands.
- Polar Opposite Twins: Shaun and Shem, although to a far lesser degree this is true of most of the main characters.
- Portmanteau: Just as an example, the word listed below under Written Sound Effect is made up from the words for "thunder" in ten different languages.
- Reset Button: If you notice the first sentence of the novel and compare it to the last, you can see that the last one can continue the first sentence, this starting the cycle once again.
- Rule of Symbolism: Extensive, if cryptic, references to Celtic Mythology, the Phoenix Park Murders of 1882, the Egyptian Book of the Dead and Egyptian Mythology, among many many others.
- Shadow Archetype: Twins Shaun and Shem are each other's shadows; it's also possible that alternate name pairs like "Jerry and Kevin" indicate a higher order of shadowing.
- Shout-Out: Not in, but from the book, we have two. "Quark" was borrowed from here to name the subatomic particle. Joseph Campbell also first saw the word "monomyth" in its pages.
- The title of the book comes from an Irish ballad that can itself be rather hard to understand.
- Word of Dante: See the top quote on this page.
- Word of God: And thankfully quite a bit of it; although even this can be debated among critics. One that stands out is Joyce saying he was "writing of the night".
- World of Pun: Every sentence.
- Written Sound Effect: The thunderclap on page one.note