Literature / Finnegans Wake
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."
The Other Wiki on Finnegans Wake

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.
  • Anachronic Order: Doesn't really have a beginning, doesn't have an ending either. Not to mention the "story" jumps back and forth through many stages of history. There's a good chance any given historical event or person prior to 1939 has been mentioned in the Wake.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: HCE represents the landscape of Dublin, Anna Livia note  the river Liffey, Issy takes the form of clouds and light rain.
  • 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 "Finnegans 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.
  • Bookends: as well as the opening/closing sentence fragments, the characters Mutt and Jute from chapter one show up again in the final chapter (as Muta and Juva) to discuss the sunrise and celebrate HCE waking up.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Shem and Shaun towards Issy.
  • 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".
  • Evil Counterpart: Magrath and his wife Lily Kinsella to Earwicker and Anna Livia.
  • Footnote Fever: Many scholarly editions of the book. They also appear in the schoolbook chapter (2.2), representing Issy's commentary on the material (not that it helps the reader much)
  • 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.
  • Interrupted by the End: The novel ends in mid-sentence, with the words "A way a lone a last a loved a long the" implying that the real story is just about to begin.
    • I.e. recirculation back to the first page, which continues the sentence interrupted on the last page.
  • Kangaroo Court: the chaotic trial of Festy King.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: More like loads and loads of names. There are hundreds of name changes throughout the book, although a popular interpretation is that there is a set number of abstract characters that these names are supposed to represent.
  • Long List: Used frequently.
  • Mind Screw: No shit, Sherlock.
  • Neologism
  • No Ending: Take a look at the first and last 'sentence'.
  • No Plot? No Problem!
  • Parental Incest: HCE with his daughter Issy.
  • 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.
  • Self-Deprecation: HCE's "usylessly unreadable blue book of Eccles"
  • 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 three. "Quark" was borrowed from here to name the subatomic particle. Joseph Campbell also first saw the word "monomyth" in its pages, and George R.R. Martin named a castle in A Song of Ice and Fire after the first word, "riverrun".
    • The title of the book comes from an Irish ballad that can itself be rather hard to understand.
  • Shown Their Work: And how!
  • Speech Impediment: HCE's stutter, usually over his guilt at his sexual indiscretions, is one of his distinguishing characteristics.
  • Spooky Seance: Shaun (or Yawn) is subjected to one by the Four Masters. They put him to sleep on the Hill of Uisneach, afflict him with nightmares, and channel the spirit of HCE and his many incarnations through him.
  • Those Four Guys: the Four Masters/Evangelists, who always travel together, appear to be seeking out HCE and serve as judges in his trial, spy on Tristan and Iseult, and generally try to impose order and fixity on the book.
  • World of Pun: Every sentence.
  • Written Sound Effect: The ten thunderclaps strewn across the book, the first one being on page one.note