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McHugh, Roland / The sigla of Finnegans wake
(1976)

Chapter 2: coincedentia oppositurum,   pp. 27-38 PDF (753.3 KB)


Page 28

28 The Sigla of Finnegans Wake 
 The generalization usually made to explain 'Shem and Shaun' is that Shem,
':,is the artist, Joyce himself, Stephen Dedalus, introverted sensibility,
whereas Shaun, A, combines the traits of his enemies, as represented in Ulysses,
with those of his brother Stanislaus. This is a naive explanation: numerous
idiosyncrasies of Joyce may be found, say, in the A of 111.2. Most of the
apparent laws in FW include reversals; but what we require here are better
criteria of distinction. 
 The origin of the names Shem and. Shaun is of limited assistance. Richard
Ellmann4 says that they 'were based in part upon two feeble-minded hangers-on,
James and John Ford, who lived in Dublin on the North Strand. They were known
as "Shem and Shaun" and were famous for their incomprehensible
speech and their shuffling gait.' Dr Garvin confirms this statement. 0 Hehir
connects the frequent victimization of': with an Irish bias, and the name
Shaun, via the derivative Se¢n, which means English soldier, with an
English one.5 But 'Shaun the Post' of 111.1 is the classical stage Irishman
in Dion Boucicault's Arrah-na-Pogue, while Sir Charles Young's Jim the Penman,
which concerns an English forger, is, as Mr Atherton shows, a source for
'Shem the Penman' of 1.7. FWis not an Anglo-Irish allegory. The distinction
of its protagonists has little foundation in national alignment, despite
the frequent equation of m with Protestant emblems of usurpation. 
 Several paired alternatives become recurrent labels for ':and A. The parable
of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31Ä46) is typical: 'And before
him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another,
as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep
on his right hand, but the goats on the left.' This becomes more apposite
when we know that Syrian sheep were white and the goats black. The favoured
sheep then match A ('the haves') and the accursed goats ':('the havenots').
The dedication of Blake's Jerusalem to the sheep and goats is probably comprehended
herein, for it was Blake who said that without contraries there was no progression.
We can also visualize the partition of Ireland between the mythical Tuatha
D, Danann and Fomorians, who embodied the respective powers of light and
darkness: The Book of the Dun Cow credits the Fomorians with goat worship.
In his letter of 30 July 19296 Joyce told Valery Larbaud that he was now
hopelessly with the goats 
4JJ, 562. 
'GL, 410. 
6Letters I, 284. 


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