2.2 ALP as 'Container' of the Picture
Dublin in Finnegans Wake is comprised of the artifacts ALP collects. It is the archaeological midden. In one version of the picture, Kate Strong 'pulls a lane picture for us, in a drearodreama setting, glowing and very vidual, of old dumplan as she nosed it' (FW 79.27-29). Kate Strong, a 'tyrannical Dublin streetcleaner of the 1630s' was a contracted rubbish collector.5 In the mythology of Finnegans Wake, however, she is an aged version of ALP who after HCE's demise turns toward the 'wall'. Replaced by a younger, fertile woman and no longer a mythic mother figure, she is a relic as much as the cultural relics she lugs behind her. If the deposed HCE is the deified, murdered founder of the city, the superseded ALP is the 'old crone' who passes the knowledge of the father onto the children:
Widow Strong, then, as her weaker had turned him to the wall (Tiptiptip!), did most all of the scavenging from good King Hamlaugh's gulden dayne [...] she left down [...] her filthdump near the Serpentine in Phornix Park [...] all over which fossil footprints, bootmarks, fingersigns, elbowdints, breechbowls, a. s. o. were all successively traced of a most envolving description. (FW 79.33-80.12)
The 'wall' is identified with the tip in Finnegans Wake, and both HCE's and ALP's turning toward the wall signifies a movement toward death, or a turning away from new life in a retrospective outlook. As Kate is the guardian of the archaeological tip, a container, as Suzette Henke points out, which can also be understood as womb,6 the female in Finnegans Wake is frequently cast in the role of both preserver and exhibitor of HCE. A delineation between ALP as container and HCE as content is apparent when the picture motif is understood as the blurred relics of a deified male originator embodied in female matter.
Amid the debris of the fallen civilisations, the picture depicts the sin occasioning HCE's fall, the 'touching seene' (FW 52.36) where HCE and ALP/Issy are discovered in flagrante delicto: 'The scene, refreshed, reroused, was never to be forgotten, the hen and crusader everintermutuomergent' (FW 55.10-12). The exposure associated with the sin becomes a Lewis Carroll photographic version of the gospels that is evidence both of a sexual crime and an artform:
And there many have paused before that exposure of him by old Tom Quad, a flashback in which he sits sated, gowndabout, in clericalease habit, watching bland sol slithe dodgsomely into the nethermore, a globule of maugdleness about to corrugitate his mild dewed cheek and the tata of a tiny victorienne, Alys, pressed by his limper looser. (FW 57.23-29)
More than gospel, the sexual union of Book III.4 is described as a vision of heaven, a sight which combines the living male and female anatomical forms with land forms associated with their interred ancestors: 'Guaze off heaven! Vision. Then. O, pluxty suddly, the sight entrancing! Hummels! That crag! Those hullocks! O Sire!' (FW 566.28-29). As Suzette Henke suggests regarding the letter, the sexual act is explicit in the message of HCE, and she also notes a pictorial dimension to the historical missive: 'The letter has been reduced to a puzzle of graphemes that implicitly graph a sexual history buried in the tissue of the epistle's integument. We are promised the pornographic titillations of ''nymphosis'' [...]and a collage of dirty pictures'.7 The coitus of male and female, moreover, is mirrored in a union of signifier and signified, where HCE is the first life evolved in mud: 'And it's time that all paid tribute to this massive mortiality, the pink of punk perfection as photography in mud' (FW 277.23-26).
Used by Shem to write upon his own body, excrement or mud is the principal medium of creativity in Finnegans Wake, and Shem uses it to draw the vesica piscis symbol of Book II.2:
First mull a mugfull of mud, son.
5Like pudging a spoon fist of sugans into a sotspot of choucolout. (FW 286.31-287.8, N5)
Issy's footnote is similarly suggestive of the Wakean original sin of sexual reproduction. Consistent with Shem's evocative use of the word 'mut', echoing significances of mud, as well as mother and mute, Issy describes ALP as a saucepan of chocolate. ALP's womb is elsewhere described as a musical chocolate box, listening to and reproducing the reverberations of an HCE from the past: 'I am sure that tiring chabelshoveller with the mujikal chocolat box, Miry Mitchel, is listening' (FW 13.8-9). The illustrative medium of mud also extends to the Russian General's fecal creativity, and 'turds' are among the objects collected by ALP in her womb/sack in the Wake's time-scheme, 'a crone that hadde a wickered Kish for to hale dead turves from the bog' (FW 13.36-14.1). In another instance, the soldier Shaun's father is given a letter, while ALP gets chocolate, again apparently for cooking purposes: 'this papal leafless to old chap give, rawl chawclates for mouther-in-louth. Booil' (FW 49.14-15). What goes into the tip is the darkened or soiled image of the fallen HCE: 'all spoiled goods go into her nabsack' (FW 11.18-19). The Russian General's fecal production is thus likened to the ejaculation of semen and ALP's consequent biological creation. The picture of HCE is 'the chocolate with a soul. [...] Why, what are they all, the mucky lot of them only? Sht!' (FW 144.15-17).
ALP's role as container and guardian of the genetic picture of HCE accordingly also involves a process of recycling where the 'turb' is 'unfilthed':
Well, this freely is what must have occurred to our missive (there's a sod of a turb for you! please wisp off the grass!) unfilthed from the boucher by the sagacity of a lookmelittle likemelong hen. (FW 111.30-33)
The creation of the family entails HCE's fall, but it is also the means by which he is resurrected, or rather is biologically reproduced via a 'Surrection' (FW 593.2-3). Both the call for HCE to be 'unfilthed' (FW 111.32) and the proposed washing of HCE's anus in Book IV require the Wakean family romance and its biological creativity: 'Now if soomone felched a twoel and soomonelses warmet watter we could, while you were saying Morkret Miry or Smud, Brunt and Rubbinsen, make sunlike sylph om this warful dune's battam' (FW 594.9-12). ALP's reproductive organs are portrayed by extension as a mirror which reflects the image of HCE to the viewer in a process of reflux, with her 'puncture' also a picture, as he informs Shaun: 'But you're holy mooxed and gaping the wrong palce as if you was seehearing the gheist that stays forenenst [...]. You must lap wandret down the bluishing refluction below. [...] Yseen here the puncture' (FW 299.13-20). The mud that 'cometh out of Mam' is a genetic message used to conjure a new HCE, and HCE's incarnations as the 'hinndoo' and the 'Dark Sir' of the encounter with the Cad, also suggest that the 'chocolate with a soul' can refer to an ascendant HCE indigenous to the new world.
5 Roland McHugh, The Sigla of Finnegans Wake (London: Edward Arnold, 1976), p. 122.
6 Suzette A. Henke, James Joyce and the Politics of Desire (New York and London: Routledge, 1990), p. 181.
7 Henke, James Joyce, p. 186.