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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 Wake 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.

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 Finnegans Wake/Self Demonstrating.

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. [1]
  • Author Avatar: To a certain degree, HCE does represent Joyce; but he also represents many other things as well.
  • Bilingual Bonus
  • Book Ends
  • Different As Night and Day: Shaun and Shem, although to a far lesser degree this is true of most of the main characters.
  • 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.[2] 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 one book.
  • 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.
  • Neologism
  • No Ending: Take a look at the first and last 'sentence'.
  • No Plot, No Problem
  • 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.
  • Trope Namer: "Quark" was borrowed from here to name the subatomic particle.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • Written Sound Effect: The thunderclap on page one:



  1. AD 1132 saw the defilement of a nunnery at Kildare, particularly marked by the rape of the abbess; the man who ordered the attack, Dermot mac Murrough, did so as a move to make the abbess unfit for her office and force her removal in favor of a kinswoman of his own. Mac Murrough's lust for power caused a great deal of internal strife, and it was he who, some thirty-seven years later, offered an allegiance with the Normans which became the first of many long and humiliating occupations of Ireland. James Joyce, like many, traced Ireland's history of oppression, treachery, and sectarian strife firmly back to the rape of the abbess of Kildare.
  2. That's "one of a kind" for those unfamiliar with the expression.
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