(U) Episode 12: “Cyclops,” ~pp. 287-339.

What They Are Saying, Episode 12

This week’s answer to “Who is saying it” is answered: The estimable Fidel Angel Orozsco

And what does he say?: One indication that HCE (the protagonist of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake) is the literary father of the “Cyclops” episode is that revealed in that HCE is Everybody; Bloom in “Cyclops” is Nobody.

Bloom, a benefactor to the blind piano tuner, is anathema to the one-eyed populace of Dublin. In the pub, the drinkers never call him by name. Instead, he is called by disparaging epithets and diminishments “that bloody jewman,” “mean bloody scut,” “Ahasuerus.… Cursed by God,” “the new Messiah for Ireland (with sarcasm),” “a dark horse himself.” There are many more examples. Globally, Poldy may be Everyman, but also Nobody.

By contrast, Humphrey Chimpendon Earwicker (HCE) becomes expansive as his name is used for every person and purpose. In only the first thirteen pages of Finnegans Wake, his initials become

  • Howth Castle and Environs
  • hod, cement and edifices
  • Haroun Childeric Eggberth
  • he calmly extensolies
  • Hic cubat edilis
  • How Copenhagen ended 
  • happinest childher everwere
  • Hush! Caution! Echoland! 
  • How charmingly exquisite! 
  • heathersmoke and cloudweed Eire’s 

For an exhaustive list, please see


That Bloom and HCE are name changers isn’t the end of the similarity. Joyce is a great lover of lists. Among the luminaries he enrolls in “Cyclops'” pages are Goliath, Columbus, the village blacksmith, Pochantas, Charlamange, Tristan, and Isolde. These and others were recalled for service when Joyce penned Finnegans Wake, suggesting they share heroic qualities. 

In “Cyclops” a condemned man and his love recall a “blissful childhood together on the banks of Anna Liffey.” The Liffey, also called Anna Livia Plurabelle in the Wake, is the aged and ageless love of Earwicker. The citizen is compared to titanic Ulex Eurpoeus. Gilbert tells us he is “a prototype of HCE.”

The crimes of Bloom and Earwicker are unsubstantiated, vague, and committed in the dark or around the blind (where the bookmaker’s stall takes bets). Each is convicted by whisper, guilty, but also unable or unwilling to rise in self-defense. Poldy defends Judaism. He does not defend himself against the accusation of having refused to share a windfall.

Finally, each character is instrumental in the transition of Vico’s four-stage theory of History (ages of gods, heroes, men, Apocolypse). HCE himself is the personification of the age of heroes, men, and the apocalypse. He may also be a demigod. Bloom sits between the ages of heroes and men and is the catalyst for the coming of the democratic age.

The transitions of Finnegans Wake and “Cyclops” are announced by “violent atmospheric proturbation” (thunder in Finnegans Wake and a seismic event in “Cyclops”). In Ulysses, “the palace of justice” is raized, symbolic of the injustices committed against Bloom and Earwicker, heroes in decline.


One Final Squint, One Final Wink

Lets suppose an ordinary, emotionally stable member of society, friendly, generous, politically informed, and active might become peculiar, destabilized, unsociable, biased, and militant under certain influences. One such influence might be near accidental blinding. Another might be the influence of alcohol in enormous quantities. It could make the imbiber pie-eyed, or, as a Dubliner might say, have “the sun in his eye.”

Let’s also suppose that Joe Hynes sets out as a solid contributor to society on that June day to “Come around to Barney Kiernan’s… to see the citizen,” and let’s also suppose that by “see the citizen” he means “be the citizen.”

Now let’s suppose that when the street sweeper nearly puts out the narrator’s eye at the precise moment when Joe is passing by, another one of the many metamorphoses of the episode unfolds. In the batting of one eye, Just Joe (larvae) reveals the all-devouring “threaten-Gallagher-for-a-penny” narrator (pupa) releasing roaring citizen (moth) fully in his cups.

Let’s further suppose Hynes becomes less civilized as he drinks, more given to malice, less tolerant of differences. The citizen is his complete devolution. Joe might talk aloud to his alter egos, the narrator, and the citizen. He wouldn’t be the first inebriate to do so.

Now suspending all supposition, Adams’ research into the first version of “Cyclops” shows Hynes coaxing the citizen to leave Kiernan’s before Bloom returns from the courthouse. His excuse is to find cheaper drinks. This might be Hynes’ better angels reasoning against violence. In the early manuscript, Joyce writes: “Cusack was blue mouldy for a fight.” Bad angels one, good angels love.

Let’s just suppose.


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