As discussed in my previous blog H C Earwicker has fled to the refuge of a distant mythical land or his dwelling in the pub in Chapelizzod. Yet even here he is hounded and the peace of his household disturbed. In this real or ideal personal of space he is forced to face the immanent exposure of his guilty secret announced by a banging at his gate.
This imminent exposure brings together some trains of association and provokes a diversionary tactic. Loud noises that have been building through the text, the ‘norse of guns… on the raglar rock’, ‘a fourth loud snore’, ‘hammering on the pandywhank’ and general ‘battering babel allower the door and sideposts’ , like thunder release water references that have also been gathering so that the ‘young reine came down desperate and the old liffopotamus started ploring all over the plains’. The household thus disturbed, Anna Livia is unflatteringly depicted as a rampaging primal river beast ‘as mud as she cud’, whilst abject things that could have been left to settle like silt are churned and spread; dirty laundry must be washed in public. So the rain, finally fallen on the plain, washes down to the river, carrying off the filth in its cleansing waters. ‘Whyte’ ends the paragraph with a questionless ‘why’ and intimation of ‘white’, a literal and metaphorical blankness.
Picking up on something I mentioned in post no.22, we could conceive of a hounded Earwicker seeking refuge in the anonymous communal darkness of a movie house during an old style matinee programme of shorts and main feature. This is a classic movie ploy by those suddenly finding themselves on the run in the city, hiding amongst strangers in the dark. It permits us to imaging a collage of visual fragments, a flowing mix of cultural references irrationally taking on patterns of meaning in the guilty mind. The white in ‘whyte’ might then be regarded as the sudden blankness of the screen between features. This could plausibly be also be linked with the subsequent ‘Finny’ and ‘To be continued’, which occur in subsequent paragraphs.
Just as Earwicker faces his catastrophe of revelation we have a sudden and convenient diversionary interlude. It arrives in the nick of time, musketeer-wise, to ‘roll away the reel world’, in favour of a ‘strawberry frolic’. Rolling away the ‘reel’ world offers quite a stunning conflation of the mechanisms of film with the escape of resurrection into immortality, also neatly incorporating an echo of Hosty’s Ballad and intimations of inevitable historical repetition.
The blankness of the screen is reflected in the mundane blankness of innocence, ignorance or sheer gullibility on the face of the passive audience.
The interlude is a short scenario in which an older man has a dalliance with a young girl. All the starry- eyed promises and foolishness of a new romance are indulged to the extent that ‘grumpapar’, it seems, has lost his head to love. But all is not as it fist appears. The young girl is very coolly using the old man with an eye on material gain. He is also more wily and calculating than he appears and already has another girl in mind, fantasising a possible ‘canoodling’ ménage involving all three of them. This significant threesome is indistinctly hinted at through the names of the musketeers, ‘Alphos, Burkos and Caramis’ and reiterated through ‘Arty, Bert, and Charley Chance’, finally emerging fully with the simple naivety of A.B.C – i.e why can’t life be like this, an older man in a happy relationship with two young girls – an idea which is represented as both pragmatic solution and an ecstatic fantasy. This A.B.C. statement seems to represent yet another, albeit refracted, attempt by Earwicker to protest the innocence of his position whilst masking his darker compulsions. This is underscored by frequent stammering in the text. Earwicker’s appeal then shifts to grounds of wider social promiscuity and the fact that everybody is at it anyway.
So what began as a diversionary interlude to escape from having to face the ‘truth’ of his situation brings HCE back round to matters at hand. Eventually, inevitably, crisis no longer be deferred and HCE must face resumed inquiries into his conduct, but, as required by his incorrigible nature, Earwicker’s secret fantasy is retained for later indulgence.