“Finnegans Wake” is not a prose poem, which is probably how many people would like to read it. It’s a work of realist fiction. It’s just that the reality it represents is nighttime reality, the dream life, which Joyce believed required the invention of a new mode of language. Normal syntax is designed for a law-abiding reality, for a reality that is organized temporally, spatially, and causally. In dreams, these laws are suspended, which means that, to represent the dream life, normal syntax has to be suspended, too. And images in dreams can represent two things at once, as when we dream of X and know all the time that it is Y. This is why punning is the language of the night.