Monkeys on Typewriters

This cartoon appears in the book Computation Engineering: Applied Automata Theory and Logic by Dr. Ganesh Gopalakrishnan.

This cartoon isn't so much about computational theory, as it is about English literature. As such, I expect the humor will be lost on most computer science students. I expect that most of my readers are already familiar with the classic "monkey problem," (given an infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of typewriters, eventually one will produce Shakespeare's Hamlet) so I need not discuss it further.

The crux of the punchline is the reference to Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce. Although hailed by many academics as one of the masterpieces of English literature, this monstrosity of a book is utter nonsense from start to finish. Not nonsense in the clever, humorous way of Alice in Wonderland, but nonsense as in has-no-place-in-any-serious-collector's-library, let alone part of a university curriculum. To illustrate, allow me to quote from the first page of the book:

Sir Tristram, violer d'amores, fr'over the short sea, had passencore rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his penisolate war: nor had topsawyer's rocks by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse to Laurens County's gorgios while they went doublin their mumper all the time: nor avoice from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to tauftauf thuartpeatrick: not yet, though venissoon after, had a kidscad buttended a bland old isaac: not yet, though all's fair in vanessy, were sosie sesthers wroth with twone nathandjoe. Rot a peck of pa's malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface.

Diehard English majors will likely despise this cartoon, whereas most computer scientists will likely ignore it entirely. As for myself, I'd sooner read a baleful of monkey clatter than one page of James Joyce!


Back to Cartoons main page