Analysis Of ' Frankenstein And Nabokov 's The Real Life Of Sebastian Knight

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Both Shelley’s Frankenstein and Nabokov’s The Real Life of Sebastian Knight investigate problems of reality, strongly suggesting that real knowledge of someone cannot exist or is at best inaccessible. However, while Nabokov and Frankenstein suggest that one may never be able to know the “real life” of another person, perhaps one’s failed attempts to perfectly capture that reality—reflections or interpretations of reality, that is—function as the most meaningful “reality” for the would-be knower. V.’s definition of “real” itself makes real knowledge an impossibility. While V. never explicitly defines “real,” readers can piece together an approximate understanding from the metaphors he uses to express his lack of access to the real Sebastian. Although V. “could describe the way he [Sebastian Knight] walked, or laughed, or sneezed,” these facts “would be no more than sundry bits of cinema-film cut away by scissors and having nothing in common with the essential drama” (Larsen 16). Characters know much about Sebastian but “he himself escapes [them]” (Larsen 28-9). It’s this “essential drama” or “he himself” that V. identifies as real—the core essence of someone or something. And after a conversation with Sebastian, V. longed “for no earthly reason (...) to say something real, something with wings and a heart,” suggesting that something real is otherworldly, incorporeal (“no earthly reason”, “wings and a heart”), and thus beyond V.’s ability to know. Perhaps what Nabokov terms
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