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Comparing Dr. Kinbote And John Shade By Vladimir Nabokov

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Dr. Kinbote and John Shade
Vladimir Nabokov is an artist that accentuates the aesthetic pleasure which patterning affords. The fabric of Pale Fire is woven with a dense texture of mirrors, doubles, parodies, games, riddles, masks, and disguises. In the story, such games of perception (particularly the notion of reflection and misconception) creates a disparity between reality and fantasy. One of the most well-known and multifaceted line in the poem comes from the first stanza, fifteenth stanza, and supposedly the last: “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain.” The absence of the 1000th line and this disruption of the poem’s symmetry suggests the transition from a mere perception to reality, that John Shade was no longer the shadow but the “smudge
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But with poignancy and plangency of sorrow, she illuminates the the theme of reality vs. fantasy in Pale fire. In waking hours, Kinbote says that his sentiments toward Disa had never amounted to more than “friendly indifference and bleak respect” (Nabokov, Page 209) and that their life together had been largely painful. His casual heartlessness and Disa’s “great show of sarcastic sophistication” (Nabokov, Page 209) prelude any possibility of tenderness or pleasure in the relationship. In his dreams, these dry sentiments are saturated and swollen until they “[exceed] in emotional tone, in spiritual passion and depth, anything he had experienced in his surface existence” (Nabokov, Page 210). In reality, he casually, near accidentally torments her; in his dreams he remorsefully adores her. This tendency to abandon himself to fantasy, to withdraw back from the agonies of the present and the bitterness of memory into a realm where he is capable of rich and poignant feelings, parallels Shade’s flight to the aesthetics. They are different though in that Shade uses his artistic sensibility (writing poems, etc.) to transform and change the nature of the circumstances and the suffering of this world by casting them in aesthetic form. Kinbote’s dreams, however, remain isolated “in the heart of his dreaming self” (Nabokov, Page 209). The feelings are described to be “pure than his life” (Nabokov,…show more content…
Yet, in the midst of all this, one thing that is clear is that Kinbote does in fact resemble a part of John Shade and by knowing this, we can understand better why Shade does feel empathetic towards Kinbote.
Citations: Nabokov, Vladimir, Pale Fire (New York: Vintage, 1989) Lolita - The Story of a Cover Girl: Vladimir Nabokov's Novel in Art and
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