Pale Fire

Pale Fire Pale Fire

Nabokov's "Pale Fire" fractures the traditional doppelganger story (as do other novels of his, such as "Despair," "The Real Life of Sebastian Knight," and "Lolita"), which often relies on clear black-and-white doubles (Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde" comes to mind), by coloring in the nuanced tones between the aptly named John Shade and his commentator, Charles Kinbote. Several instances blur the line between the two men; perhaps one invented the other, perhaps they are one and the same, perhaps they invented each other. This is somewhat irrelevant, as there is enough conflicting evidence for all cases to be made in Nabokov's detective story. What is important, rather, is that "Pale Fire," the poem, ties to the commentary - neither of these could exist without the other. In the end it is art that carries through, not any man's personality; as Kinbote concludes, "Yes, better stop. My notes and self are petering out...My work is finished. My poet is dead" (300).

Nabokov immediately paints his convoluted double theme with a favorite pigment, numbers. Kinbote tells us that Shade was "born July 5, 1898, died July 21, 1959" - he was...

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