Comparing Pnin, the Displaced Russian, to Humbert Humbert, the Generic European.   College

Humbert Humbert (HH) and Timofey Pnin are complete opposites. HH is assertive and is ready to do everything to reach the goals he sets himself, may it be to master a foreign language or to use his abilities as a manipulator to trick the reader into relativizing his crimes. On the other hand, Timofey Pnin is impotent, and socially awkward, and is being manipulated by his ex-wife. Their only similarity lies in that they both are never idle. This essay will compare both HH and Pnin through their identities as immigrants, their use of foreign language, their manipulator-manipulated relationship, and their constant travels. Though these characters are markedly different, both of Nabokov's creations help us understand how Nabokov himself grappled with the issues of emigration and displacement that were central to his own life.

Cultural “Other” and the use of foreign language

Timofey Pnin hails from a wealthy family, he is half-German and half-Russian (p.21-22), which emphasizes his identity as an eternal foreigner. Pnin, like Nabokov, first left Russia because of the Bolsheviks’ coup d’état, and then left Europe because of World War 2 (p.34). In the case of Timofey Pnin, the cultural otherness is a weakness manifested in his...

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