Charles Kinbote

532 Words3 Pages
As humans, we are uniquely motivated to understand and interpret events, situations, and people for how they truly are and strive to uncover “true meaning”. Vladimer Nabakov takes advantage of this human predisposition in his book “Pale Fire” to give us a story so enigmatic that is has continued to generate debate fifty years after its release. In it, Nabakov presents to us a wild character, Charles Kinbote, rife with unreliable characteristics who is tasked with providing commentary to a 999 line poem written by the late John Shade. Physically, the novel itself is split into four sections; Prologue, Poem, Commentary and the index. Reading it can seem like a modern-day wikipedia article as it is filled with hypertexts. This literary tool, coupled with the unreliability of the narrator gives the reader an unprecedented amount of control over the storyline they choose to be the “real” one. Due to ambiguity inferred in Pale Fire can we say that it is a realistic novel? Also, how can the reading of this novel change our perception of reality? As unreliable as Kinbote is though out the novel he is, surprisingly, able…show more content…
These diversions occur readily throughout the story. If the reader chooses to take the prompts in the foreword they are brought to the commentary of 991, then 47-48 and, finally 691. They soon realize that the C. Kinbote has no intention of analyzing John Shades poem. Rather, he seems to use the poem as prompts to explain the narrative of multiple story-lines; his relationship with John Shade, life as a king of a land names Zembla, and the approachment of an assassin, Gradus. For example, we get jostled to the commentary of 691, “the attack”. In it Charles mentions briefly “John Shade’s heart attack (Oct. 17, 1958)” and is quick to also mention that it “practically coincided with the disguised king’s arrival in America…” (Nabakov
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