“Thus goes the Hegelian syllogism of humor. Thesis: Uncle made himself up as a burglar (a laugh for the children): Antithesis: it was a burglar (a laugh for the reader); synthesis: it still was Uncle (fooling the reader). (LITD, 143)
Here is how I see the thetic arcs working in PALE FIRE:
Thesis: A serious writer (VN) writes a spoof (PF) of the whodunit genre (the unsophisticated reader “discovers” the “real” plot– Kinbote is insane; Gradus is actually Jack Grey; Shade is mistaken for Judge Goldsworth and is accidently killed by Jack Grey). The reader has a laugh.
Antithesis: PALE FIRE is, in fact, a “serious” book. (The sophisticated reader discovers that on a meta-fictive level, through a web of allusions, it is “about” literary composition and criticism, Death and the Hereafter, the Occult, True Love, gamesmanship, psychological allegory, Slavic history, autobiography, etc., etc.) The sophisticated readers congratulate themselves and laugh.
Synthesis: PALE FIRE is still a spoof of the whodunit genre. (All the clues in the antithetic arc together and, returning to the plot, but at a higher, yet parallel level, lead to a detective mystery conclusion: Sybil is the murderer. It is not only a parody but a ridiculously jejune one. The joke is on the “sophisticated” reader – the ultimate plot twist: Sybil really is the witch/bitch Kinbote, the “unreliable narrator” depicts, not the ideal mate Nabokov deceptively leads the reader to believe she is. This is the diabolic deception that after the antithetic round-about should lead the reader to a “synthesis of artistic delight.”) Are you feeling it yet?
Imagine for a moment that Nabokov wanted to write a murder-mystery detective novel. Rather than have a Holmsian character come out at the end and explain all the clues that were (unfairly, after all) kept from the reader, Nabokov would hide all the clues in plain sight, yet direct them hors texte (antithetic level). In this way Nabokov shields himself from being identified with all the “serious” shopworn antithetic clues (autography, metaphysics, literature, etc., etc.), for after all, he just enjoys “composing riddles.” “But all this obscure fun is…only the author’s springboard.” Decoding the clues on the allegoric antithetic level as they inform the thetic plot, I submit here the ‘real’ solution for a synthetic plot scenario:
Charles Kinbote is envious of John Shade for being all the things he himself is not, most particularly his poetic genius. He wants to appropriate Shade’s latest poem so that he, Kinbote, can become known and revered, but he realizes that Shade, at best, merely tolerates him, Shade’s wife hates him, and the coterie of academic powers-that-be would never allow it. Imagine, if you will, that Sybil, angry at John for his affaires with co-eds, makes a deal with Kinbote: He can have the manuscript in exchange for doing away with her cheating spouse. Kinbote then arranges Shade’s murder by enlisting Jack Grey, whom he has learned of from Judge Goldsworth’s criminal album. He visits Grey in the insane asylum and helps him escape and set up the crime. Jack Grey is arrested, but he muffs his role and doesn’t confess to being the assassin, Gradus. Before he can be tried, Kinbote visits him again and slips the insane man a razor with which to commit suicide, or perhaps crazy Kinbote himself does the deed. Kinbote seems to have had some sway over the insane criminal; he says, “By making him believe I could help him at his trial I forced him to confess…”
That is all the incriminating “dead fish” that float up. Sybil then skips the country, leaving Kinbote holding the bag.
We can learn through the antithetic clues that:
> Seeing that all the characters are Jungian archetypes wherein the anima is the major archetype to confront.
> The Queen is key (“How often have struggled to bind the terrible force of [the] queen…”) (SM,)
>Accepting the “unreliable” narrator as actually having the correct view of Sybil as a royal bitch (the “Great Beaver.”); Shade is indeed having an affaire with a co-ed.
>Seeing through Shade’s poem (i.e. Sybil the TV addict and rasping “mocking bird”; the proffered tangerine, etc.)
>Seeing that Hazel sees her mother as a “didactic katydid” a la Salinger.
>Seeing that Sybil is a Sibyl, a spider, a witch.
>The Vanessa atalanta is a “Butterfly of Doom” as is Sybil.
>Sybil’s “ruby ring” suggests the woman left behind when a sea-man is trapped by a mermaid-nymph in Scott’s The Mermaid (When on this ring of ruby red/ Shall die,’ she said, the crimson hue,/ Know that thy favourite fair is dead,/Or proves to thee and love untrue. (21-24)
> Mrs. Shade's tremulous signature might have been penned ‘in some peculiar kind of red ink.’" (F, 12) (i.e. “disappearing ink,” discovered by alchemists)
>The “black Queen” is red in PF. Like the dominating Red Queen in Alice. The treacherous Black Queen in Pushkin’s Queen of Spades is alluded to also; she is a witch who turns into a black spider.
>Sybil is called a spider (“dip, or redip, Spider); “A palace intrigue is a spectral spider that entangles you more nastily at every desperate jerk you try.” (C. 85); The black widow spider kills her mate.
>In Despair, Hermann writes that Conan Doyle should stay away from clichés and suggests a “staggering surprise for the reader”: “…the murderer in that tale should have turned out to be not the one-legged bookkeeper, not the Chinaman Ching and not the woman in crimson, but the very chronicler of crime stories, Dr. Watson himself – Watson, who, so to speak, knew what was Whatson.” Dr. Kinbote is the chronicler of Pale Fire, as well as co-killer along with the “woman in crimson” (Sybil as the Red Queen). There is a red spider on the cover of the trashy detective novel that Herman’s ditzy wife reads.
The above is a brief synopsis of my paper, “SYBIL: The Spider at the Center of PALE FIRE’s Web of Sense” https://independent.academia.edu/MaryRoss22
 Kinbote says he had an “interview, perhaps even two” with Jack Grey, C 228
 Note that razors and shaving have suspiciously high number of mentions in Pale Fire.