NABOKV-L post 0017823, Fri, 6 Mar 2009 15:21:41 -0300

Re: VN and the Jekyll and Hyde movie (the good one) - SPECULATIVE
Walter Miale focused on matters of style according to VN and on movie-adaptations of J&H (The Nutty Professor in the Eddie Murphy version), "a sidesplitter, and true regarding Jekyll's underlying motive." Also for him, the "Jerry Lewis version of Nutty was made in 1963, but though it presented a serious, or rather antiserious, treatment of the J & H theme, I find it hard to imagine VN seeing it or enjoying it. Or am I wrong?"

JM: One can imagine anything one desires and the proof lies in the J&H comedy adaptations ( there is a more pretentious one, with Julia Roberts in the role of an ancestral "Mary Reilly") as being "sidesplitters" or "antiserious". Walter Miale's emphasis on "true comedy" opened my eyes in regard to RLS's intentions and, thru him, Nabokov's "Pale Fire".

After Miale's posting I experienced an unexpected relief since, after following some of the exchanges in the List, I tried to re-read VN's lectures on RLS to be sorely disappointed by the way he handled certain aspects of the plot. There is also a strange prejudiced or stereotyped sentence, concerning Enfield and Utterson posing "a difficult artistic problem": "These two solid souls must convey to the reader that.but at the same time they, being neither artists nor scientists, unlike Dr. Lanyon, cannot be allowed by the author to notice details." (Pg.192)

Needless to say that I was reminded of Freud's schematic drawings of the Id,Ego and Superego when looking at Nabokov's diagrams (and SKB's query: "I wonder how VN's complex diagrams of the three personalities involved in J&H tie in with the Shade-Kinbote "split-personality" theory."). In these we find a visual rendering of large Jekyll and small Hyde whereas, by closer inspection, there remains a tweedy Jekyll with "scattered rudiments of evil." Only after the magic drug "starts to work, a dark concentration of this evil begins forming" into "a precipitate of pure evil. since something of the composite Jekyll remains behind to wonder in horror at Hyde while Hyde is in action" (VN, pages 182/3, Bowers).

RLS's own narrative, has Dr.Jekyll exclaim: "There was something strange in my sensations.I felt younger, lighter, happier in body.a current of disordered sensual images running like a mill race in my fancy.I knew be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil.And yet when I looked upon that ugly idol in the glass. a leap of welcome. This, too, was myself. It seemed natural and human. In my eyes it bore a livelier image of the spirit, it seemed more express and single, than the imperfect and divided countenance I had been hitherto accustomed to call mine."

We also learn that VN marked in his annotated copy: "The dualism, thus, is not 'body and soul' but 'good and evil.' (footnote, pg.181), another curious remark.

In RLS, when Jekyll considers Hyde, he refers to his former "divided countenance" while he can still feel and write like his former self. And yet, he concludes that he had become "express and single" and "pure evil" as Hyde.

In contrast, VN notes: "Hyde is a kind of hiding place for Dr. Jekyll, in whom the jocular doctor and the killer are combined." ( VN also takes some pains to interpret Jekyll's residue of conscious interference forming a "ring of good" ( also included in his diagram).

My embarrassment was probably due to the professoral & serious intention present in VN's lecture which, indirectly, led me away from the fictional fun by the "suspension of disbelief." (Coleridge). I do not discern any special dualism in "Pale Fire" (body-soul, or a radical good-evil), not even in Gradus because the latter is regularly presented as a figment of Kinbote's imagination that only gains flesh in the body of "Gradus" in CK's delusions. The comic and tragic sides mainly pertain to K. VN, in his interviews, seems to respect and admire John Shade.

VN mentions RLS's intention to deal with the issue of a repressed homosexuality. In spite of his enumeration of Stevenson's mysoginous characters, I find it hard to adhere to this hypothesis (which might still have influenced his creation of Kinbote).

As VN also points out RLS's reader is not clearly informed about the various kinds of vice that constitute Hyde's "pure evil." (would it be his "indifference" to human-kind?).

Undoubtedly there are references, in PF, to RLS. As I see it, they are not a part of the structure or plot of VN's novel, although they add a special nuance to Kinbote (who suffers religious guilt and was once able to pity and love, in a dream, the plight of his estranged queen.

I still hold to the belief that PF, and J&H, are works of fiction whose sense cannot be found in the realm of any real (non-fictional) mental affliction. Both novels are puzzles, games, brilliant concoctrions but they do not attempt to philosophize on mind and soul...

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