Vladimir Nabokov

"Hope" springs eternal in Pale Fire

By MARYROSS, 20 July, 2022

Did anyone see “Jeopardy”* last night?


The question was :


“Alexander Pope wrote this famous axiom in his Essay on Man:”

"_______springs eternal”


That would be “hope” of course. As Alexey Sklyarenko has pointed out many times, “hope” in Russian is “nadezshde” which is a near anagram for “Hazel Shade,” or, as John Shade puts it a “faint hope.”


This could even sum up Pale Fire as an epigram! (Transcendence as main theme)



Pope’s Essay on Man occurs elsewhere in PF:


Line 419, “See the blind beggar dance, the cripple sing,” directly references Pope’s An Essay on Man, a witty and ironic look at the folly of pride (ego) in every man. The essay is, in fact, an astute psychological commentary on how pride is evinced in the three basic Jungian archetypes I have been discussing (ego, shadow, and persona). Pope’s poem continues:

See the blind beggar dance, the cripple sing,
The sot a hero, lunatic a king;


            The blind beggar and the cripple are both disfigured physically, so we might easily combine them as representing the lower consciousness aspect (Gradus as shadow), lamely attempting to perform. John Shade, it may be noted is also a “cripple.” A classic hero is usually an extraordinary man on a transformational quest, but this “hero” (Shade as persona) is a drunk. A king represents the ruling consciousness of thought (ego), but this one (Kinbote) is insane. These three types can be seen respectively in Gradus, Shade, and Kinbote. Not quoted in Pale Fire, but perhaps implied, Pope mentions two other types, the chemist and the poet. They differ from the other three in that they are not corrupt:

The starving chemist in his golden views
Supremely blest, the poet in his muse.


These two figures relate to transcendent values – mysticism and poetry – and are in a sense outside and apart from the psychology of pride. Interestingly, the alchemist and poet are the same as the characters in Timon. Here they represent, I maintain, the overarching theme in Pale Fire of transcendence. John Shade is a poet; he gave a book of poems the Popeian title “Supremely Blest.” He has access to transcendence despite his drinking and whatever other personality defects he might have (Shade, as persona, is part light, part dark). The chemist (i.e. alchemist) seeks the secret of immortality and as a magician combines and transmutes elements into spiritual ‘gold’ (like a true poet). Jung saw the alchemic process of transmutation as the alchemist’s psychological purification leading to spiritual transcendence. The alchemist projected his psyche into the process of transmuting the base Mercurius (i.e. shadow) to the redeemed “stone,” (who turns out to be Balthasar the gardener as Jungian archetype of the Self.)

            Now I can add Hazel as the Jungian soul archetype the anima. This would support Brian Boyd’s theory of Hazel transmigrating into the Vanessa atalanta butterfly, an “eternal” soul/psyche image (although I do not believe the Vanessa is beneficent, but a harbinger of “Doom”). Hazel is John Shade’s (i.e. Botkin’s) rejected soul image – the fat, lame, clumsy, sensitive, psychic kid he rejected and subsequently all his life “twisted” himself in favor of becoming the staid, homey, beloved, and safe poet.


*(American Quiz Show)



1 year 4 months ago


The anima, the unconscious archetype of the feminine within a man’s psyche appears in three main forms: Maiden/Mother/Crone.  These can appear as enchantingly alluring or fearsomely repulsive and thus lend themselves to fantasy, myths and folk tales. According to C.G. Jung’s wife Emma Jung, they are:


“…the nymphs, swan maidens, undines and fairies, familiar from so many legends and tales. As a rule, they are of enticing beauty but only half human; they have fish tails, like the nixie, or turn into birds, like the swan maidens.” (The Anima as Elemental Being, p.46)


“Behind the elemental beings of our study stand, as we have seen, the divine figures of Cybele and Aphrodite –in the last analysis, the Goddess Nature.” (Ibid, p.86)


The women in Pale Fire exhibit all these various anima forms. I put them here in their repulsive/alluring doubles: – Hazel/Fleur,Garh; Sybil/Disa; Maud/ Sylvia;– Note that the “repulsive” ones are from “realistic” New Wye, and the “alluring” ones are from the “mirror” land of Zembla (the unconscious).  


“Like the “supraordinate personality,” the anima is bipolar and can therefore appear positive one moment and negative the next; now young, now old; now mother, now maiden; now a good fairy, now a witch; now a saint, now a whore. Besides this ambivalence, the anima also has “occult” connections with “mysteries,” with the world of darkness in general, and for that reason, she often has a religious tinge.” 356


It has been noted that Hazel is the mirror image of Lolita (Hazel=L.Haze), and that she drowns like Ophelia (who is a Fleur/Flora type alluring anima). The mermaid imagery attaches to all the above.


Jung writes:


It is normal for a man to resist his anima, because she represents, as I said before, the unconscious and all those tendencies and contents hitherto excluded from conscious life.”


"…the encounter with the shadow is the 'apprentice-piece' in the individual's development...that with the anima is the 'masterpiece'" ( Jung quoted in Anthony Stevens On Jung (London 1990) p. 206)



It would seem, thus, if we extend the Jungian interpretation to PF, that the anima would be the primary antagonist in the novel.



Hazel also evinces the archetype of the child, the original innocence before the persona develops.


“In every adult, there lurks a child – an eternal child, something that is always becoming, is never completed, and calls for unceasing care, attention, and education. That is the part of the personality which wants to develop and become whole.” (CW 17:286)


Jung mentions that the Child archetype also appears as an “irruption of the unconscious.” (CW 9i, para 270)


“How am I to be creative? Nature knows only one answer to that: Through a child.” (Symbols of Transformation; para 76)


Feeling rejected by her parents, Hazel fits the archetype of the orphan: The orphan, though growing up lost and lonely often is the source of individuating hero.



Jung wrote a treatise on The Psychological Aspects of the Kore, the maiden/mother dyad as a particular form of the anima.


“…the ‘maiden’ appears as the korybant, maenad, or nymph. An occasional variant is the nixie or water-sprite, who betrays her superhuman nature by her fishtail. (Jung, CW n. 9i, The Archetype of the Child, p.311)


            Note that a “korybant” is “any of the spirits or secondary divinities attending Cybele with wild music and dancing.”  “Cybele” is a Mother goddess, attended by elemental maidens. This homophonic name has some suggestions of Sybil and Hazel as a dyad.


Note that “Hazel” is also the name of a tree. The hazel tree  (Corylus avallania): The Tree of Immortal Wisdom has applications in magick done for manifestation, spirit contact, protection, prosperity, divination-dowsing, dreams, wisdom-knowledge, marriage, fertility, intelligence, inspiration. (http://www.ancient-wisdom.com/treelore.htm)  Hazel is associated in the poem with the shagbark hickory.  Both the shagbark and the hazel trees were once used for “switches” - corporal punishment. Poor Hazel does not suffer corporally, but psychologically. Jung saw the symbol of the tree as a representation of the individuating (i.e. growing) self.


We see that Hazel is a complex image. Shade’s daughter was large, homely, brilliant, artistic, mystical, introverted, unpleasant, and rejected, even by her adoring parents.  She is a dead-ringer for her Dad. She is a negative anima for Shade. As an image of his soul, she is everything that Shade feels hurt and rejected in him, the too smart, too talented, too introverted lonely child that does not fit in. She is thus also a shadow figure, and an orphan as well. As a child archetype she indicates the undifferentiated, developing self. As is a hazel tree, also, she symbolizes the individuating self archetype.  In other words, evincing all these archetypes, she is practically Shade, himself; a shade of Shade. She plays out his own existential drama.