NABOKV-L post 0026794, Tue, 12 Jan 2016 08:36:46 -0600

Subject
Re: Charlotte's "maroon slacks, yellow silk blouse"
Date
Body
Much as I may be belaboring the point, while I agree with all the other
possibilities called for here, the lepidopterological resonances still
manifest primary for me, especially as they cover most other comments.

I do adhere to my conclusion that the sad butterfly Charlotte presents as
*is* the mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) and agree with what Joseph
Eisenberg has to say about its neat plotty twists, though, risking others
thinking me cruel, I find Charlotte's death to be a very funny, ironically
poignant (the mourning cloak is one of the longest living of butterflies),
and compassionate ordeal that is a piece of Nabokov mastery. By making her
the morning cloak she is and always will be, was and always already was,
Nabokov-author is pointing his ghostly finger even moreso to his reader to
look at the lap blanket—the mourning cloak, to follow that "tartan lap
robe" from nymphalis mother to nymphet daughter.



On Mon, Jan 11, 2016 at 12:30 PM, joseph Aisenberg <vanveen13@sbcglobal.net>
wrote:

> I don't remember what others said on this subject but I tend toward the
> outfit's having a preparatory structural purpose, like the dog which causes
> the car accident being noticed the day Humbert moves in, or parenthetical
> asides that give future events away before they happen (a bad accident is
> about to happen) or some such is one; he clues us in to the fact Lolita
> herself will never go back to Lawn St. once she goes off to Camp Q etc. I
> would guess that Nabokov's killing Charlotte so suddenly required two
> things: one, by having Charlotte wear the same outfit she wore as the first
> time, the reader is cued by the kind of neatness we often see on stage or
> in movies or in books subtly to sense that the scene is a kind of bookend;
> especially this kind of mechanical reproduced business is an element of
> farce and comedy, where characters are introduced with certain business and
> will end with a reprise of that same business, giving a sense lightness and
> continuity. Although Nabokov's killing of Charlotte is incredibly
> discordant and outrageous, I always thought, to say it a different way, the
> reprised first outfit helped ease us into the sudden plot turn through
> theatrical symmetry and by lightening the horror of the death so that the
> reader can move on without caring as much as they might if the death felt
> more "real"--isn't that really why Charlotte is insulted so much by Humbert?
>
>
> On Monday, January 11, 2016 6:22 AM, Didier Machu <
> didier.machu@UNIV-PAU.FR> wrote:
>
>
> My thanks to anyone on the list who answered my query regarding
> Charlotteʼs “maroon slacks, yellow silk blouse” in *Lolita*, and
> suggested clues. Belated thanks as I have been away from my computer for a
> while.
> I am personally convinced such details are meaningful and deliberate. And
> then, with Humbert, a layman in several domains familiar to him, Nabokov
> may have derived keen pleasure from suggesting to his readers through his
> narrator shades of meanings quite alien to the latter.
> Like Malynne Sternstein I had been thinking of Lepidoptera: what I had in
> mind was not the type species she suggests, though, but *Eurema lisa*, a
> sulphur with a yellow ground color and maroon margins. In *Pale Fire*,
> one reads about “that vortex of yellow and maroon butterflies that so
> pleased Chateaubriand on *his* arrival in America.” Dieter Zimmer
> conjectures they are Eurema butterflies [or *Phoebis sennae eubule*].
> Despite the help of Brian Boyd, Abdellah Bouazza and Chateaubriand
> scholars, the specific page referred to could not be found in
> Chateaubriandʼs writings (an earlier query of mine—admittedly, Kinbote is
> no reliable authority).
> But Christopher Columbus, another newcomer to America, saw such
> yellow-and-maroon swarms off Cuba on his first voyage (they must have been
> little yellows or cloudless giant sulphurs, *Phoebis sennae*). In the
> fall of 1946, in Wellesley, immigrant Nabokov witnessed the same
> phenomenon, redolent of his childhood. Darwin enjoyed it too from the
> Beagle off the coast of Northern Patagonia (“the main part [of those
> butterflies],” he writes, “belonged to a kind very similar to, but not
> identical with, the common English *Colias edusa*” but he refers them to
> the migrations of *Vanessa cardui*, the painted lady Nabokov alludes to
> several times in his fiction). Only *Eurema lisa*matches the
> yellow-maroon color scheme.
> It makes sense that Humbert should experience his own version of what met
> the eyes of quite different conquerors and travelers. Yet, I see no reason
> why individual Charlotte should be referred to a swarm (though she is “a
> type”). And I am at a loss to account for her wearing the same outfit on
> that last day of their shared life as on the first.
> Puzzled as ever,
> Didier Machu
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--
Malynne Sternstein
Associate Professor
Slavic and the College
University of Chicago

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