Matthew Roth (Messiah College) and Tiffany DeRewal (Villanova University) offer a new reading of the novel in their study, "John Shade's Duplicate Selves: An Alternative Shadean Theory of Pale Fire." Brian Boyd and others have rightly noted the intricate web that connects Pale Fire's three main characters. While Boyd has chosen to account for these connections via the supernatural, this article posits instead that Kinbote and Gradus are secondary, semi-autonomous personalities of John Shade. Kinbote arrives on the scene via John Shade's "heart attack" and finally succeeds in becoming the primary personality at the moment of Shade's physical demise on July 21, 1959. This conclusion is merited not only by a close reading of Pale Fire itself, but by Nabokov's interest in the Double theme, as seen in Stevenson, Dostoevsky, and in his own novels, especially The Eye and Despair. Moreover, Nabokov's unpublished notes regarding Donald West's Psychical Research Today reveal his interest in dual personalities and, in particular, the famous case of Ansel Bourne, a possible model for John Shade.
John Shade's Duplicate Selves: An alternative Shadean theory of Pale Fire
Periodical or collection
Nabokov Online Journal