-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Hazel
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 2010 23:20:03 -0400
From: Matthew Roth <mroth@messiah.edu>

Jim Twiggs has once again raised a thorny question regarding Shade's personality and relative goodness. I would like to suggest a thought experiment. We are often told that in order to understand Lolita, we have to look at the novel through the eyes of Dolores Haze (insomuch as that is possible). We have to fight through Humbert's filter in order to find the real girl. But what would happen to Pale Fire if we were to see it through Hazel's eyes? Would we discover that she has been hidden from our view by her father's art? Would we find that a much more interesting, complex woman has been replaced by an ugly, difficult, morose caricature, whose death is passed off as a pitiful mixture of mental illness and dashed amatory prospects? Or do we accept Shade's picture of Hazel as basically correct and leave it at that?

If Hazel were the novel's protagonist, I think it is safe to say that her suicide would need to be motivated by something more than what we're given. We need only look at the literature of female suicide to see that women don't kill themselves without tragic purpose. That's not true in life, but it's true in books. I believe VN has given us enough subtle information to begin to put together a picture of Hazel that does not always match the picture painted by Shade. Shade is a pitiful figure in his own right. He is not up to the task of being a parent, but he has had no role model in that regard, other than his bizarre Aunt Maud--whose example may have provided Shade with a disturbing version of the parent-child bond.

It would be good to examine the poltergeist scene more closely, especially in tandem with the variant that begins Kinbote's next note--which clearly reflects the narrative in the poltergeist note. I don't believe that there were real poltergeists afoot, but I'm also not convinced that there were, even by fakery, any zooming doggie baskets or flying plates. That's what Shade told Jane Provost, but perhaps Shade's embarrassment concerning something else caused him to concoct this story. Anyway, plenty to chew on.

Matt Roth

P.S. Alexey will appreciate the fact that anagrammized Maud Shade = Duma Hades. Duma (or Dumah) means "dumbness" or "silence" in Aramaic (think of Maud after her stroke). He is a popular Yiddish folklore figure, often characterized as the Angel of Death. In the Babylonian story of the Descent of Ishtar into Hades, Duma is the guardian of the 14th gate.

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