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Signs and Symbols
Transcript of Signs and Symbols
Nabokov taught at Cornell University from 1948 to 1059, in which he used this experience for his novel Pnin, a comic account of a Russian professor at an American university. "Lolita", his masterpiece When he was in his mid-50s, Nabokov published Lolita. It tells the story of a middle-aged man and his passion for his 12-year-old stepdaughter. At that time the novel's subject matter shocked many people, but its literary style and humor were praised by critics. Lolita was an instant success, claimed his masterpiece. It catapulted him to fame and finally, enabled him to devote full-time to writing. He died at the age of 78, July 2, 1977.
Quoted from Nabokov's masterpiece, Lolita:
"I am trying to describe these things not to relive them in my present boundless misery, but to sort out the portion of hell and the portion of heaven in that strange, awful, maddening world – nymphet love." ~ Nabokov Other Works. Mashenka, 1926 (originally in Russian)
King, Queen, Knave, 1928
The Eye, 1930 (originally in Russian)
Laughter in the Dark, 1932
The Gift, 1937-1938
Invitation to a Beheading, 1938 (originally in Russian)
The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, 1941
Bend Sinister, 1947
Pale Fire, 1962 Vladimir Nabokov Later that night, the mother looks through an old photo album. Even as a baby, her son looked, she notices, “more surprised” than most babies. The photos provide overwhelming evidence of their humiliation and pain in exile: the many cities, the friends and relatives exterminated by the Germans, her son’s vicious classmates. Reviewing her son’s life she sees, in retrospect, his fear growing until he “hardened,” becoming “totally inaccessible to normal minds.”
After midnight, the father appears, unable to sleep. He cries that he is “dying” and insists that they bring the boy home; the mother agrees. At this point they are frightened by the ringing telephone, but it is the wrong number. They resolve to bring their son home the next day, and the phone rings again. The mother patiently explains to the caller that he is dialing the letter O instead of a zero. Having decided on a course of action, the father examines the basket of ten jelly jars that had been meant as a present for his son. Just as he reaches the fifth jar, the phone rings again, and the story ends. >The Mother and Father: Russian Jews who lived in Minsk (formerly a city in Russia and now the capital of Belarus). They migrated to Germany and then, during the rise of Adolf Hitler, to the United States. They have a son and live in a big city, probably New York.
>The Son: Mentally deranged twenty-year-old who was born when his mother was in middle age. He suffers from a rare form of paranoia in which he believes that natural and man-made objects are conspiring against him.
>Nurse: Staff member in a sanitarium where the son is under treatment.
>Telephone Caller: Woman who telephones the mother and father late at night and asks for a person named Charlie. Secondary Characters >Isaac: The father's brother, whom the mother and father refer to as "the Prince." Isaac, who also lives in the U.S., supports the mother and father.
>Mrs. Sol: Next-door neighbor of the mother and father. She wears a lot of makeup.
>Girl With Dark Hair: Bus passenger whom the mother and father observe. The girl is crying on the shoulder of a woman.
>Rebecca Borisovna: Minsk acquaintance of the mother and father.
>Rebecca's Daughter: Woman in Minsk who married a member of the Soloveichik family.
>Herman Brink: Person who identifies the mental illness of the son.
German Maid: Servant of the mother and father in Leipzig, Germany.
>Fiancé of the Maid
>Aunt Rosa: Mother's relative, who was killed by the Germans.
>Dr. Solov: The physician of the mother and father.
>Elsa: Acquaintance of the mother in the old country. Plot Analysis Much of the story’s power derives from the ambiguity of the ending. Is the final call another wrong number, or is it a call confirming what they fear most, that their son has succeeded in killing himself? Although the author leaves the story unresolved, he does provide clues that point to the latter interpretation.
Their son’s decline into madness and his wish to escape is at least consistent with a hostile universe, while his parents cling precariously to an existence that offers no reward for endurance--only more fear, debility, poverty, and eventual darkness. A Critical Examinations "...Eventually the couple committed their son to a sanitarium. Inside his mind, “invisible giants” were assaulting him, and the mother and father were powerless to help him. So it was that the parents suffered in one reality while their son suffered in another reality. In his reality, clouds, trees, coats, running water, and wallpaper were conspiring against him—just as the anti-Semites conspired against his parents in Europe and just as poverty and other woes conspired against them in America." Michael J. Cummings "Some critics argue that Nabokov, planting patterned, symbolically charged details, deliberately entraps the reader of "Signs and Symbols" into a sort of over-interpretation similar to the "referential mania" of the insane character, making us read the story as if everything in it were a cipher. Yet the idea of seeing a model for the reader's response in the boy's pan-semiotic approach to reality, however tempting, should be rejected from the very start for several simple reasons. First, "referential mania" is limited to natural phenomena (clouds, trees, sun flecks, pools, air, mountains) and random artifacts (glass surfaces, coats in store windows) but "excludes real people from the conspiracy," while the story deals with human beings in the urban setting and focuses upon cultural systems of communication and transportation: the underground train, the bus, the Russian-language newspaper, the photographs, the cards, the telephone, the labels on the jelly jars. The only exception is the image of "a tiny half-dead unfledged bird" helplessly twitching in a puddle "under a swaying and dripping tree"--a symbolic parallel to the sick boy's situation and his parents' perception of him." Alexander Dolinin ‘Clouds in the staring sky transmit to one another, by means of slow signs, incredibly detailed information regarding him. His inmost thoughts are discussed at nightfall in manual alphabet, by darkly gesticulating trees’
"There is a sense in which this is the second subject in the story, running parallel with the first, which is the harshness of the couple’s life as émigrés. They are poor, living on the support of a relative, and they are getting old. Behind them they have the flight of émigrés – ‘Minsk, the Revolution, Leipzig, Berlin’" Roy Johnson Class Activity 1. How is the tittle related to the story?
2.Is it really paranoid to feel that nature and the universe are the enemies of man? Thank you By
Juan Hurtado 3. Who do you think called
in the third time? 4.Do you think is the son's right to reclaim a fundamental jurisdiction on his existence by terminating his own life? Why?