NABOKV-L post 0020187, Wed, 9 Jun 2010 14:32:59 -0400

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[THOUGHT] Hodge, the epigram in Pale Fire
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This reminds me of the ludicrous account he gave Mr. Langton, of the
despicable state of a young gentleman of good family. "Sir, when I
heard of him last, he was running about town shooting cats." And then
in a sort of kindly reverie, he bethought himself of his own favorite
cat, and said "But Hodge shan't be shot: no no, Hodge shall not be
shot."
JAMES BOSWELL, The Life of Samuel Johnson


The epigram, coming from another literary biography, might seem to
have some significance to the relationship between Shade and Kinbote.
Instead its relevance is to VN and Shade. The basis of the analogy is
that of control of another creature's fate. Mr. Langton holds the fate
of the city's cats under his finger, the way VN holds the fate of his
characters, in this case Shade. Presumably VN was amused or bothered
by criticism of how he treated his fictitious creatures. Johnson's
reassurance of the fate of his own cat, Hodge, is then to be applied
to Shade, i.e., Shade will not be shot. This should be taken as a clue
against a naive reading of the novel in which Shade is indeed shot.
Instead Shade loses his daughter; and then his sense of self when he
metamorphoses into Kinbote; and then as Kinbote, presumably, does
indeed take his own life by gunshot, after the novel is over.

ps. there is no intent to disparage anyone's particular reading in
using the term naive. I simply mean a reading that takes Shade,
Kinbote, New Wye, Zembla et al. as all, more or less, equally real
within the confines of the novel.



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