Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0003351, Sat, 5 Sep 1998 10:23:23 -0700

Re: Sentimentality; broken glass (fwd)
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 5 Sep 1998 09:23:54 -0700 (PDT)
From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>

The punch bowl is, of course, about Victor, but, as Tim Henderson and David
Rhoden pointed out, it's about more than just Victor. To me, it is also
about the "domesticity" that rootless Pnin craves at this point. He just
learned that his plans for buying a house and "settling down" could not be
realized because his contract with Waindell was not going to be renewed. A
broken punch bowl would be a further sign that the joys of domesticity
and personal -- rather than borrowed -- material possessions are not for
him. Yet here, by not being broken, it becomes a hopeful sign, further
reinforced at the end of the novel when Pnin's car is seen leaving
Waindell towards "where there was simply no saying what miracle might
happen." Pnin's much happier and much more "rooted" reappearance in _Pale
Fire_ bears out the optimism first signaled to us by the bowl which,
though fragile, refused to break. I am not suggesting any deep symbolism
here -- of the kind that Williams employs with his fragile Laura in
_The Glass Menagerie_ -- but I do think the fate of the bowl foretells
that the Wandering Pnin will eventually find a more permanent place
where he can store and use Victor's gift. So the bowl is about _both_ hope
and love, and the two are of course linked.

If I were writing a paper, I would be tempted at this point to add a
footnote: "For a much more heavy-handed use of the "bowl-hope-love"
motif, see _The Golden Bowl_ by Henry James." :)

Galya Diment