NABOKV-L post 0000572, Mon, 1 May 1995 19:29:44 -0700

Signs and Symbols Poll (fwd)
EDITOR'S NOTE: I think I may have failed to pass on Jake Pultorak's
cogents response to the Signs and SYmbols poll. Here it is with my
apologies to the sender. DBJ

---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date:
Thu, 06 Apr 95 09:46:35 From: jake pultorak <>
Subject: Signs and Symbols Poll

One of the earliest responses to this poll stated that the ending must
be ambiguous, since nearly every "sign" and "symbol" points to the
inevitable death and doom of the couple's mad and institutionalized

This is very significant, but I draw the opposite conclusion: the
third call is the hospital, and the son has succeeded. We know that
the son's illness, "referential mania", causes him to believe that
everything around him, every event taking place in his world, alludes
to his own existence. What better Nabokovian scheme than to have this
"madman" (referred to as early as _Nikolai Gogol_), be similar to
Cincinnatus (another striking example of Nabokov's economy) in that he
is sane, he is wrongly imprisoned, and his disease is simply that he
sees the world around him for exactly what it is! For of course, his
world is in fact one created by VN, one that does refer constantly to
his plight, and one that is even named "Signs and Symbols".

The bird and flight references do, I believe, give us the answer: the
son has flown, and escaped this world, perhaps for a better one
"outside". Cincinnatus again. But Gene Barabtarlo conclusively
solved _ITAB_ when he unscrambled the cryptogram in the brothers' song
to read "Death is nice, this is a secret"; I feel there is something
akin to this as yet uncovered by years of erosion, waiting to be
discovered and charted by literary paleontologists. For in responding
to the New Yorker's refusal to print "The Vane Sisters", did not VN
state that they had once before published a story of his "with an
inside", much like "The Vane Sisters"?

And it is interesting to note that the title of the short story
probably comes from the section of the same name found in the back of
any good dictionary.

-Jake Pultorak