JM:Charles Kinbote’s mockery of Erich Fromm’s interpretation of the child’s red cap, always bothered and amused me at the same time I think the author returned to his critical mood about the red-capped child making a convolute allusion to it (should it be in fact an allusion, not something new): “On her twelfth birthday, July 21, 1884, the child had stopped biting her fingernails (but not her toenails) in a grand act of will (as her quitting cigarettes was to be, twenty years later). True, one could list some compensations — such as a blessed lapse into delicious sin at Christmas, when Culex chateaubriandi Brown does not fly. A new and conclusive resolution was taken on New Year’s Eve after Mlle Larivière had threatened to smear poor Ada’s fingertips with French mustard and tie green, yellow, orange, red, pink riding hoods of wool around them (the yellow index was a trouvaille).   Ada or Ardor, I, ch.17.


JM: How are we to understand twelve year-old Ada’s “lapse into delicious sin” at a time when there are no mosquitoes bites to scratch: does the narrator simply mean “the sin” of “biting fingernails”?   Brian Boyd’s note on “French mustard” was no great help to me [106.02: French mustard: Chauvinist Mlle Larivière would naturally consider no other kind.] Can anyone explain what he means ?

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