WIP: "Art, Alchemy and Failed Transcendence: Jungian Influences in Nabokov's Pale Fire"
“She lived to hear the next babe cry. Her room
We’ve kept intact.” (PF Lines 90-91)
Kinbote seems to think the room refers to Aunt Maud, but he is not always to be believed, and in fact, his commentary is often obtuse. Maud’s scrapbook is not mentioned in the poem, and his specious ramble on Life and pudibuntry is a red herring, except to demonstrate HIS main focus on life.
I believe “her room” refers to Hazel, not Aunt Maud. Why would the Shade’s keep Aunt Maud’s room a shrine? I think that Aunt Maud is basically unnecessary to the plot, other than to suggest Jung through the Jungian Maud Bodkin, and to assert that John Shade grew up an orphan, and to have a ghost in the house, but a shrine to her? She lived a nice long life. Sybil wasted no time disposing of Maud’s little dog– so much for sentimentality. Hazel is the one grieved over.
The Luna caterpillar feeds on the hickory and the hickory, we’ve seen, relates to Hazel. “Luna” and “Moon” are feminine, anima and alchemical symbols. Hazel was a student, so a dictionary on her desk makes more sense as hers, than Maud’s. As a student of poetry, she is reading T.S. Eliot (“that fake”, Nabokov). The words she seeks definitions of all relate to her fate: Her occult interests and proclivities are “chthonic” and her death will take her to the “sempiternal” realms as she slips into a “grimpen” mire. Grim pen; Shade could be punning on his writing instrument. The word was apparently coined by Arthur Conan Doyle, a sort of bog, the “Grimpen mire.” This gives a connection to the theme of a puzzle to be solved. Eliot uses it thusly:
“On the edge of a grimpen, where is no secure foothold,
And menaced by monsters, fancy lights, Risking enchantment”
This would seem to foreshadow the ghost light in the barn and Hazel slipping into the lake. Sempiternal: means eternal, everlasting. Chthonic: means of the earth. Chthonic imagery is associated with the unconscious, so Hazel, as an unconscious anima figure for John Shade is also chthonic. Hazel’s story is thus revealed in these lines.
There is a glass paperweight of a lagoon - a premonition of Hazel’s fate, as she meets her end in a lake. There is a contrapuntal image here between this paperweight with a lake and Shade’s with the mountain. Water is symbolic of “soul”, and the mountain, “spirit”. It would not suit the elegance of themes for it to belong to Maude; Hazel is Shade’s “negative anima”. Note that Hazel is described as a “blurry” shape as she slips into the lake. Jung, remember, describes the anima as “blurry” and “indistinct”.
We see that the Shade’s daughter was large, homely, brilliant, artistic, introverted, unpleasant, and rejected, even by her adoring parents. She is a chip off her old man’s block. She is a complex image. She is a negative anima for Shade. Hazel is a mirror image of that other Nabokov dream girl, Lolita. As an image of his soul, she is everything that Shade feels hurt and rejected in him, the too smart, too talented, too introverted lonely child that does not fit in. She is thus a Shadow figure, as well. According to Jung, the image of a child indicates the undifferentiated self. Also, “hazel” is a tree, so she symbolizes the individuating “Self” archetype. In other words, evincing all these archetypes, she is practically Shade, himself; a shade of Shade. She plays out his own existential drama. John Shade has done all right in his adult life – his marriage, his career, his art and accolades – yet in his soul he is like Hazel, rejected lame and fat,
As anima, Hazel is the mirror image of Disa. She is the anti-nymphet. Lines 350-355 describing Hazel contain both the words “pain” and “moan”. Both women evince the negative anima, the deepest part of the soul that yearns for freedom, and the reason why John Shade is in such existential pain.
Kinbote says, “Hazel Shade resembled me in certain respects.” How? Kinbote is a man dominated by his anima. He is homosexual. Hazel, like other virgins alluded to (i.e. Atalanta and Vanessa) is “animus” dominated. She is likely a lesbian as well, as I believe her only friend, the “nice frail roommate, now a nun” suggests.
Nabokov has reversed the “Ugly Duckling” story. My list of Jungian symbols (Stevens, Anthony, 1998. Ariadne’s Clue: A Guide to the Symbols of Humankind. Cirlot, J.E., 1971. A Dictionary of Symbols) shows that “ducks” indicate marriage. Poor Hazel, the ugly cygnet, will never be married.
The hazel tree is symbolic of hidden wisdom, dousing and divination, and Hazel we see becomes quite adept at contacting the spirit world. According to http://www.ancient-wisdom.com/
“The Tree of Immortal Wisdom has applications in magick done for manifestation, spirit contact, protection, prosperity, divination-dowsing, dreams, wisdom-knowledge, marriage, fertility, intelligence, inspiration.”
Thanks to Hazel’s spirit connections, the Shade residence had its own “domestic ghost”. This plays on Shade’s line 230 where “domestic ghost” is the absurdity of an afterlife having any resemblance to our homely earthen life.
The poltergeist activity lands Shade’s dictionary in the yard, open at “M” iterating the book in the “sanctuary”. It is no doubt open at “Moon” also. There’s a lot of explosive feminine energy going on, whether through Maud’s ghost or Hazel’s projections.
Kinbote quotes Jane P: poltergeist activity is “an outward extension or expulsion of insanity”. This could just as well be a quote from Carl Jung, himself.
“Spirits, therefore, viewed from the psychological angle, are unconscious autonomous complexes which appear as projections because they have no direct association with the ego.” (Jung, The structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, Vol.8 Collected works, P. 309)
Jung had direct experience of poltergeist activity in his own home (probably associated with his young sister), with strange knockings and destructions. He became very interested and began attending séances of a mediumistic cousin. His doctoral dissertation, in fact, was published as 'On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena' (1902). He continued to research the occult for the rest of his life, for
“…purely psychological interest… Everything that may be considered a scientifically established fact belongs to the domain of the mental and cerebral processes and is fully explicable in terms of the laws already known to science”
(Jung 1905: 301--2).
Jung even gave a lecture at the IPH’s model, the Society for Psychical Research, in 1919, on “The Psychological Foundations of Belief in Spirits” (1920/1948) In this lecture he explained that experiences of one's own soul in terms of complexes of the personal unconscious, while seemingly autonomous spirits, were explained in terms of complexes of the collective unconscious, that is, archetypes (Jung 1920/1948: 309--12).
Nabokov, through Kinbote (through Shade), dismisses this notion as “voo-doo psychiatry”, the nearest I’ve come to a negative quote regarding Jung, but a fairly clear indication that Nabokov was familiar with his work, although it’s scarcely an endorsement. Jung, in his later years redacted some of his statements, more in favor of the spiritual over the scientific. He maintained a scientific attitude of “not knowing” as he delved deeper into his own psyche, towards a gnostic sort of “knowing”.
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