A Typology of Homogeneity: Nabokov's Endings

Stephen Blackwell, University of Tennessee

The endings of Nabokov's novels bear striking similarities throughout his career. In varying degrees and combinations, they all include several of the following thematic and structural elements: departure, escape, death; return to the beginning (circle), return to and revise the beginning (spiral), new beginning, termination. The endings further subdivide into those which imply an open-ended narrative and those which imply a closed narrative. Certain endings, such as those of The Gift and Pale Fire, serve as ironic variations or structural hyperextensions of these basic forms. Without doubt, this narrative consistency reflects Nabokov's fascination with the paradox of infinite experience within finite existence. Starting from the perhaps surprising homogeneity in the general structure of Nabokovian conclusions, this study explores the linkages between narrative detail and closure in several novels with the goal of creating a more nuanced typology of novelistic ends. This approach bears directly upon the ways such vital topics as ethics, free will, and metaphysics can be discussed Nabokov's oeuvre. Particular attention is paid to The Defense, Glory, The Gift, and Pale Fire, with references to several other novels and stories.