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Pale Fire | Section Summaries

See Section Summaries Chart

Timeline of Events

Section Summaries Chart

Section Summary
Foreword Charles Kinbote introduces the poem "Pale Fire." He is writing the foreword in October 1959, in the fictional town of "C... Read More
Canto 1 The author of the poem is John Shade, an American poet and literature professor at Wordsmith College. The poet recalls h... Read More
Canto 2 On the occasion of his 61st birthday Shade ponders death and the afterlife. He speaks about the deaths of two people clo... Read More
Canto 3 Shade recalls being employed to lecture on death for one semester at the "I.P.H., a lay [non-priestly]/ Institute (I) of... Read More
Canto 4 Shade announces his ambitions for his poetry, or for this poem. He will "spy on beauty as none has/Spied on it yet." He ... Read More
Lines 1–61 Kinbote begins the remaining poetic commentary by explaining the line about the "waxwing slain," but he soon turns the t... Read More
Lines 62–121 Commenting on the word "often," Kinbote reveals how lonely and "distressed" he was, living in New Wye in the spring of 1... Read More
Lines 130–149 Kinbote comments on a line about Shade's lack of athletic ability. Soon Kinbote is telling the gripping story of King Ch... Read More
Lines 162–238 Apart from a few remarks on the poem, Kinbote continues with his story of King Charles. For a year after the escape, Cha... Read More
Lines 240–404 Kinbote speculates on the identity of a poet referred to, but not named, in Shade's poem. Then he speaks of the "sunset ... Read More
Lines 408–502 On "the day John Shade wrote" Line 408, Gradus was "driving ... from Geneva to Lex [a fictional European town]." Gradus ... Read More
Lines 502–680 Kinbote explains Shade's "execrable pun" on "the grand potato." On his deathbed, 16th-century French writer Rabelais is ... Read More
Lines 681–920 Kinbote uses the coincidence of Shade's poem mentioning "gloomy Russians" to discuss two of the Russian Shadows, Andronn... Read More
Lines 922–1000 Kinbote and Shade share a dislike of 19th-century Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, whose ideas are very popular in ... Read More
Index In imitation of a scholarly work, Nabokov has Kinbote write index entries for the people, places, and literary works men... Read More
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