Women in Nabokov’s Russian novels

Nailya Garipova Castellano

Abstract

This article examines the presence of female characters in the Nabokov’s novels of the Russian period (1925-1939). There is a pattern in the use of female characters that illuminates the novels studied. It clarifies our understanding of Nabokov’s literary techniques and contributes to the comprehension of two major themes seen in all his works: the passionate yearning for his beloved Russia and the satiric perception of an imperfect world. Thus, two categories of Nabokov’s women can be distinguished: the bearers of the Russian culture and the unfaithful vamps. The so called bearers of the Russian culture, presented and described in a positive way, function as guiding stars for their lovers: they help them to survive in the hostile surroundings of their exile. These characters represent the nature of the Russian womanhood; they are kind, tender, pure and supportive, and at the same time they are strong and powerful. Their descriptions allude to the heroines of the Russian literature and they share the author’s passion for the Russian literature and culture. The so called unfaithful vamps represent the world of the poshlost’, vulgarity and deceit. These female characters have common characteristics that make them unpleasant: they are ignorant in the world of art and literature, and they are greedy owners representing passion and lust. After this classification of Nabokov’s women we see that his two main modes of presenting female characters reflect his two major themes: they function as the personification of the lost paradise of the past Russia and as an embodiment of human fallibility and weakness.

Keywords

Nabokov; Female characters; Novels; Russian culture



DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.2014.27.04