boarding school. Pnin, the unreformedndreamer, faces her in his characteristicallynintense way only to find that shenwants money and is still writing badnpoetry (“mostly in halting anapest”). Butnshe also tells him that Victor’s father,nwho has left her for South America,nconsiders Pnin the “water father” of thenboy. A victim of one oppressively submissivendevotion, Pnin is on his way to fallninto another emotional trap. His encounternwith Victor indicates no specialngrace, no exception from his norm ofnawkward speech, uncomfortable conversations,nand general absent-mindedness.nThe youngster has long since adopted ancondescending attitude towards his parentsnand was distinctly unsuited to thensoccer ball and Zane Grey novel whichnPnin had provided as gifts. But an unexpected,nunspoken harmony of theirnspirits results, a retreat for all sorrows tonj housewarming party is given atnPnin’s new house. The most celebratednarrival is not that of a guest, but of a gift:n”It has come enclosed in a box withinnanother box inside a third one, and wrappednup in an extravagant mass of excelsiornand paper that had spread all over thenkitchen like a carnival storm. The bowlnthat emerged was one of those gifts whosenfirst impact produced in the recipient’snmind a colored image, a blazened blur,nreflecting with such emblematic forcenthe sweet nature of the donor that thentangible attributes of the thing are dissolved,nas it were, in this pure inner blaze,nbut suddenly and forever leap into brilliantnbeing when praised by an outsidernto whom the true glory of the object isnunknown.”nAnd the bowl steals the show. Indeed,nthe affair is otherwise a total failure: theninane academic arguments combine withnthe steadily increasing level of intoxication.nSince few of them like Pnin anyway,nand know him as little as they like him,nit seems they have little to do after bestowingnsuperlatives upon the beauty of thenpunch bowl but drink, get tired, argue,nand leave, all while Pnin congratulatesnhimself on his resounding success. Inn141nChronicles of Culturenfact, it is his only friend, Dr. Hagen,nsober enough to overhear that Pnin plansnto buy the house, who must break thennews to Pnin about his moving on tonanother college. Thus, Pnin will havenno more supporters with which to securenyet another year of untenured service atnWaindell, and call a house a home, thenfirst he would have owned in his life.nPoor Pnin: he thought that he wouldnfind a home at Waindell, and that, perhaps,n”not next year, but example given,nat hundredth anniversary of Liberationnof Serfs—Waindell will make me Associate.”nHe does not understand suchnbasics of the academic reality that if henspeaks French fluently, this disqualifiesnhim from the ranks of potential Frenchnteachers. But he cleans up after the party,nalmost breaks his symbolic punch bowl,nrescues it nevertheless from wreckage,nand soon thereafter, aching with bruisednsensitivities, goes ahead with sad preparationsnfor leaving Waindell.nThe reader cannot help but wonder:nWhy is Pnin so steadfast in his ways? Innall the superficial aspects he has tried tonbe an all-American: he indulges in sunlamps,nhis false teeth are a “mouthful ofnAmerica,” and he learns to drive. But forna long time after learning to maneuvernthe car, “Pnin had been totally unable toncombine perceptually the car he wasndriving in his mind and the car he wasndriving on the road.” This might be saidnof his life as well. The real Liza mightnnot be worthy of such lifelong devotion,nmanipulative, mean creature that she is.nPnin could easily rationalize himself intonmodernity by courting the convenientlynavailable graduate student, Betty Bliss,nand divesting himself of his debasingnfondness for Liza. His reasons he keepsnto himself (he steadfastly opposes thenwhole notion of psychiatry, to which Lizanand Wind have dedicated their careers:n”It is nothing but a kind of microcosm ofncommunism . . . why not leave theirnprivate sorrows to people? Is sorrow not,none asks, the only thing in the worldnpeople really possess?”). He prefers toncarry his burdens with him, like the crossnwhich he has worn around his neck sincenchildhood. “Perhaps I would not mindnlosing it,” he explains to his closest friend.n”As you know, I wear it merely fromnsentimental reasons. And the sentimentnis becoming burdensome. After all, therenis too much of the physical about thisnattempt to keep a particle of one’s childhoodnin contact with one’s breastbone.”nBut these burdens Pnin chooses tonbear, and Nabokov does not insist thatnthey be shed. In fact, he seems to be fullnof great respect for the privacy of Pnin,nand for his loyalty to the devotions whichnbind him, however foolishly, to imagesnof the past. Pnin is allowed to suffer thentension between human frailty and thenreality of unrequited love, and to respondnto it according to the slavic instincts ofnsubmission as conquest. He never becomesnthe pawn of a diatribe on thenpolitics of Russians in exile, or the paltrynpolitics of campuses in the repressivenMcCarthy era. The reality we see emergesnin a much richer tone, envelopingnPnin with the many dimensions of thendemands of existence without opting forna simple, unidimensional resolution ofnhis “problem.” He is not a tragic figure;nif that term can be applied to anyone atnall, it is Liza who must be regarded asnthe shallow, demeaned, and worn victimnof her modern hubris. Pnin fights tonpreserve the precarious balance betweennthe existential darkness and the irridescentnbowl which carries the sum of hisnloves, as it lies stuffed with all his othernbelongings in the back of Pnin’s car—innwhich we see him for the last time, withnhis cross around his neck and his carnsandwiched between two beer trucks onnthe road out of town. DnIf you are not yet a member or supporter of the Rockford College Institute, and would likento become one:n. The Rockford College InstitutenIf you would like to learn more about it; Rockford Collegenplea,se contact: Rockford, Illinois 61101n^ Telephone: 815/226-4016nnn