Pale Fire

by

Vladimir Nabokov

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Hazel is John and Sybil’s daughter who died by suicide as a young adult, just a couple of years before the action of the novel. While Hazel is described as smart and curious, one characteristic haunts her throughout her life: she is quite ugly, having taken after her father rather than her mother. This leads her to be excluded in school and, later, it means that men aren’t romantically interested in her. In her loneliness, Hazel develops into something of an eccentric, particularly in her relationship to paranormal phenomena. After the death of her beloved Aunt Maud, it appears that Maud’s ghost is haunting the Shade home, although Hazel’s parents and her doctor believe that these disturbances are created by Hazel herself. Later, when rumors emerge that a nearby barn is haunted, Hazel doggedly investigates and claims to find a spirit there. When Shade’s secretary, Jane Provost, sets Hazel up on a blind date with Jane’s cousin Pete, the date goes horrifically; Pete is disgusted when he sees Hazel, and he invents an excuse to leave, which hurts Hazel so badly that she takes the bus to a nearby lake and drowns herself. The scholar Brian Boyd has argued persuasively that there is evidence in Pale Fire that Hazel’s consciousness survives death and influences both her father’s composition of “Pale Fire” and Kinbote’s invention of Zembla—see Boyd’s book Nabokov’s Pale Fire for more.

Hazel Shade Quotes in Pale Fire

The Pale Fire quotes below are all either spoken by Hazel Shade or refer to Hazel Shade. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Pale Fire published in 1962.
Commentary: Lines 230-348 Quotes

pada ata lane pad not ogo old wart alan ther tale feur far rant lant tal told

Related Characters: Hazel Shade, Aunt Maud
Related Symbols: Birds and Butterflies
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:
Commentary: Lines 469-629 Quotes

With this divine mist of utter dependence permeating one’s being, no wonder one is tempted, no wonder one weighs on one’s palm with a dreamy smile the compact firearm in its case of suede leather hardly bigger than a castlegate key or a boy’s seamed purse, no wonder one peers over the parapet into an inviting abyss.

I am choosing these images rather casually. There are purists who maintain that a gentleman should use a brace of pistols, one for each temple, or a bare botkin (note the correct spelling), and that ladies should either swallow a lethal dose or drown with clumsy Ophelia.

Related Characters: Narrator/Charles Kinbote (speaker), Hazel Shade, Professor V. Botkin
Page Number: 220
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Pale Fire LitChart as a printable PDF.
Pale Fire PDF

Hazel Shade Character Timeline in Pale Fire

The timeline below shows where the character Hazel Shade appears in Pale Fire. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Pale Fire: Canto One
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
...is bigger and thriving. White butterflies pass under the tree where the “phantom” of his daughter’s swing hangs. (full context)
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
...him—she made paintings that combined realism with the fantastically grotesque. Maud lived until after Shade’s daughter was born, and now Maud’s room is preserved. Her belongings are now a “still life... (full context)
Pale Fire: Canto Two
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
The Nature of Art Theme Icon
As Shade and his wife walked home on the day that their daughter died, they saw “Life is a message scribbled in the dark. -Anonymous” written on the... (full context)
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
Their daughter looked more like John Shade than Sybil, which broke their hearts. At first they tried... (full context)
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
The Nature of Art Theme Icon
Their daughter had odd fears and visions. Once, she spent three nights researching strange sounds and lights... (full context)
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
One night, Shade’s typist set Shade’s daughter up with her cousin, Pete. They went to a bar, but when Pete met Shade’s... (full context)
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
...was doing the dishes around midnight, a cop car arrived; some people think that their daughter died while trying to cross the lake, or that she got lost, but Shade and... (full context)
Pale Fire: Canto Three
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
When John and Sybil’s daughter was young, the family spent a term at the Institute of Preparation for the Hereafter... (full context)
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
...him what to ignore in his quest to learn the truth about death. When his daughter died, he understood that she would not come back as a ghost, and that the... (full context)
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
Eventually, after their daughter’s death, Shade and Sybil’s life resumed; they went to Italy, attended to the publication of... (full context)
Commentary: Lines 49-98
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
Lines 86-90: Aunt Maud. While line 90 of “Pale Fire” implies that Hazel Shade (John’s daughter) was a baby when Aunt Maud died, Hazel was actually a teenager.... (full context)
Commentary: Lines 230-348
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
The Nature of Art Theme Icon
...230: a domestic ghost. Jane Provost, who was John Shade’s secretary, told Kinbote more about Hazel than John did, as he didn’t want to talk about his dead child and Kinbote... (full context)
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
In 1950, when Hazel was sixteen, she appeared to begin moving objects with her mind. Aunt Maud had just... (full context)
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
...he’d passed down some variation on his own disorder. John and Sybil always believed that Hazel was somehow the source of these events, even though she never said so—they thought it... (full context)
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
...about her (lines 246-292) is, structurally speaking, intended as a transition to writing about his daughter. But Kinbote can attest that whenever Sybil’s footsteps were heard upstairs “above our heads,” things... (full context)
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
...refers to a shed near Shade’s house where “certain phenomena” happened a few months before Hazel died. The barn belonged to Paul Hentzner, a German farmer who captivated Shade with his... (full context)
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
From Jane (Shade’s former secretary), however, Kinbote learned that Hazel herself went to the barn to investigate the phenomena as the subject of a psychology... (full context)
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
During the night, Hazel grew frightened when the light seemed to charge at her. Terrified, she left the barn... (full context)
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
The Nature of Art Theme Icon
...course of three nights, and in this instance, the third night brought Sybil, John, and Hazel to the barn together. Nobody took notes on this, but Kinbote has constructed the following... (full context)
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
...and father joke occasionally (that sound was a stomach growling, not a ghost!) while the daughter reacts with irritation. Finally, the daughter explodes about how her parents ruin everything and then... (full context)
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
...who told Shade that, when reversed, “spider” is “redips” and “T.S. Eliot” is “toilest,” but Hazel does resemble Kinbote in many ways. (full context)
Commentary: Lines 367-434
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
The Nature of Art Theme Icon
...Head of our Department deemed.” That department head might be the one in place when Hazel was a student, but it’s also possible to take it as a reference to the... (full context)
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
...a promise to one of his fraternity brothers. Jane wrote the Shades a letter after Hazel died, but they never wrote back. Kinbote replied to Jane with some recently learned slang:... (full context)
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
The Nature of Art Theme Icon
...point in the poem, two events unfold simultaneously: the Shades watch TV at home while  Hazel leaves her blind date, rides the bus to the lake, and drowns. This narrative seems... (full context)
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
The Nature of Art Theme Icon
...March night…headlights from afar approached. In this moment, the television imagery is “delicately” converging with Hazel’s story. (full context)
Index
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
The Nature of Art Theme Icon
...Kinbote, each member of the Shade family, and V. Botkin, the Russian scholar at Wordsmith. Hazel Shade’s entry notes that she “preferred the beauty of death to the ugliness of life.”... (full context)