Pale Fire


Vladimir Nabokov

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Professor V. Botkin Character Analysis

Professor Botkin is a Russian-born professor at Wordsmith College. While he is barely mentioned throughout the novel, the several references that Kinbote does make are conspicuous; taken together, they suggest that Kinbote is, in fact, Botkin. For example, apropos of nothing, Kinbote expresses his joy that Professor Botkin does not have to interact with the horrible head of the Russian department—but as a narcissist, Kinbote does not empathize with others enough to feel their joy, so his connection to Botkin must be more personal. Further evidence that Kinbote is merely a delusion of Botkin’s comes in the index: aside from the Shade family and Kinbote himself, Botkin is the only resident of New Wye who rates his own entry. This suggests his paramount importance to the novel—he is, in fact, its narrator.

Professor V. Botkin Quotes in Pale Fire

The Pale Fire quotes below are all either spoken by Professor V. Botkin or refer to Professor V. Botkin. 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 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:
Index Quotes

Botkin, V., American scholar of Russian descent, 894; kingbot, maggot of extinct fly that once bred in mammoths and is thought to have hastened their phylogenetic end, 247; bottekin-maker, 71; bot, plop, and boteliy, big-bellied (Russ.); botkin or bodkin, a, Danish stiletto.

Related Characters: Narrator/Charles Kinbote (speaker), Professor V. Botkin
Page Number: 306
Explanation and Analysis:
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Professor V. Botkin Character Timeline in Pale Fire

The timeline below shows where the character Professor V. Botkin appears in Pale Fire. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Commentary: Lines 149-214
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
The Nature of Art Theme Icon Russian intellectuals are humorless, while Russian writers could be so funny (luckily, Kinbote notes, Professor Botkin taught in a different department and wasn’t subjected to that professor’s whims). Shade also said... (full context)
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
The Nature of Art Theme Icon
...and places—but it also has entries for 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... (full context)