Pale Fire

by

Vladimir Nabokov

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Kinbote’s gardener in New Wye is a former male nurse who was looking to get into horticulture when Charles offered to give him a job and support him financially. Kinbote implies that he is sexually interested in the gardener and that he took the young man in to alleviate his own desperate loneliness. After having something of a premonition, the gardener appears conspicuously in the moment before Shade’s death. This echoes a moment from Shade’s childhood, in which he had a seizure (his first experience of death) while playing with a tin toy of a gardener pushing a wheelbarrow; in both cases, a gardener with a wheelbarrow appeared immediately before an experience of death. These kinds of resonances are proof to Shade of the universe being orderly and designed. After Shade’s death, the gardener falsely tells Sybil that Charles jumped in front of the bullet trying to save John’s life, and she is so impressed with Charles’s heroism that she agrees to give Charles the legal rights to “Pale Fire.”
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The Gardener Character Timeline in Pale Fire

The timeline below shows where the character The Gardener appears in Pale Fire. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Pale Fire: Canto Four
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
...hears a neighbor playing horseshoes. A Vanessa butterfly sweeps over the lawn, and “some neighbor’s gardener” walks by with a wheelbarrow. (full context)
Commentary: Lines 1-48
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
Kinbote had previously only known about northern European birds, but his gardener in New Wye—a young man “in whom [he] was interested”—taught him to identify local birds.... (full context)
Commentary: Lines 49-98
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
...can’t spell. That spring, Kinbote’s fears disappeared after he took in a young boarder, his gardener. (full context)
Commentary: Lines 149-214
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
...wrapped and placed in the hall. He quickly showered and got a massage from his gardener, who told him that the Shades were having a party. Sure that he’d simply missed... (full context)
Commentary: Lines 469-629
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
...racism. From the standpoint of verbal precision, Shade preferred “Negro” to “colored,” but Kinbote’s Black gardener thought that “colored” was more respectful. Kinbote asked about Shade’s “artistic” objection to the word... (full context)
Commentary: Lines 873-1000
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
Line 998: Some neighbor’s gardener. It’s weird that Shade is vague about this, since he often saw Kinbote’s gardener. Kinbote... (full context)
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
...Kinbote and missing—one of those bullets happened to hit Shade in the heart. Then, the gardener hit “gunman Jack” on the head with his spade. (full context)
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
...calling the police. Outside, Shade’s open eyes pointed at the “sunny evening azure” while the gardener and Gradus smoked together, with Gradus totally ignoring Kinbote. When the police arrived, Gradus said... (full context)
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Still, Kinbote has had a “little revenge,” since his gardener skewed the story of Shade’s death a bit and told Sybil that Kinbote threw himself... (full context)