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Michael Marcus <[log in to unmask]>
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Vladimir Nabokov Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 28 Jun 2018 12:55:43 -0700
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There appears to be a consensus here that the "Great Beaver" is a person and not an object. I fail to understand why.

The one person who cannot be the GB is Kinbote. One knows that he's a egomaniac, just the kind of person who, on accidentally overhearing what he takes to be an unflattering nickname, will automatically assume the speaker means him. Like Malviolio and the letter in As You Like It, he manipulates the fragmentary 'evidence' to prove his point -- which by the inexorable law of literature is erroneous.  

Why on earth anyone should choose to call Sybil Shade a Great Beaver, or indeed any nickname, salacious or otherwise, defies common sense. She has no direct connection with the college.

In Elizabethan times tall (Great?) hats lined with beaver fur were popular amongst the aristocracy. You can see an example in a famous miniature by Nicholas Hilliard pictured in a Christie's auction catalogue One of its previous owners, the Canadian literary scholar Leslie Hotson, believed that the man portrayed was Shakespeare.

Of course why John Shade might want to take a hat home with him is an even more vexed question. Perhaps he knew the words of that old commercial: If you want to get ahead, get a hat.

What I also want to know is why Kinbote called Gerald Emerald by his name "mercifully". And why the emphasis on greenness (emerald, green jacket)? 

-- MM.

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