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What are some examples of literary devices used in Vladimir Nabokov's novel Pnin?I am...

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worcester | College Teacher | (Level 2) Honors

Posted April 20, 2008 at 5:30 AM via web

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What are some examples of literary devices used in Vladimir Nabokov's novel Pnin?

I am trying to find five AP literary terms and examples of them throughout the novel Pnin. However, I am experiencing difficulty in finding some really good examples!

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 21, 2011 at 12:53 PM (Answer #1)

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As a talented and high self-conscious literary stylist, Vladimir Nabokov might have been expected to use a variety of literary devices in his novel Pnin, which describes the various plights of the title character, an unfortunate academic. Part of the purpose of Nabokov’s novel was to satirize academe, as he does at the beginning of the second section of Chapter 6:

Two interesting characteristics distinguished Leonard Blorenge, Chair of French Literature and Language; he disliked Literature and he had no French. This did not prevent him from traveling tremendous distances to attend Modern Language conventions, at which he would flaunt his ineptitude as if it were some majestic whim, and parry with great thrusts of healthy lodge humor any attempt to inveigle him into the subtleties of parley-voo.

This passage displays a number of standard literary devices, including the following:

  • Irony (a discrepancy between appearance and reality), as in the opening sentence, which describes a professor of French literature and language who dislikes literature and can’t speak French.
  • Alliteration (the repetition of consonants), as in the words “traveling tremnendous.”
  • Assonance (the repetition of similar vowel sounds), as in the word “distinguished,” with its short “I” sounds.
  • Paradox (an apparent contradiction that is somehow true or appropriate), as in the phrase “majestic whim.”
  • Metaphor (an implied comparison), as in the phrase “parry with great thrusts,” which implicitly likens conversation to a sword-fight.
  • Colloquialism (common language inappropriate to formal speech or writing), such as the term “parley-voo.”
  • Farce (far-fetched and ridiculous characters and situations), as in the idea of a professor of French literature and language who not only knows nothing about either but who also attends conventions concerned with both.

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