Themes

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 320

Memory and Reminiscence
Speak, Memory explores the way memory and reminiscence provide the author with the artistic power to defy time through his writing. He reconsiders and re-imagines episodes and sequences in his life, reflecting upon certain points in time from different points of time later in his life in a way that challenges the notion of linear chronological passages.

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Family and Family Life
Nabokov celebrates family life, particularly in the years when he lived with his parents in St. Petersburg province before World War I. Speak, Memory ends with another celebration of family life, when he is a husband and father.

Freedom and Escape
Throughout Speak, Memory, Nabokov indicates his preoccupation with freedom and escape in both positive and negative terms. Allowed to seek it by his father and encouraged by his mother, the young Nabokov finds freedom to explore, collect butterflies, and pursue romantic attachments. Later, out of necessity, he and his family must escape for their lives. Though they retain their freedom outside Russia, events force them to escape once again, to America. From there, they escape yet again, to Switzerland.

Passion
Nabokov reveals—and revels in—numerous often related passions for literature, butterflies, shiny and colorful objects, chess, tennis, females, and freedom. These are intense, recurrent interests in Nabokov, and all of them appear at varying length throughout his autobiography. These passions provide a certain continuity to his life, and the strong feelings they bestir help him remember vividly.

Social Order
There is a clear awareness of social order, particularly during the czarist era that disintegrated toward the end of World War I. Nabokov, benefiting from his place in it, sees a certain stability and value in social order, especially when this social order is contrasted to the upheaval following the overthrow of the czar. While he recognizes certain injustices to those less privileged than he was as a child, he prefers order to chaos and entropy.

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