Pale Fire Test | Mid-Book Test - Hard

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This test consists of 5 short answer questions, 10 short essay questions, and 1 (of 3) essay topics.

Short Answer Questions

1. "Forty ounces of fine sand" describes what in Canto One?

2. What typically goes on at the I.P.H.?

3. Once King Charles is outside his room he must escape from what part of the castle?

4. On what day did John Shade begin composing his poem "Pale Fire?"

5. Canto Four contains a metaphor comparing this activity to John Shade's writing process?

Short Essay Questions

1. What clues do you see that Charles Kinbote may not be what he seems?

2. How does Charles Kinbote portray himself in the foreword?

3. List a few possible motivations for Shade's desire to learn more about the after-life.

4. What is significant about the bird in Canto One?

5. What events lead to the death of John Shade's daughter?

6. How is Kinbote's birthday gift for Shade representative of Kinbote's commentary of the poem?

7. Describe John Shade's writing process.

8. Give some examples of translation as a theme in Canto One.

9. How does John Shade describe himself as a youth in Canto One?

10. What are two major criticisms John Shade has of his students? How is this ironic?

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

Compare the way Charles Kinbote portrays himself vs. the way he is viewed by others. Based on his actions, how would you describe the "real" Charles Kinbote? Based on your description of Kinbote, and the difference in the way he is perceived by others compared to his view of himself, write an essay commenting on Nabokov's choice to have a person like this narrate the story instead of writing the novel with a third-person omniscient narrator describing Kinbote, his treatment of "Pale Fire" and his relationships with the other characters in the novel.

Essay Topic 2

Using specific examples from the novel, compile the verses of poetry that were omitted from the poem "Pale Fire."

Why do you think Nabokov chooses to include these verses in the novel, but not the poem?

Essay Topic 3

Throughout the novel, the game of chess reappears in various scenes, and is played by a variety of characters.

Cite specific examples Nabokov uses of the game of chess throughout the novel.

Why do you think Nabokov chooses to incorporate the game of chess into the novel the way he does?

(see the answer keys)

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