Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates


2022, Vol. 8. № 4 (32)


For citation: Drozdova A. O. 2022. “Mandrake in the Paradise Garden: plant images in V. Nabokov’s story ‘The Enchanter’”. Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates, vol. 8, no. 4 (32), pp. 60-76. DOI: 10.21684/2411-197X-2022-8-4-60-76

About the author:

Anastasiia O. Drozdova, Cand. Sci. (Philol.), Assistant, Department of Russian and Foreign Literature, University of Tyumen;; ORCID: 0000-0001-5728-142X


The paper is concerned with the plant images in V. Nabokov’s short story “The Enchanter”. We distinguish how plant imagery shapes the plot and the artistic world and characterizes the characters’ perception in the story. Our study aims to demonstrate the connection between the concepts of the natural, artificial, and unnatural in Nabokov’s aesthetic. The plant images are associated with all the three concepts: they 1) underscore the innocence of the child who becomes the victim of the maniac character; 2) refer to the others’ artistic worlds; 3) depict the corrupt fantasy of the main character. Structural-semiotic analysis allows us to determine four groups of plant images: 1) euphemistic; 2) spatial; 3) portrait; 4) images of the fantasy plants. Plant images are verbalized from the standpoint of both the main character and the third person omniscient, while poetical metaphors are combined with the Freudian clichés. The plant imagery emphasizes the parasitic nature of the main character’s fantasy and highlights the unsuccess of his language strategy to hide the banality by using the poetical commonplaces. In this paper, we compare the image of the girl-plant with the monstrous flower from H. Ewers’ novel Alraune and I. Bunin’s poem “Mandrake”. Plant images enable V. Nabokov to contrast the language and perceptual sensitiveness with the utilitarian attitude to the beauty, assessed by the writer as unnatural. Nature and creativity have the common patterns: Nabokov emphasizes that the maniac character, aestheticizing his crime, betrays himself by his disregard for the language rules.


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