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116 having to do with the New England region: the events of the Puritan-Colonial-Revolutionary War period. Becker moves easily and authoritatively within the two worlds of allegory upon which he is speculating. With a background in theology, Becker speaks knowingly about Bunyan and Spenser and their allegorical ways; as an English professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, he addresses himself tellingly to Hawthorne’s unique allegorical orientation. The two worlds meet and coalesce most interestingly in Becker’s rather extensive analysis of The Scarlet Letter (prefaced, and quite appro­ priately, I think, with a pertinent explication of “The Custom-House” essay). It is in his handling of The Scarlet Letter that Becker is at his most ingenious and forceful; yet, because of the fundamental soundness of his thesis, he does not seem to be forcing the issues. Perhaps what makes Becker’s book so impressive is that he takes into account a number of varying and often opposing views and manages to reconcile them to his own thesis in an engagingly persuasive way, rather than dismissing them out-of-hand or seeing them as being of little value to anyone. Too, he occasionally speaks of the “weaknesses” of Hawthorne’s fiction, and then proves how they are not to be seen as flaws in Hawthorne’s craft as they are attempts by him to embody certain allegorical principles or qualities in his work. For example: we are aware that many critics decry the monodimensional nature of the major characters in The Scarlet Letter. Becker admits they are that way, but for this salient and consciously artistic reason: “The point to be stressed then about all of these main characters is that Hawthorne has not abstracted them and forced them into an allegory. They are created within a historical world whose pervasive allegorical interpretation simultaneously imposed and verified itself. That allegorical vision, blind and rigid though it was, had an effect on those who submitted to it and those who rejected it. It crippled them all, stunted their reality. To a historical vision such as Hawthorne’s they were bound to appear one-dimensional.” Becker’s thinking here is typical of his book as a whole. For a work that could easily have become pedantic or critically unsound, Hawthorne's Historical Allegory is literate, insightful, and of much value to those scholars who would know better the weight and achievement of Hawthorne’s use of allegory as a literary instrument. Gerald R. Griffin Rowe, William Woodin. Nabokov’s Deceptive World. New York: New York U. Press, 1971. 193 pp. Cloth: $8.00. Attention is first drawn to Nabokov’s Deceptive World by an arresting bookjacket which, as Nabokov has stated, “depicts a butterfly incongruously flying around a candle. Moths, not butterflies, are attracted to light, but the designer’s blunder neatly illustrates the quality of Mr. Rowe’s preposterous and nasty interpretations.” [Vladimer Nabokov, “Rowe’s Symbols,” New York Review of Books, 17 (Oct. 7, 1971), 8.) Mr. Rowe’s study suffers from a number of inadequacies in addition to that indicated by Nabokov. First, the book is not a continuous study of any aspect of 117 Nabokov, nor of any aspects so vaguely pasted together by their classification as parts of “Nabokov’s deceptive world.” Each chapter is composed of Professor Rowe’s research notes on one element of what might be called Nabokov’s rhetorical strategy. Some of these notes are fascinating but, as they stand, are bits of data which might be fed into a computer but which would still require a program. Nabokov is more condemnatory, saying, “The symbolism racket in schools attracts computerized minds but destroys plain intelligence as well as poetical sense. It bleaches the soul.” For example, Rowe’s first chapter deals with “negation” in the novels: “Essentially, the device first denies one idea or image and then attempts to affirm a similar one” (Rowe, p.'3). Rowe reveals Nabokov’s recurrent employment of this technique and includes in his discussion the “double-takes” for which Nabokov is noted, such as that recorded by V., the narrator of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, who recounts a long speech he made to Mme...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-5806
Print ISSN
0091-8083
Pages
pp. 116-118
Launched on MUSE
2015-05-05
Open Access
No
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