The Return of Chorb
by Vladimir Nabokov
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Eerie, Spectral, Morbid
To check out tone in "Chorb," just look at the language Nabokov uses to describe even the smallest of details. The newspaper boy utters a "hollow crepuscular cry" while "decrepit fiacres" stand in file. The seedy hotel displays "ragged lace" in its "bleary windows." This is basically a souped-up version of "it was a dark and stormy night…" Not only is the scenery shadowy and creepy (did you see the word "black" used eleven times? Because we did), but so are the almost supernatural occurrences. Look at the way the "naked bulb" swings its shadow across the hotel room, or the eerie sound of a moth hitting the lampshade. It’s almost as though this is a story about the spectral appearance of a dead woman or something. Oh…