Spring in Fialta
by Vladimir Nabokov
Analysis: What’s Up With the Ending?
There are so many pieces to talk about in the ending of "Spring in Fialta," it can seem a bit overwhelming. In fact, the first time we read this story, our reaction was something along the lines of… "Huh?" Fortunately for all, we read it about ten more times and things became a bit more clear. And don’t worry, we’ll try to avoid drooling all over this most beautiful of final paragraphs ever written. In fact, we won’t even mention its awe-inspiring language.
The weather is the first piece of the ending we’re going to tackle. As you might have noticed, the weather in Fialta is the discussion of the first sentence and last paragraph in the text. When we start the narrative, we hear that "Spring in Fialta is cloudy and dull. Everything is damp." Then, by the end, we see that "the white sky above Fialta had got saturated with sunshine." Now, we get a series of hints throughout the text, hints that the sky is getting brighter and brighter and that Victor isn’t noticing it. And you can read all about those hints in more detail in Symbols, Imagery, and Allegory, or even better, by reading your text.
But as far as the ending goes, we have to think about what’s up with the weather pulling a switcheroo. First, "Spring in Fialta" deals with transience. Everyone is coming and going, moments are fleeting, and train stations are the symbolic centers for action. By the end of the story, we realize that even Fialta itself (or "herself," as Victor would refer to the town) is in flux. Nothing is constant. Secondly, and more interestingly, is the idea of Victor suddenly realizing a truth that he’s missed all along – the sun has been bright for quite some time, but it’s not until this moment, at Nina’s departure, that he realizes. Of course, this Small Truth draws our attention to The Big Truth that Victor has been ignoring. And that is… open to interpretation. Maybe Victor "suddenly realizes" that his love for Nina is genuine. Maybe he concludes that he doesn’t love her after all. Or he has another premonition about her death, because the circus poster hints have correlated with the hints about the sunshine. Or the ending is about the reader suddenly realizing what all those circus posters were for.
The second thing we have to talk about with the ending is the circus. We’ve heard about this traveling circus at five distinct passages in the text, and now it finally arrives – to kill Nina. This is where the whole "fatalism" bit really kicks in. For all of "Spring in Fialta," the circus is coming. It’s coming. It’s coming. Reading "Spring in Fialta" with this ending in mind sheds an entirely new light on passages like Victor’s musings on "the variety of intricate routes one feverishly follows in order to keep that final appointment which the most confirmed dawdler knows to be unavoidable," or his vision of Nina pondering "over the plan of an eternal sleeping car." Final appointment? Eternal sleeping car? Like we said, the circus is coming.
Yes, of course, Nina dying is a HUGE part of the ending to "Spring in Fialta." But to grapple with that, you’re going to have to understand a bit more about her character. So read her character analysis and we’ll deal with it there.
That Narrative Time Disruption Thing
See? We TOLD you a lot went down in the ending of "Spring in Fialta." Did you notice that time gets a lot more screwy in this last passage? We suddenly and without any explanation jump from Victor waving good-bye to Nina to Victor standing on a train platform in Mlech. Either it’s poorly crafted and awkwardly executed, or Nabokov did this intentionally. (Hint: he did this intentionally.) We wanted to draw your attention to this narrative technique while we’ve got you thinking about the ending, but if funky time stuff interests you, check out Symbols, Imagery, and Allegory for a full discussion.
There’s More! Honestly!
Phew. We just threw a lot of stuff at you, but that’s certainly not all that’s to be said about this phenomenal last paragraph, or even about this last sentence. There are many more questions to attack: Why does Victor call Ferdinand and Segur "salamanders of fate, basilisks of good fortune"? What does it mean for them to live while Nina dies? In what way had she "imitated" them in real life? See – we left plenty on the plate for you.