Spring in Fialta
by Vladimir Nabokov
At first, the Englishman doesn’t really seem worth talking about. In fact, if you’ve only breezed through "Spring in Fialta," you might not even remember who this guy is. But there are some bizarre details (like the Englishman trapping a moth in a pill-box – what gives?) that warrant special attention.
OK, so let’s start with thinking about WHEN we see the Englishman. He actually has an important first moment: he’s the one who draws Victor’s attention to Nina. It seems as though he’s giving Nina the old up-down with his eye – blue, but bloodshot, which in a story filled with REDS and BLUES is not accidental. Notice that the Englishman is downing a crimson red drink later in the story? Exactly. His character adds a lot to the color imagery in "Spring in Fialta," and you can read more about that in Symbols, Imagery, and Allegory.
For now, think about that bloodshot stare the Englishman fixes on Nina. Because the second time we see him, he’s delivering the same lusty look – to a moth in the corner of the window, which he promptly slips into a pill-box. Weird. It’s likely that this is Nabokov playing around and being clever, which, let’s face it, he does quite frequently. It’s a well-known fact that Nabokov was an avid lepidopterist – he used to study, collect, and generally obsess over butterflies. You’ll find this sort of sneaky reference to butterflies in many of his works. As far as what the point is, well, feel free to speculate. Some scholars think the Englishman’s predilection for winged creatures is a sure sign that he is Nabokov in disguise. If you’ve been reading our other character analyses, you’ll realize this means Nabokov is 1) the Englishman, 2) Victor, and 3) Ferdinand. We’re just waiting for someone to argue that he’s Nina. And just think – it could be you.