There is just no way around it. Whether verbal, signed, or written, language is just how we communicate. So if, like Pnin, your skills are less than optimal, the world is going to look like a much more difficult place to exist.
In Pnin, the title character's difficulty with English not only makes it hard for him to communicate, but it almost makes it impossible for him to connect to the other characters. In this novel it's not just a way of transferring ideas, but the fundamental way in which people are able to relate with one another.
Unfortunately for poor Pnin, this means that he's not invited to the party of life in America, and is basically excluded from all social events. That just goes to show, words are pretty darn important.
Language is just a confusing tangle that does nothing but cause trouble and misunderstandings in Pnin.
Characters in Pnin are able to communicate with one another despite their linguistic difficulties.
Home is where the heart is. There's no place like home. If you happen to have some ruby slippers, you can even kick your heels together three times to get there.
We have all these phrases for home because it's so important to our lives. You might just be thinking about the house where your parents live, but in Pnin, the idea of home is taken to a whole different level. It's not just a house, or a place to put your stuff, but a place where you are accepted and where you are familiar with the customs and culture. While it might seem at first that Pnin's problem is that he just can't get a house, it goes much deeper than that. His problem is that he just can't get integrated into American culture. So no matter where he goes, he'll never be at home.
Home is not a physical location in Pnin.
It is impossible for the Russian émigrés in Pnin to find a place to call home.
What is there to say about love that hasn't been said by every rock, pop, and rap star there has ever been? You know the deal. It's mushy, squishy, and full of pink floating hearts. Or at least that's what they tell us. In Pnin, love is slightly less romantic and a bit more self-destructive and morbid. The two women that Pnin has loved bring him nothing but pain, so much so that he even has a strange heart condition. We are all for romance, but if we were Pnin's friends we'd say, "Romance? It's for the birds." Or in this case, maybe it's for the squirrels.
Love is only a source of pain for the characters in Pnin.
No character in Pnin is able to find a lasting love.
It's just a fact that things die. Most depictions of death are sad and sentimental. Those loved ones are lost forever. However, in Pnin, they're never too far from the present. Sure, Pnin has to have a seizure in order for them to keep him company, but it almost feels like his dead friends and family are more close to him than the people around him.
Death is everywhere in Pnin.
Death is something only in the past in Pnin.
People tend to see the past through rose-colored glasses. After all, everything was better when you were younger, right? Well, things are no different in Pnin. Pnin constantly looks back at his past as the best period in his life. At times, his focus on the past is so obsessive that it almost seems like the present doesn't even exist. Even though most of us would probably agree that it's nice to be nostalgic once in a while, in Pnin, some of the characters seem to live more in their rosy memories than in the present unfolding before them.
Memories and the past are more important than the present in Pnin.
Memories in the past are uncertain and changeable in Pnin.
What is othering? It's basically looking at someone and thinking that they are not like you and people in your group. Often, this ends up with feeling those people (the others) are somehow inferior, maybe even less than human. This kinda happens a lot to foreigners. So it's not surprising to see it happen in Pnin. However, in Pnin the othering is almost nonstop and seems to erase all of Pnin's value as a person. Basically, it turns him into a joke. While many people might find this funny, it's probably something that's pretty close to home for people like Pnin's author.
A character can be foreign but not get othered in Pnin.
All of the foreign characters in Pnin are othered by the American characters.
So who gets to determine what and who is American? Well, besides the American government, we mean. Do you need to know how to make the perfect apple pie? Or should you be able to recite all of the presidents backwards while hopping on 1 foot? In Pnin, America is a wild and unpredictable land. Immigrants like Pnin try to become a part of it and fail. There are so many different ideas of what America is in the novel, that we're not even sure what the word means to the characters. But we do know one thing: whatever it is, it's definitely not Pnin.
In Pnin, America is a dangerous, irrational, and unpredictable place.
In Pnin, America is a land of dreams where anyone can fit in.
Humans are social creatures, so isolation is basically the worst thing ever. There is a reason why solitary confinement is considered cruel and unusual torture. Unfortunately for Pnin, he is isolated from all of the other characters for the majority of the novel. But the strange thing is, most of the time he doesn't seem to mind. We guess for him, isolation is just a way of life.
Pnin is isolated throughout the whole course of Pnin.
Pnin is responsible for isolating himself in Pnin.