By Vladimir Nabokov
Mary is a gripping story of teenage, old flame, and nostalgia—Nabokov's first novel. In a Berlin rooming apartment choked with an collection of seriocomic Russian émigrés, Lev Ganin, a lively younger officer poised among his prior and his destiny, relives his old flame affair. His thoughts of Mary are suffused with the freshness of stripling and the idyllic atmosphere of pre-revolutionary Russia. In stark distinction is the decidedly unappealing boarder dwelling within the room subsequent to Ganin's, who, he discovers, is Mary's husband, briefly separated from her through the Revolution yet waiting for her forthcoming arrival from Russia.
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Extra resources for Mary
If we shift our focus from endings to formal and conceptual beginnings, the sense of a binary structure, which valorizes an idyllic notion of motherhood over a demonized masculinity, is dislodged. What is revealed instead is that Wharton is as skeptical of an idealization of motherhood as she is of the patriarchal system under which the characters live. While Charity certainly seeks both a surrogate mother as well her own maternal biological origins, these origins are not the ideal she hopes to find.
As equals for good” (10). 5 A focus on the ending of Summer has sparked significant debate among critics. Many of these scholars accurately depict Wharton’s strong critique of patriarchal social structures that contain and appropriate female agency. But many of these same critics also want to see embedded in this critique a type of idealization of motherhood, which has been “depreciated, disdained, and ultimately, destroyed” by the representations of patriarchy in the novel (Elbert 4). Monika Elbert reads Wharton as mourning the loss of “motherhood,” represented by the “primeval mother within [Charity]” (7).
In many ways, Wharton’s novel is an example of what Margaret Homans and other theorists have called an adoption narrative. A particularly apt exemplification of what Homans calls “the unknowability of origins,” the narrative illustrates the fact that although knowledge about Charity’s past is “intensely but apprehensively sought” it is “not finally available” (“Adoption” 5). This unavailability or fictionality is directly connected by Wharton to the fictive nature of the maternal ideal. . usually understood as the key to a character’s identity” (Homans, “Adoption” 10).
Mary by Vladimir Nabokov