validity of the primal scene, suggesting the possibility that the child imagined it after
witnessing the copulation of sheepdogs. In the absence of actual experience, he adds,
the "phylogenetic heritage" (238) of
compels children to invent such
memories of parental intercourse. Peter Brooks describes the combined text as "a
of palimpsest," with its self-questioning of a firm origin implying "that all tales
may lead back not so much to events as to other tales, to man as a structure of the
fictions he tells about himself' (277).
The problem of origins is central to Pale Fire, as well, whose title alludes to a
passage from Shaltespeare's Timon of Athens that laments, "The sun's a thief, and
with his great attraction Robs the vast sea; the moon's an arrant thief, And her pale
fire she snatches from the sun; The sea's a thief, whose liquid surge resolves The
moon into salt tears" (qtd. in
100). Mirror images and doubled characters
abound in Pale Fire, as do uncanny correspondences between Zembla and New Wye,
and between Kinbote's commentary and Shade's poem. And if, as J.P. Shute
suggests, "the question of origin is ultimately undecideable"
encourages us to seek it nonetheless, to find the "real" story behind Kinbote's
delusional commentary and relationship to Shade. Indeed, arguments claiming one or
the other as true author of both poem and commentary date back to immediately after
the novel's 1962 publication (Boyd, Discovery 4).
Freud similarly implicates the reader in The Wolf-Man, apologizing that since
his account is so complex, "I must therefore content myself with bringing forward
fragmentary portions, which the reader can then put together into a living whole"