We spent some time in class talking about the role of dimensions in The Luzhin Defense, and how that might be an allegory for the struggle between character and author. I had never really given that much thought to the role of 2D versus 3D, but I had noticed the constant appearance of two-dimensional geometrical shapes in the novel. More specifically, I noticed that circles (as we discussed in class), squares and triangles kept appearing throughout the story.
The role of the squares seems obvious enough when considered separately from these other shapes: Luzhin is obsessed with chess, a chess-board has squares, squares pop up in the novel. Done. However, that explanation seems a little simple, especially considering how clever a writer Nabokov is (and how clever he thinks he is). An “a equals b” might not be entirely applicable here. The role of these squares might be deduced from the way Nabokov uses other shapes in this novel.
My digital copy tells me that there are fifteen instances of the word “circle”, “encircling”, et cetera. As said in class, Luzhin is often encircled. He is encircled on the very first page, where his parents “moved around him in apprehensively narrowing circles.” Luzhina (who at that point is still just an unnamed woman) circles around him before she talks about possibly marrying him. What I noticed about these circles is that they rarely pertain directly to Luzhin. He is encircled by someone else, other people step into circles of light (the violinist, right before he calls), flies circle around objects. Triangles also show up every now and then, although not as frequently as circles do. They show up in the math class, and during Luzhin’s match with Turati.
It’s not entirely clear to me why these shapes occur, but I have noticed a distinct difference between the appearance of squares and the appearance of other shapes. Luzhin usually notices the squares (he chooses a square piece of fabric, he sees the squares spread out before him right before he dies, when he slits his eyes as a child he can make out light and dark squares from sunflecks), whereas the circles and triangles are described by what appears to be an omniscient narrator.
So what does this all mean? Again, I could offer an obvious explanation: Luzhin is obsessed with chess, therefore he sees squares everywhere. Nabokov inserts other shapes to show that Luzhin does not specifically see these. I still feel as if something might be missing here. What do you all think?