Pnin experiences acute chest pain, which he calls a seizure, after realizing he brought his student’s paper with him instead of his lecture notes (pgs. 19-25).
The text mentions that Pnin has had these panic attacks previously, on the dates (pg. 21):
- August 10, 1942
- February 15, 1937 (his birthday)
- May 18, 1929
- July 4, 1920
Pnin feels again the “extremely unpleasant and frightening cardiac sensation” after playing croquet with fellow Russian émigrés (pg. 131).
“White-glistening in the rain-dripping darkness, there stood a man holding before his face the mask of Jutting Chin, a grotesque sleuth in the funnies. He emitted a muffled guffaw and scurried away, and I reeled back into the room, and fell asleep again, and am not sure even to this day that the visit was not a drug-provoked dream: I have thoroughly studied Trapp’s type of humor, and this might have been a plausible sample. Oh, crude and absolutely ruthless! […] Did I see next morning two urchins rummaging in a garbage can and trying on Jutting Chin? I wonder.” (217)
“Jutting Chin” refers to a famous comic book detective, Dick Tracy. This passage, in the depth of Humbert’s Detective Trapp paranoia, evokes American imagery of a prototypical detective character. To Humbert, this face is a menacing one, and he fears any background character may don it.