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The Use of Numbers in The Queen of Spades

The Use of Numbers in The Queen of Spades

The use of numbers, especially the three and to a lesser extent the seven, is of major importance in Alexander Pushkin’s The Queen of Spades. The use of three permeates the text in several ways, these being major, minor, and in reference to time. According to Alexandr Slonimsky in an essay written in 1922, “A notion of the grouping of three is dominant…” (429).

In the major details of the story, we find “three fantastic moments” (Slonimsky 429), three cards, three major catastrophes, three main characters, and the use of six chapters, six being a multiple of three. The three fantastic moments are: “the story of Tomsky (Chapter 1), the vision of Hermann (Chapter 5), and the miraculous win (Chapter 6)” (429). These three moments form the backbone of the story. In Tomsky’s story, one first reads of the three cards guaranteed to produce a winner at the game of faro. What makes this incident fantastic in relation to the story is the importance of the story to the events that follow when contrasted to the nonchalant attitude attributed to those in attendance. The second fantastic incident is that of the appearance of the dead Countess to Hermann. This incident is fantastic in that the three cards named by the Countess are actually the winning cards, meaning the Countess is an apparition and not simply a dream. The final fantastic incident occurs when Hermann miraculously wins at the faro table the first time. The reader now knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the three are magic cards.

“The particular significance of the three cards is shown in the rhythmic quality of Hermann’s thoughts” (Slonimsky 429). In looking at the original text, the rhythmic quality is much more appa…

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…the greatest of the classical literary tradition and is also considered to be one of the triumvirate of great Russian literature. As concerns The Queen of Spades, D.S. Mirsky has this to say, “The Queen of Spades is beyond a doubt Pushkin’s masterpiece in prose” (436).

Works Cited

Mirsky, D.S. Title unknown. 1926. Nineteenth Century Literature Criticism Volume 3. Ed. Laurie Lanzen Harris. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1983.

Pushkin, Alexander. The Queen of Spades. 1834. Trans. Ivy and Tatiana Litvinov. Literature of the Western World, Third Edition, Volume Two. Ed. Brian Wilkie and James Hurt. New York: Macmillin, 1992. 870-890.

Slonimsky, Alexandr. Title Unknown. 1922. Nineteenth Century Literature Criticism Volume Three. Ed. Laurie Lanzen Harris. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1983.

Mrs. Linde as a Foil for Nora in in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House

Mrs. Linde as a Foil for Nora in A Doll’s House

Random House Webster’s dictionary defines a foil as “a person or thing that makes another seem better by contrast.” This essay will focus on the use of the foil to contrast another character. The characters of Nora and Mrs. Linde provide an excellent example of this literary device. Mrs. Linde’s aged, experienced personality is the perfect foil for Nora’s childish nature. Mrs. Linde’s hard life is used to contrast the frivolity and sheltered aspects of Nora’s life. Nora’s optimism and belief in things improbable is an opposite to the rationality and down-to-earth mentality of Mrs. Linde. Finally, the rekindling of the flame between Mrs. Linde and Krogstad is a direct contrast to the burning down of Nora and Torvald’s “doll’s house.”

Whereas one can see Mrs. Linde as mature and world-weary, one can easily read the character Nora as immature and childlike; one of the first examples of this immaturity and childishness can be found in the first few pages. Nora has come in from a day of shopping and in these excerpts we can see her child-like manner while interacting with her husband, Torvald:

Nora: Oh yes, Torvald, we can squander a little now. Can’t we? Just a tiny, wee bit. Now that you’ve got a big salary and are going to make piles and piles of money. (Ibsen Ibsen 27-29)

With this excerpt, we see a child-like attitude not only in Nora’s manner of speaking with the statement “Just a tiny, wee bit,” but also in her attitude toward money and the unrealistic expectations of making “piles and piles of money.” The following example also shows Nora’s childish manner in her personal interactions with her husband. Her manner seems more like that of a favorite daughter, acc…

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…77. Ibsen. New York: Macmillan.

Davies, H. Neville. 1982. “Not just a bang and a whimper: the inconclusiveness of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.” Critical Quarterly 24:33-34.

Durbach, Errol. A Doll’s House: Ibsen’s Myth of Transformation. Boston: Twayne, 1991.

Heiberg, Hans. Ibsen. A Portrait of the Artist. Coral Gables, Florida: University of Miami. 1967.

Ibsen , Henrik. A Doll’s House. Dover Thrift Edition, 1992

Northam, John. 1965. “Ibsen’s Search for the Hero.” Ibsen. A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Solomon, Barbara H., ed. Rediscoveries: American Short Stories by Women, 1832-1916. New York: Penguin Group, 1994.

Templeton, Joan. “Is A Doll House a Feminist Text?” (1989). Rpt. In Meyer. 1635-36.

Templeton, Joan. “The Doll House Backlash: Criticism, Feminism, and Ibsen.” PMLA (January 1989): 28-40.

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