Pnin Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Pnin

A Russian professor feels out of place in the United States and has awkward relationships with his relatives and colleagues. Timofey Pnin is a professor who has to struggle to understand American society and to repair his relationship with his ex-wife and son. Professor Pnin teaches Russian at a university in the United States, but he is always confused by the way things work in America; for example, when the book begins, Pnin is on a train going in the opposite direction of where he wants to go. He frequently has misunderstandings with his colleagues and students, in part before of his imperfect command of the English language and his poor understanding of American culture. His ex-wife Liza comes to visit him, and she has changed very much since they first met and is much more Americanized than he is. Their son has grown up in the United States and is as baffling to Professor Pnin as the American teenagers and young adults who are his students; in particular, Pnin does not understand his son's appreciation of jazz music. Pnin remembers how much simpler life was when he met his wife, although he was never perfectly adept with social customs in any culture. At least in Russia, he knew when to call people by their first names and when to use first names and patronymics, such as his name Timofey Pavlovich. Unfortunately, the Russian society he understood is gone forever because of World War II. At the end of the book, Pnin hosts a party, and it seems that his former student Betty Bliss is romantically interested in him, but Pnin does not return her feelings, because Betty, like most Americans, in his opinion, is not intellectual enough.
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Best part of story, including ending: I liked this story because it showed American society from an outsider's perspective.

Best scene in story: I liked the conversation between Pnin and his ex-wife Liza because it taught me a lot about Russian culture just before World War II and how different it was from American culture after the war.

Opinion about the main character: I did not find Pnin very likable because he seemed to have a negative attitude toward most people.

The review of this Book prepared by Jennifer Tobkin a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

Chapter Analysis of Pnin

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   thoughtful Time/era of story    -   1930's-1950's Life of a profession:    -   teacher Ethnic/Regional/Religion    -   American Northeast    -   European coming to America Other aspects:    -   immigrant story Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Job/Profession/Status story    -   Yes Ethnic/regional/gender life    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   teacher Age:    -   40's-50's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Russian


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   3 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Northeast Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   Eastern Europe Misc setting    -   moving train

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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Vladimir Nabokov Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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