“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta” (Nabokov 9).
Vladimir Nabokov created two of the most enduring characters in the history of literature: Humbert Humbert and Lolita Haze. His narrator and main character, Humbert Humbert, tells the complex story of a man and his unhealthy obsession. What is unique about Lolita is that Nabokov gives Humbert one of the most socially unacceptable obsessions of all– pedophilia, but still manages to subtly persuade the reader to sympathize with the sexual predator rather than the victim. Lolita is one of the most controversial pieces of literature that, because of Nabokov’s sparkling wit, forces the reader to consider Humbert a wild romantic who suffers in his pursuit of his unattainable perfect “nymphet” rather than a perverted middle-aged man. In Lolita, through his manipulating language, beautification of sexual desire, and his description of Lolita’s inconsiderate behavior, Vladimir Nabokov convinces the reader that Humbert’s experiences with Lolita are that of an actual tragic love story.
Humbert tactfully portrays himself to the reader as nothing but a kind, genuine soul rather than what he really is- a controlling, conniving pedophile. He uses manipulative, gentle language as a method to earn Lolita’s trust. During the period immediately following Charlotte’s death, Humbert keeps Lolita near him by manipulating her with persuasive language and gently lying to her about the horrible things the authorities will do to her if she tells anyone about their affair. Humbert convinces Lolita that “the normal girl is usually extremely anxious to please her father” (Nabokov 150).
... sudden. Valeria his first wife leaves him and so does Lolita. Humbert can't establish a good relationship with women because he ... of taking on a powerful newcomer." (Nabokov 34) Once he became a young adult Humbert knew that he needed to repress his ... was the imitation she gave of a little girl." (Nabokov 25) Humbert didn't really love her he was just using her ...
When their affair begins, he does not threaten her with violence like a stereotypical pedophile. Instead he tells her that she “will be analyzed and institutionalized” and “will dwell with thirty-nine other dopes in a dormitory under the supervision of hideous matrons”(Nabokov 151).
“He blackmails Lolita, forcing her to remain with him, both to satisfy his sexual desire and to serve as a kidnapped poetic muse” (“Lolita’s Loose Ends: Nabokov and the Boundless Novel”).
However, this manipulation of Lolita occurs so subtly and lightly that readers can hardly recognize any malfeasance in his actions towards Lolita and instead view his actions as caring.
“Rather than condemning the novel for its content, contemporary critics have aptly turned their attention to what has made Lolita such a phenomenon: the persuasive power of its Language.” (Ratcliffe 5).
While a lot of Humbert’s manipulative language is used to gain Lolita’s trust, the majority of it is directed at the reader and the jury to whom Humbert is pleading his case. Humbert uses language to simultaneously reveal and conceal information. He writes candidly about his actions, revealing his own cruelty, snobbery, statutory rape, and murder. But, he conceals the true evil of these acts by manipulating language to make them seem less brutal, perverse, and condemnable than they are. By veiling the evil nature of his behavior with kind language, he elicits sympathy from the reader. Humbert uses understatements to make tragedies seem casual. Humbert states that “at first, when Charlotte had just been eliminated and I had re-entered the house a free father… there was one thing in my mind and pulse… the awareness that a few hours hence, warm, brown-haired, and mine, mine, mine, Lolita, would be in my arms, shedding tears that I would kiss away faster than they could well” (Nabokov 101).
Humbert does not mourn the death of his wife, but he covers up this disrespect by expressing his devotion to Lolita. Humbert also uses sarcasm to make deep emotion seem laughable. He addresses the reader saying “no matter your exasperation with the tenderhearted, morbidly sensitive, infinitely circumspect hero of my book, do not skip these essential pages! Imagine me, trembling in the forest of my own iniquity; let’s even smile a little. After all, there is no harm in smiling”(Nabokov 129).
... reject it. The following paragraphs will show the reader that an Affirmative Action is not needed anymore because of the way society ... that follow will be intended to show to the reader that an Affirmative Action can indeed help the business environment in getting ... Organization The paper starts by giving the reader the original purpose of the affirmative Action and its history. Then, it states ...
He uses playful language when talking about his tragic story and deep emotions. His technique of using manipulative language acts as a mask- covering up anything that may be portrayed as evil. Humbert uses different types of manipulation techniques in order to conceal his malicious actions and convince the reader that he is innocent. Humbert specializes in altering the English language to use at his benefit. He takes advantage of manipulative language in many ways, but he especially uses lyricism to make sexual deviancy seem noble and beautiful.
Humbert uses incredibly beautiful and poetic language to describe his lust for Lolita and his erotic experiences with her. He is ashamed of his desire for nymphets and expresses sorrow for this obsession, but he also takes perverse pride in it. He considers his appreciation for nymphets a sublime artistic gift- he feels that his rare exquisitely painful desires and pleasures set him apart from other men with ‘normal’ sexual desires. Humbert believes, and wants the reader to believe that he is a poetic soul in search of beauty, not a ‘sex fiend’ who molests little girls. Aestheticism gives him a way to rationalize his behavior to readers and, for many readers, this technique works. Humbert explains to the reader directly that he is “not concerned with so-called ‘sex’ at all”(Nabokov 134).
He also explains to the reader that “If I dwell at some length upon the tremors and gropings of that distant night, its is because I insist upon proving that I am not, and never was, and never could be a brutal scoundrel” in order to convince them that “the gentle and dreamy regions through which [he] crept were the patrimonies of poets, not crime’s prowling ground” (Nabokov 131).
... psychologically, if not spiritually, valid reasons for maintaining sexual purity before marriage. First, intimacy suggests a merging ... not confuse feelings of lust with feelings of love. Although two people may feel they are ... . The practice of free love was commonplace. Today, people are so concerned ... word that could even be spoken aloud. Make love nor war was the slogan of the day ...
Humbert convinces the reader that he is a poetic soul in search of beauty by speaking directly to the reader, but he also convinces them through the pure beauty of his words. “Lolita is one of the most beautiful love stories you’ll ever read. It may be one of the only love stories you’ll ever read. This is the most thrilling and beautiful and most deeply disturbing aspect of the novel” says Bret Anthony Johnston. Without actually pleading his case directly, Humbert manages to convince readers that Lolita is a story of love with deep, touching descriptions. The introduction Humbert gives Lolita is so epic and beautiful that the reader forgets that it is actually a twelve year old girl he is pursuing. He says that “from a mat in a pool of sun, half-naked, kneeling, turning about on her knees, there was my Riviera love peering at me over dark glasses” (Nabokov 39).
Humbert also paints several fantastic pictures in the reader’s head. At one point Humbert describes his ideal image of Lolita as “Naked, except for one sock and her charm bracelet, spread-eagled on the bed… a velvet hair ribbon was still clutched in her hand; her honey brown body… presented to me its pale breast buds; in the rosy lamplight”(Nabokov 125).
Humbert describes his experiences with Lolita so romantically that all traces of sexual deviancy seem impossible. Humbert successfully proves to the reader that he sincerely cares about and loves Lolita. The way Lolita repays Humbert for this genuine adoration for her causes the reader to sympathize with him, forgetting that he is technically the sexual predator.
Humbert proves that he earnestly cares about Lolita. He is aware that the affair is wrong and frequently expresses his guilt and worry for the well-being of Lolita. Getting inside the sexual predator’s head allows the reader to understand Humbert’s morals. He is not concerned about getting in trouble for pedophilia, he is concerned about the safety and happiness of Lolita. As the reader learns more about Humbert, they begin to understand and sympathize with him. Lolita’s harsh reactions to the poor, inner-tormented Humbert cause the reader to sympathize with him even more. Right after Humbert has sex with Lolita he says that he feels as if he “were sitting with the small ghost somebody [he] had just killed” (Nabokov 140).
... begs for the readers sympathy. Nabokov skilfully manipulates the reader into feeling sympathy for both Humbert and the object of his affections Lolita. This is ... two-year love affair inevitably ends in suffering, as Lolita elopes with another middle-aged man, Clare Quilty, leaving Humbert to descend ... when he says I knew I had fallen in love with Lolita forever; but I also knew she would not be ...
He wallows in self pity, and says that “cold spiders of panic ran down my back. This was an orphan. This was a lone child, an absolute waif, with whom a heavy-limbed, foul smelling adult had had strenuous intercourse three times that very morning” (Nabokov 140).
Humbert proves that he has a human conscious and he is more than a disgusting, perverted man. Lolita’s harsh actions increase Humbert’s feelings of guilt and depression and therefore increase the reader’s sympathy. Humbert generously gave Lolita anything she wanted because he truly loved her. She repayed him with “furious harangues” with “entreaty and insult, self-assertion and double talk, vicious vulgarity and childish despair.” Humbert claims that “she said unprintable things. She said she loathed me. She made monstrous faces at me… She said I had attempted to violate her several times…” (Nabokov 205).
As her tantrums and evil actions increased, Humbert’s hope decreased. Humbert loses his love and eventually loses his freedom. The reader feels sympathy for all of Humbert’s suffering. He remains hopelessly in love with Lolita which leads to his downfall as he blindly attempts to sustain their relationship. His hopelessness is best portrayed when he says “Despite our tiffs, despite her nastiness, despite all the fuss and faces she made, and the vulgarity, and the danger, and the horrible hopelessness of it all, I still dwelled in my elected paradise” (Nabokov 166).
Not only has Humbert been faced with horrible consequences for his crime, but he is also forced to suffer from a broken heart.
“The perversity of Lolita is human nature manipulated by a great artist playing God for the purpose of inspiring pity and admiration, which is what great artists do” Roger Boylan stated. In Lolita, Vladimir Nobokov plays the role of God. Nabokov forces readers to believe that Humbert is a victim of a hopeless love story through his use of manipulative language, his aestheticism of sexual desire, and his description of Lolita’s harsh behavior. After reading Lolita, readers are left completely puzzled. Lolita provoked controversy, as it caused many readers to question their sympathy for Humbert Humbert and their lack of disgust. Their confusion testifies Vladimir Nabokov’s genius.
... existential interpretations of the Humbert-Lolita relationship. A further layer of engagement with this discourse is added by Nabokov himself, whose anticipation ... elegance of Nabokov's erotic evocations. As Humbert grows increasingly aroused by his proximity to young Haze, the reader is ever ... the relationship between the sexual act rendered and the reader's apprehension of it is much more direct and ...
Secondary Sources (Lolita)
Boyd, Brian. “The Art of Literature and the Science of Literature.” The American Scholar (Spring 2008).
The American Scholar. 2008. 8 Feb. 2010 .
Boylan, Roger. “Nabokov’s Gift.” Boston Review (July & aug. 2007).
Boston Review. 2007. Boston Revew. 8 Feb. 2010 .
Johnston, Bret Anthony. “Why ‘Lolita’ Remains Shocking, and a Favorite.” Ed. Ellen Silva. NPR (7 July 2006).
NPR. 2006. Web. 8 Feb. 2010. .
“Lolita’s Loose Ends: Nabokov and the Boundless Novel – Vladimir Nabokov – page 3 | Twentieth Century Literature.” Find Articles at BNET | News Articles, Magazine Back Issues & Reference Articles on All Topics. 08 Feb. 2010 .
Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita. New York: Random House, Inc., 1955.
Ratcliffe, Laura. Fixing Lolita: Reevaluating the Probem of Desire in Representation. Thesis. Haverford College, 2004. 8 Feb. 2010