Looking Beyond "Lolita" Part 2

Posted by M ws On Sunday, August 14, 2011 2 comments
This is the second part of the unfinished post I wrote last night titled Looking Beyond "Lolita" Part 1. The other post on "Lolita" is  "Lolita" and Me. "Lolita" was written by Vladimir Nabokov.

At close inspection, it is clear that Humbert and Lolita are excluded from the society to which they belong. Both live in an area where morals seem ambiguous - sans norms, values and rules of society. Is it any surprise then that when rejected by society, Humbert decides to go into exile and Lolita does the same after Charlotte's death? Both are alienated by society and decide to alienate themselves from society. They go on the road, moving with no destination in mind as though in a transient state, belonging to the country in name but with no sense of attachment.

There in their own haven, they create their own rules where most unfortunately, relationships are tainted, corrupt and twisted. To that end, Humbert and Lolita are so detached from the real world that they cannot see for themselves how they are deprived morally. Life is like a blur to them. Humbert is blind to his own failings and Lolita is unaware that she is a victim.

In her naive and 'clueless' state,  Lolita clings to Humbert. Despite Humbert's dreams to leave America with Lolita, he is resigned to die there. In the end, they go through their final exile where Lolita goes to Dick Schiller and Humbert ends up in prison. Tragically, both are actually so alienated and exiled from themselves so much that they have lost themselves and can never restore their lives to what it used to be.

I love "Lolita" because of the motifs that Nabokov uses.  His use of the butterfly motif and lepidopterology, the study of butterflies and moths, highlight the sweet and fragile innocence of Lolita - a sharp contrast with the cold, impersonal way in which Humbert views her as his prey! Humbert is like an entomologist who studies, captures, and pins down butterflies (Lolita) and finally destroying whom he 'loves'.

Nabokov skilfully uses words such as frail, fragile, supple, silky, or fairy-like, adjectives that could be used to describe butterflies in his description of Lolita as a nymphet.. And just like the caterpillar morphing into a butterfly, Lolita the elusive nymphet morphs from an ordinary teenager to an exhausted wife and mother-to-be. In time, Humbert realizes his own failings beside Lolita.
In this book, many of the characters indulge in games. Humbert tries to make Lolita in tennis and wants to make her a tennis star. To show that Lolita is still a child, Humbert entertains her with silly games. Could it be that it is a foreshadowing of his sinister objectives? Humbert and Godin play chess - in an impersonal way to pass time and without telling much about each other. Quilt plays word games with his hotel aliases, leaving clues for Humbert to unravel. Later on, it is clear that even if originally the games are innocent, they become dangerous precursors of what develops.

Nabokov uses doubles to show Humbert’s darker side via Quilty. Although Humbert is evil, Quilty is more evil and yet, sometimes they are contrasting characters. While Humbert adores and worships Lolita, Quilty uses and then abandons her. Humbert has tender feelings for Lolita but Quilty is depraved. Despite being educated and literary, both are pedophiles. Ironically, even though Humbert sees himself as a good force avenging Lolita’s corruption,  he is the reason why Lolita loses her innocence. Later on in the book, readers can see that Nabokov cleverly reduces the differences between Humbert and Quilty till both are almost similar to each other.

From his prison cell, Humbert writes Lolita understanding that he is there because of what he has done. Yet, he puts on a front to shield his evil inclinations from others. Metaphorically, the prison symbolizes Humbert’s secret self - his secret love for nymphets and his love for Lolita. However, at the end, when Humbert has gone against the grain, against the norms, values of society, he reveals himself for the first time. Ironically, even though imprisoned physically, he experiences freedom for the first time, free from the confines of hypocrisy and pretentiousness.

There is so much that one can write about "Lolita" and it is the first time in my blog that I have written three posts about the same book and I think this should suffice for now. That is because "Lolita" and the characters therein are so enigmatic. Do leave a comment to share your thoughts. Take care and have a nice day! Next post will be up by 2pm.

2 comments to Looking Beyond "Lolita" Part 2

  1. says:

    aitze "Humbert is like an entomologist who studies, captures, and pins down butterflies (Lolita) and finally destroying whom he 'loves'."

    The theme reminds me of "The Collector", starring Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar.

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Dear aitze

    Thanks! I have not watched that movie but I will try to find it.

    Good to hear from you again.

    Take care and have a good day.


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