Classic Book: Lolita by Vladimir Nobokov

By Olivia Bounvongxay
Published: October 26, 2010
There was a constant longing for frail honey-hued shoulders, a silky supple bare back and an innocence that can only be found peeking before womanhood.
In Vladimir Nabokovís 1955 novel, Lolita, he creates Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged European intellectual whose obsession was: ďLo-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. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.Ē
Humbert sees an image of what he calls his perfect lover in the shape of 12-year-old Dolores Haze. He was a man, maddened by an impossible and twisted love.
He meets Lolita in his first move to the United States where he takes a room in the house of her widowed mother, Charlotte Haze. His pedophile urges drive him to marry her dreadful mother just to be closer to Lolita. Her mother eventually is led to her death and now for Humbert, there was nothing to come between him and his little Lolita.
They hit the road to travel through the U.S. Here, Lolita slowly unravels to being just as deranged and unbalanced as her lover himself.
The madness began during Humbertís peaceful upbringing in the Riviera. It was the death his first love Annabel Leigh who was 12 when Humbert was 13. Followed by a failed marriage with an adult woman and a succession of odd jobs, Humbert tries to consummate that lost adolescent love with what he calls nymphets, a term he uses for soul shattering, charming young girls.
Nabokov unveils Humbert as a pathetic monster who slowly pays the price for his sins through wretched madness and total loathsomeness. Nabokov gives no sympathy for this annoyingly self-absorbed and narcissistic man who was a slave to his urges, but his self-love makes it laughable.
ďTo think that between a Hamburger and Humburger, she would Ė invariably, with icy precision Ė plump for the former. There is nothing more atrociously cruel than an adored child,Ē Humbert said.
Those who canít see past Humbertís strange obsession with ripened nymphets would probably be repulsed by Lolitaís notorious plot. It is a vulgar and scandalous subject matter and has been controversial for decades.
Nabokovís love for the English language is present in all aspects of the novel. Lolita is not the easiest read, not only because itís a child molesterís story, but the fact that there is so much symbolism and complexity. You must read between the lines.
Humbert finds a balance between the act of cruel and the beautiful. What drives Lolita is Nabokovís love for a perfect choice of words. He evokes human comedy that is precise, aloof and full of trickery through the narration and wordplay of Humbert.
Humbert seduces you with his words and his worldview, but then you remember he is referring to a young girl, which in the end leaves you feeling a little queasy.
What makes Lolita so repulsive to readers is not Humbertís pedophile urges, but rather his immaculate sentence constructions and the wild, perverse and kinky things heíll do.
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