A recent movie, Wind River, made me think about Lolita in a new way. In the vast remote primitiveness of Wyoming men see themselves as having two iconic roles with regard to women—protector or rapist.  Just as the animal life understands it is kill or be killed.  The movie opens with a close up of a small white kid in a flock of goats and a pack of wolves on the perimeter circling and ready to kill.  The hero of the story, a U.S. Game and Wildlife officer, with utter precision aims his specialized rifle and takes down the alpha wolf. The pack disperses.

Once orphaned, we see the young girl Lolita against the vastness of America.  The hero of the book whom all civilization teaches must protect this girl, instead continuously rapes her.  Pared down to these facts the story seems as much about the perversion of manhood as it does the defilement of the girl. We do not want to think about Humbert in this story.  Lolita deserves our sympathies.  But perhaps we need to refocus on him as showing us what many men would gladly do if civilization were not there to stop them.  Is Lolita a story about what manhood really is?  The joining of two instincts, rape and protect, and if the latter is weakened, all men become rapists? Nabokov obscures Humbert’s impulses, to such a degree that we take him for a civilized person, even an entertaining one.  But his character is the compound Stevenson  made in joining of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a story Nabokov so admired. I’d thought about yhis before, but I never felt the truth of this idea until seeing this movie. 



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