Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita
Essay title: Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita
Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita
When Vladimir Nabokov finished writing the novel Lolita he knew the explosive subject matter that he was now holding in his hands. After being turned down by publishing houses on numerous occasions to unleash his controversial story to the public, it was finally published by the French in 1955. Many critics were shocked and called it pornography while others praised his work. How could a pure thinking author conjugate ideas on issues so dark and depraved? What were his intentions of doing so, and in the end how did it become hailed as one of the greatest novels of all time.
It’s easy to think you can judge a man by the novels he writes. Is not the creation, at least in some part, the creator? Surely only a twisted mind, a depraved heart could conjure up such an explicit narrator, capable of violating young girls, though remaining very humanistic. Vladimir Nabokov’s inspiration for writing Lolita, came from hearing about a ape who was taught to draw after being locked up in a cage, while given treats to encourage certain behavior. After many months of confinement, the ape finally drew a picture of the bars of his cell. Consequently this is what Nabokov’s narrating character Humbert practiced on Lolita. Humbert constantly used the reward system to bribe Lolita for sexual favors. In other words, like the scientists had trained the ape’s actions to
respond to enslavement every time the substance of positivism was given, Humbert did the same to Lolita, forcing her out of her nature from a child to a women. Nabokov and Humbert did have something in common, which was a direct passion. Humbert’s passion was the worship and possession of Lolita, but in the pursuit of these passions he also manages to study, capture, and abuse her. This destroys Lolita’s innocence. Nabokov, an avid butterfly collector adored these creatures which he found beautiful, rare, and frail. He then killed, preserved cataloged and literally, pinned them down. Memories and dreams also play a large part in many of Nabokov’s writings. Nabokov succeeded with Lolita by taking human experiences and passions and turning them to create an inhuman character. This concluding that the creation was depraved, but not the creator.
The story of Lolita, traces a middle aged professor obsessive sinful involvement with his twelve year old stepdaughter Lolita. The book focuses on Humbert’s constant manipulation of events to finally being able to have the young girl in his possession. After marrying Lolita’s mother, a vulgar women, “ the haze women, the big bitch, the old cat, the obnoxious mama,” she conveniently dies leaving Lolita as his ward. This leads to a road trip across America where Humbert seduces Lolita in various hotels becoming both her lover and her father. Unaware of the fact that a mysterious character is following them, who keeps visually appearing in the most unexpected places by the name of Claire Quilty. Meanwhile, Lolita escapes Humbert by running off with the peculiar man, the rival Quilty, leaving him an emotionally broken and unstable man. In the end he eventually stalks down both the now pregnant Lolita and his archival.
Realizing Lolita never truly cared for him, he tracks down his alter ego Claire Quilty and murders him for what pain he put him through.
Lolita exemplifies many different types of themes to the reader, such as fate, sex , consummation of desire, and homicide. Some moments of great interest in the novel all indicate the presence of fate and random chance. Horrible deaths seem to occur frequently in Lolita, beginning with Humbert’s mother who died at a picnic after being struck by lightning. This was followed by unexpected deaths of Annabelle [his first love], Charlotte Haze [his wife], and Claire Quilty [his nemesis], and finally Lolita at the very end of the book. Who would think that Charlotte Haze would be struck by a car which had swerved to avoid hitting a wild dog, right after she read Humbert’s journal and his real opinion of her and her daughter. Humbert sums it up by saying “the car and the dog and the sun and the shade and the wet and the weak and the strong and the stone” all contributed to Charlotte’s death.
Sexual Desire plays a large part in the novel. After Humbert loses his first love Annabelle at age fourteen to typhus he longs for the memory of her, particularly the fact that Humbert never completed the sexual act with her. This brings us to the Lolita syndrome. Lolita quickly sparks memories of Annabelle and the feelings he once had for her. Humbert has strong sexual cravings from the moment he lays eyes on Lolita.