Lolita, say it slow, separate the syllables with your tongue. Lo-li-ta, so slow you tickle the roof of your cavernous mouth with the tip of your caressing tongue as you pronounce it. If you do it right you can make the word resonate in your ears & through your mind. Just as the impish moniker does in Humbert’s mind in the amazing yet controversial novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. The book Lolita does the same thing, deliriously sends you reeling into the characters' subsequent realities.
Humbert Humbert is our juvenile-loving middle-aged professor of a narrator in Lolita. He embarrassingly, yet successfully pursues the daughter of his newly acquired landlady, whom goes by the nickname Lolita. He is instantaneously engrossed by her. The main reasoning in the beginning for his attraction to Lo and other young girls (known by him as nymphets) is that his adolescent love died suddenly, leaving him permanently wounded when his was 14. After years of longing for a nymphet of his own and depressingly acquiring young prostitutes, he moves from France to America.
He rents a room at the Haze house and begins an unsettling relationship with Lolita. Eventually he deceptively marries her mother, who later dies leaving Lo in his care. The meat of the book is about their life thereafter. It follows them through their travels across America in singularly bedded hotel rooms, to their short stay at Beardsley college, and finally to Lola’s eventual escape from Humbert. The end of the novel is about his search for her and concludes with him finding her along with some formally excluded information, which leads to Humbert committing homicide.
In this darkly hilarious and wittily harrowing tale, Nabokov does what few can; make a mentally sound person relate to an obsessive pedophile. This is simply because this masterful novel is only superficially about a man in love, or lust, with a 12-year-old girl. The truth of the matter is that Humbert is wreathing with infatuation. Infatuation for: (insert obscure object of affection here). In Humbert’s part, the story is about the maddening seclusion and self-trickery of obsession.
He is seemingly beside himself with love, loathing, paranoia, & deception just to have, to taste this painted doll, Lolita. She could have been a mannequin and the story would have been the same as far as Humbert’s character was concerned.
Nabokov just happened to choose Dolores Haze (a.k.a. Lolita, Lola, Dolly, Lo), a 12 year old girl, as his obscure object, and for good reason. You see Lolita has rhyme and reason as well, far more dimensional than one might notice at first glance. She is a prisoner of her satyr like stepfather. She becomes like a captured wild animal. Like them, she struggles and savagely twists, she cries and beats until her brain only half works at best, and then falls. The defeated beast plummets into succumbing numbness. Poor Lo, she does all this and when she gathers her strength, but not necessarily her wits, she rubs up against the bars of her cage. She doesn’t remember any better, as many worn-out creatures don‘t. Her past is wiped away replenished with fear and disdain, all she knows is her confinement, broken as she is.
In the end the novel is not without consequence, he has remorse and she has moved on. He is at last, in some clarifying insanity no longer a madman, no longer defending his actions. He, through the purging and purifying process of snuffing Lolita’s other pedophilic lover, another sexual deviant and innocence moocher, finds renewed sanity and shame. He is regretful of what he has done, but Lolita is the same previously imprisoned and eternally harmed person, destined to be haunted by her childhood as he was with his. I have to add that I sense no moral to this tale, there is no true repent, and I would not feel it would do Nabokov’s work any justice to turn it into a folktale.