Friday, July 2, 2010

Books 102: Lolita

When I finished reading Lolita, I wasn't too sure how I felt about it. I'm still ambivalent if I liked it, but oddly enough, I recommend y'all to read it.

Story line:

The character of Humbert Humbert is a well-to-do European intellectual who comes to America for an adventure of sorts. He is a pedophile with a love for "nymphets", very young girls whom he believes to be the devil's temptation for men. He comes across such a nymphet: Twelve year old Dolores Haze. Throughout the novel, Humbert nicknames her many names from Lolita to Lo to Annabel. He is infatuated with this young girl and devises plans to be nearer to her. For example, in order to be nearer to Lolita, he marries her mom. In order to be even nearer to Lolita, he tries to kill his now wife. For readers who believe my last two sentences were spoilers, I assure you they are not.

Humbert Humbert goes to great and illegal extents to be with Lolita. When reality starts to hit him and he realizes that Lolita refuses to be his obedient muse and conform to his belief of an ideal lover, his control over Lolita begins to weaken. Critics have called Lolita either Old Europe debauching Young America or Young America debauching Old Europe.

My opinion:

Lolita is beautifully written. You can tell that the author, Vladimir Nabokov, had a love for the English language (and it's amazing that he wrote the way he did considering English was his second or third language). Nabokov is so detailed and fanciful that it's hard to ingest all the words at once. Also, there are many puns and allusions in Lolita. For example, when Humbert refers to Dolores as Annabel, he is alluding to Annabel Lee, Edgar Allen Poe's maiden in the poem "Annabel Lee."

Nabokov's character of Humbert Humbert is meant to be despised but many times the reader my find himself or herself sympathizing with the pedophile. For example, Lolita has a predecessor. When Humbert was a teenager, he was madly in love (and the feeling was mutual) with a girl his age. However, when she tragically died, the reader can infer that Humbert became the monster that he is because of her death. Also, it's interesting to read the novel in the perspective of a pedophile. There is a realism to his character. Humbert tries to defend his relationship with Lolita by arguing that in different societies of the past, it was acceptable for a man to have sex with much younger women.

The novel can be very dull at times so beware.

It's a 20th century classic that will test your comfort zone, but I think we all must read it at some point in our lives.

A movie was made from the novel, and a friend of mine said the version made in the 1950's is gold. I have to check it out.

Written by Scarlett.


  1. Whoa, this definitely sounds like a book that's delving into some deep topics there, but it sounds really interesting. That's amazing that it's so beautifully written when English wasn't even the author's first language, too!

  2. I've not read the book but I love the film so i might have to pick it up and have a read some time.

  3. Thanks for recommending this! It's definitely going on my list of classics to read before I die. I think someone had been talking about but I never knew what is was about until now. :]

  4. One of my very favorites. Excellent review!