Character Analysis: Lolita

Topics: Lolita, Novel, Clare Quilty Pages: 6 (2490 words) Published: November 25, 2011
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul” The opening lines of ‘Lolita’ directly initiate the reader into the essence of Nabokov’s bewildering novel where an obviously pedophilic protagonist Humbert Humbert narrates his undying love/lust for the questionably innocent twelve year old Dolores Haze, better known as Lolita. Humbert, in his extravagant and flowery description of Lolita, implies the word "nymphet", a term invented by Humbert himself and introduced to the English language by Nabokov in 1955 when the novel was first published, to refer not only to the object of his affection but also to other girls of Lolita’s age and characteristics. “Nymphic” is adjectival for the noun 'nymph' and the Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia defines nymphs to be, in Greek and Roman mythology, “lesser divinities or spirits of nature, dwelling in groves and fountains, forests, meadows, streams, and the sea, represented as mortal and beautiful creatures that were sometimes love objects to Olympian maidens, fond of music and dancing”. They could also be “vengeful and destructive”, characteristics that will be shown to work against Humbert, not physically, but emotionally. Hence quite certainly with this origin of meaning in mind Humbert Humbert drafts his beloved term of the “nymphet”: “Now I wish to introduce the following idea. Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travelers, twice or many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as "nymphets.” In a way Humbert’s definition or coining of the term nymphet almost seems like a statement of defense that that he so tactfully constructs to possibly hide behind in an attempt to feed his subliminal yet perceptible conscience. His illicit affair with little Lolita is not only a legal and social crime but more so is “moral leprosy ” and as a novel Lolita has faced much skepticism, disproval and critical evaluation to understand Humbert’s as well as Lolita’s true nature. However the purpose of this paper is to discuss in detail Lolita’s character as a “nymphet” and her impact on the male characters of the novel but such an analysis can only productively develop with a simultaneous study of the inner workings of Humbert’s disturbing yet enthralling mind since arguably Humbert is the eye of the novel and the reader only has Humbert’s perception or narrative of Lolita as evidence for her character. Hence as the reader only knows Lolita through Humbert’s expressed view of his girl-child love it is hard to say who the true Lolita or rather Dolores Haze is. Therefore the Lolita that this paper will explore can only be a “Humbertian” version of this girl; a child the audience of Vladmir’s novel never gets to meet tete-a-tete. The 1980s and 1990s marked a defining moment in criticizing Lolita as a novel, as critics increasingly shifted their focus from the formal aspects of the novel to the moral and ethical implications of Humbert’s behavior, and the possibility that in spite of Nabokov’s statement in his afterword to Lolita, his novel did indeed have a “moral in tow”. In particular, the 1980s and 1990s saw a deepening interest in the figure of Lolita and her representation in the text . Or perhaps more accurately, this period witnessed a devoted interest in the ‘non-representation’ of Lolita. It is an interesting notion to evaluate that Humbert is blind to Dolores, replacing her with, or substituting her with an idealized image that is the product of his twisted and artistic imagination; an image he names Lolita and it is arguably to a large extent only this fantasized Dolores called Lolita that the reader has access to in the novel. Humbert in the very first chapter of the novel provides the reader with an attestation of the abovementioned argument in the following phrase: “She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my...
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