November 30, 2011
English 101 Boutry
M W 11:10-12:35
Lolita, the novel by Vladimir Nabokov, tells the story of Humbert Humbert, who is a perfect example of a pedophile. Dolores "Lolita" Haze becomes the sexual object of a pedophile's desires and is left unprotected with the sudden death of her mother. Although the character Humbert Humbert describes his feelings toward the twelve year old Lolita as love, in actuality, it is obsessive lust. Nabokov does an excellent job displaying the characteristics of pedophilia through this character. In developing this point, I will examine pedophilia and its clinical characteristics as they relate to Humbert Humbert and our society.
Pedophilia is considered an abnormal or unnatural attraction. It is defined as the fantasy or act of sexual activity with prepubescent children. Pedophilia is also a psychosexual disorder in which the fantasy or actual act of engaging in sexual activity with children is the preferred or exclusive means of achieving sexual excitement or gratification. Pedophiles may be young or old, male or female, although the great majority are males. Pedophilia is defined by mental health professional as a mental disorder, but the American legal system defines acting on a pedophilic urge as a criminal act.
Many courts interpret this reference to age to mean children under the age of 18. Most mental health professionals, however, confine the definition of pedophilia to sexual activity with children who are age 13 or younger. The sexual behaviors involved in pedophilia may or may not
involve the use of force. Types of activities include just looking at a child or undressing and touching a child. Some limit their behaviors to exposing themselves or masturbating in front of a child. Others, however, compel the child to participate in oral sex or full intercourse.
Throughout Lolita, Humbert's constant sexual perception of children is shown overtly. Humbert has a vulnerability towards children that affect his entire life prior to meeting his victim Lolita. His pedophiliac actions are associated back to an experience he once had in a garden with a girl named Annabel that left him feeling un-fulfilled. His "nymphets" or sexually young girls seem to take on the qualities of this young love. His entire life is constructed around desires for nymphets.
Humbert, in his description of Lolita, uses the word "nymphet" to refer not only to her but also to other girls of her age and characteristics. Little girls that came his way before Lolita, he describes as nymphets too. The history of the word "nymphet" in English does not go beyond 1955 when the novel Lolita was published because its first use is in the novel. It was introduced into English by Mr. Humbert Humbert himself. According to Humbert, a nymphet possesses magic that best works on men "twice or many times older than themselves." He does not understand this magic. He writes, "A greater endeavor lures me on: to fix once for all the perilous magic of nymphets.." (Nabokov 126) In fact, he himself sees the destructiveness and vengefulness of the nymphet through his use of the word "perilous" meaning full of danger or risk.
Humbert's image of a nymphet is enhanced by the thoughts and memories of Annabel that he harbors. He sees Lolita as a reincarnation of Annabel. "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." (Nabokov 16) Humbert does not think of nymphets as young girls, but rather as a manifestation of his particular unconventional ideals.
A pedophile mistakenly believes their victims enjoy the sexual experience. When...