The Unreliable Narrator

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The Unreliable Narrator

The impact of the narrative point of view and subsequently, the narrator’s control over his story-telling cannot be ignored. Mastery in presenting the story gives the narrator control to direct his readers as he intends, and hence it is important to penetrate the façade of the writing to truly understand what is going on. In Lolita, this is especially crucial as Humbert paints a sympathetic and sorry picture of himself to gain empathy from the readers. Yet, at the same time it is through the way he wove his tale where the moral message against child exploitation emerges stronger than ever.

The deceitful nature of Humbert’s writing is evident through the involuted style he adopts. He claims that he has “only words to play with” (Nabokov, 1955, p.32), and he manipulates them throughout the novel. Humbert retells a tale where names of places, things and people have been changed, and new creatures are invented. He creates a fantastical world, one where objects and characters are permutated into numerous forms that are in no way exhaustive, and in its excess we are drawn into his creation till it becomes difficult to unravel the truth and morality behind the events.

Humbert’s immortalization and dehumanization of Dolores is an attempt to lighten the immoral nature of his actions. His creation of a “nymphet” (Nabokov, 1955, p.16) is almost an extension of ‘Annabel Lee’ by Edgar Allen Poe, and sets the ground for the fantastical element in his autobiography. Parallels are drawn with Humbert’s first sexual experience and the poem: it occurred in a “princedom by the sea” with a girl named Annabel Leigh. He continues the whimsical fairytale by calling Dolores “my darling–my darling-my life and my bride” (Nabokov, 1955, p.47), an exact line from the poem. Such allusions serve to diminish his unnatural lust for a young child through setting the events against a background of fantasy. Humbert refers heavily to fairytales. Lolita was his...
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