Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita"

Topics: Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, Novel Pages: 6 (2447 words) Published: March 24, 2011
“There is a powerful need for symbolism, and that means the architecture must have something that appeals to the human heart” (Kenzo Tange). Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, written in 1955, is one of the most controversy novels of its time and still has the ability to shock unprepared readers. Nabokov uses his ability to connect with readers, his provocative language and his capability to evoke mental images to leave the reader feeling empathy towards the novels man character, Humbert Humbert. Lolita is an enticing novel that touches on some of the most taboo situations of the American culture. Vladimir Nabokov uses more than just his literal words to help the reader interpret the underlying taboos of the novel. Symbolism, allusion, and foreshadowing compel the reader to see Nabokov's ideas through Humbert Humbert's eyes. Symbolism is the “representation of a concept through symbols or underlying meanings of objects or qualities” (Dictionary.com) and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is saturated with underlying concepts and ideas. One of the more obscure symbols used through out Lolita is the life and death of the chestnut tree, and how Nabokov “uses the tree as a symbol of death and extinction” (McCauley). After first meeting Lolita, Humbert informs the reader that she has “the same chestnut hair as Annabel” (Nabokov), which is one of the main reasons Humbert is so infatuated with the young girl. By 1946 almost every American chestnut had fallen victim to a deadly disease, and by comparing Lolita to the chestnut tree Humbert unknowingly predicts her untimely death. Humbert and Lolita also follow the exact path of the disease that killed the trees when they head west from the Appalachians. While on their first trip across America the two stay in a cabin at Chestnut Court and Humbert says the road to the cabin runs “as straight as a hair parting between two rows of chestnut trees" (Nabokov). The chestnut tree and its death represent Humbert and Lolita’s imminent doom, and their inevitable death and separation. The use of fairy tale language in Nabokov’s Lolita allows the viewer to understand Humbert’s disconnection from reality when it comes to his desire for young girls. Humbert explains that “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). He uses words like “maidens” and “bewitched travelers” to describe the girls and the men they attract in hopes of disconnecting his socially unacceptable thoughts from reality. By referring to himself as bewitched, or under a spell, Humbert takes no responsibility for his actions against Lolita or any other young girl, because he was not in a stable mind frame. He describes certain young girls as “creatures” whose behavior is “not human” as a way to justify what he knows is wrong. “The Enchanted Hunter” also comes up many times and in different context through out the novel. It is first mentioned by Charlotte as a get-away trip for herself and Humbert after their marriage, it is the first place Humbert and Lolita actually have sex; it is where Quilty makes his first appearance to Humbert and the name of Quilty’s play, which Lolita performs in. Being enchanted means you are “influenced as by charms or incantations” (Dictionary.com) which once again blames the young nymphets for the spell they’ve cast on innocent men. The phrase “the enchanted hunter” could easily be used to describe Humbert and his quest for the perfect nymphet, and its use of the word “enchanted” ties into the fairy tale language scattered through the novel. The utilization of fairy tale language in Lolita symbolizes Humbert’s knowledge, be it conscious or subconscious, of how wrong his yearnings are and his use of fairy tale language depicts how removed from reality he truly...
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