Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita
After reading Vladimir Nabokov’s narrative, Lolita, most readers find themselves unwittingly accepting and even sharing the feelings of Humbert Humbert. Of course, the feelings they share are not those of becoming like Humbert but rather absentmindedly pitying and sympathizing with him, which are unusual outcomes felt towards a psychopath. As Mathew Winston, a critic, once stated, the novel “plays a very serious game with the relations between a work of art, the experiences that underlie it, and the effects it may have upon its readers” (421). Instead of simply recounting his experiences, Humbert chooses to do so in an unusual but strikingly artistic manner. Although Humbert Humbert uses many rhetorical techniques to dampen the reader 's disgust, the most effective one is the way he starts his story from the very beginning building up to why he’s on trial thus catching the readers’ attention and leaving them in suspense. Once he is sure to have captured the readers’ attention he takes the opportunity to recognize his culpability and guilt thus warranting more benevolence. When making a confession, one has to be wise in knowing how to make others listen. Humbert Humbert is, evidently, very knowledgeable in this field but he also proves to be very decieving; Humbert is able to, not only make his audience listen, but to make the reader accept his actions to a the degree of pitying and sympathizing with him. The art he uses in capturing readers and inviting them to think more open-mindedly over such a grotesque topic is one so uncommon and unique that not many are used to, thus finding themselves almost accepting Humbert’s actions as a social norm. As one critic, Lionell Trilling, once stated, “[…] we find ourselves the more shocked when we realize that, in the course of reading the novel we have come virtually to condone the violation it presents.[…] we have been seduced into conniving in the violation, because we have permitted our
Cited: Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992. Print. Tamir-Ghez, Nomi. "The Art of Persuasion in Nabokov 's Lolita." Poetics Today 1.1/2 (1979): 65-83. JSTOR. Web. 8 Mar. 2013. Winston, Mathew. "Lolita and the Dangers of Fiction." Twentieth Century Literature 21.4 (1975): 421-27. JSTOR. Web. 9 Mar. 2013.