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Lolita Paperback – January, 1998
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
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But those who read this novel without finding the love story contained within have allowed themselves to entirely miss the point. And so have those who claim it to be "dirty" or "exploitave" of children should read the book PERIOD. And those who feel this novel is misogynistic are conveniently forgetting that H. H. is contemptuous of ALL of the characters within, including himself and his relations, regardless of race, creed, OR GENDER. Oh, of course, he dwells on certain women, but that's because the people he spends the most time with in this novel ARE women. And he certainly dedicates quite a bit of time to denigrating Quilty; let us not forget that!
We must first also realize that Lolita is not only about a middle-aged man's decidedly unhealthy obsession with a teenaged girl. Lolita is also the tale of two (stylized and heavily stereotyped, of course) civilizations colliding, the "hypercivilized" Europe and the "barbaric" America (postwar). It is also a fable about the conflict between the overly analytical mind and the entirely emotional one (people who have studied psychology can probably elucidate on this better than I can). It is a satire on Freudian psychoanalysis. Finally, it is the result of one man's remarkable love for a language, which I think that no one can refute, no matter how appalled they are at the novel's content.
Where is the love in the midst of all this horror, you ask? Perhaps those who cannot find it have never experienced the terrible things that people do in spite of and BECAUSE of the strength of their love. Humbert's sexual addiction to Delores Haze is nothing less than an animalistic need to possess the object of his obsession in the most obvious way. Humbert's patient attempts to foster his captive's skills (whether they be tennis, literature, etc.) reveals a desire to cultivate, as you will, what he sees as a supremely fertile field.
And the sadism, I feel, was introduced for numerous reasons. Of course, it was to show just how horrible a person can by taking pleasure in the pain of another. But Nabokov also relayed the agony that Humbert experienced while BEING sadistic, while hurting the one thing that mattered most to him. Another significant, albeit rather twist, sign of love.
Of course Dolores' thoughts and feelings matter to Humbert, but one must remember that he is bent on possessing her. Therefore, her opinions on life and the world at large matter not a whit to him; he is only interested in what she thinks of him, but he is also able to ignore that part of her because of he is battling to possess the rest of her, and because of his "obvious" superiority to her, being a cultivated and educated adult European and all.
And of course, the most obvious overture made to Venus within this novel is the transference of Humbert's life (i.e., his assets) to Dolores. Of course, he could have blackmailed her, tried to buy her favors, kidnapped her for a second time, etc. But no, he cedes over all that is his to her and leaves. Granted, it is a small reparation, but it is all he can do by that point. It is the closest he can come to giving her back the life that he stole (her own, not Charlotte's) away and casually tore apart, and it is his attempt at absolution, not only for himself, but for her sake (read the last few paragraphs if you're shaking your head). It is this action that thinly separates H. H. from the everyday male monsters within our society.
Of course, I've focused on defending the love story within from H. H.'s point of view, since there is none from the character of Dolores. I will not go into Dolores' blatantly whorelike nature, which granted, was partially due to H. H.'s influence, but was clearly present BEFORE any contact was made between them. I will skip over (because of space) Charlotte's utter disregard and contempt for her own daughter
What's the upshot of all this? Well, first of all, I would like to make a few admissions. Yes, I am male. No, I am no professor of English, of literature, or of anything. But I do love the English language, I do love wonderful writing, I abhor H. H., and I find his actions within repulsive, horrifying, and warranting the harshest punishment available. I think spouse abusers should be beaten to a pulp and that rapists should be castrated. I don't think this is an appropriate book for most children and some adults.
And I am certainly no pedophile.
The upshot is that I firmly believe that Lolita is one of the finest and horrifying novels in the English language. And I, for one, feel that it is clearly a love story. And I'm not alone; I have many women friends and colleagues who have expressed similar opinions to mine, some of whom are English literature teachers, all of whom are strong and independent women (feminists, if we must use that silly and degrading label).
Those who cannot see the horrible and tragic drama of love in these pages should step off of their soapboxes, take closer look, and recognize this text for what it's for. Lolita, unlike such trash as Romeo & Juliet, is work of art, of literature. Romeo & Juliet is bad teenage hormones. Lolita is a labor of love.
Having said that i'm still awarding a high score because of language, the style , the potrayal of Humberts character and every other aspect of this novel except lolitas age.
I would reccomend reading Lolita but only if you can get your heard around the idea of her and him (obviously no one could understand the attraction)and you are not too easy to judge a person or let your morals jump in the way of your judgement (although some may say thats exactly what i did)
Read it with an open mind and make yourself aware of the content so you can be more understanding, (maybe??) and you will find lolita a truly brilliant novel, one of the very best the 20th century has to offer.