Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel is a campy story about pedophilia.
“Lolita” is narrated by the main protagonist, Humbert, a middle aged literature professor and pedophile. Humbert travels to the United States and takes lodging with a middle-aged woman, whom Humbert finds repulsive, and her 12-year-old daughter named Dolores, whom Humbert privately nicknames: ‘Lolita.’
Humbert immediately finds himself drawn to Lolita and while she is away at summer camp, he eventually marries her mother in an attempt to get closer to her. When Lolita’s mother finds out about her husband’s obsession with her daughter, she panics and runs out into the street and is run down by a car. Humbert goes to Lolita’s summer camp and takes her on a trip across the country after telling her, that if they are caught, she will be a ward of the state and lose everything she holds dear. While on the road with Humbert, he bribes her in order to receive sexual favors.
Throughout his recollection of his time with Lolita, Humbert tries to draw sympathy from the reader because of his illness, regardless of the fact that he never seems to try to cure himself or go against his sick instincts, but rather just leans into it.
Lolita is the perfect victim for Humbert, as she is an overly sexualized young girl who makes a series of awful decisions regarding her relationship with Humbert. Lolita is, more or less, an idiot, like most 12-year-olds are, and she initiates a sexual relationship with Humbert after losing her virginity to a boy at camp. Regardless, she is still a victim of statutory rape.
Because the novel is written from Humbert’s point of view, Lolita’s feelings are not shown, perhaps because Humbert is incapable of diagnosing them. Her entire character is that of a voiceless sexual object.
“Lolita” is infamous for its scandalous subject matter and was originally categorized as an erotic novel, although now it is considered a tragicomedy.
However, some critics view the novel as a romance, which is a bit disturbing. Vanity Fair said that “Lolita” was, “The only convincing love story of our century.”
“Lolita” may be responsible for the trend of finding an abusive male figure dominating his senseless consort the most romantic thing possible. This disturbing trend has been popping up in literature more and more recently, specifically “50 Shades of Grey” and “Twilight.” The popularity of these kinds of novels is particularly concerning because these “love” stories are teaching their female readers that if a man tells you that he loves you, it’s perfectly acceptable for him to be abusive.
Paige Jurgensen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.