Lolita is one of those books where you know the basic idea before you read the book. How to Write A Damn Good Novel, among others of its type, had so thoroughly analyzed the book that I was almost certain that it would be dull. There were few surprises but Humbert’s demented lyrics and her-or-die mentality created a realistic madman’s world.
The story originates from Humbert’s doomed first love, Annabel, from when he was a boy. As he becomes an adult, it is implied that Annabel’s image was preserved in his desires for ‘nymphets’. He does not act on his desires until he meets Lolita Haze, whose mother he marries to stay with Lolita. Upon her mother’s death, he takes complete control of her. She eventually escapes, causing him to search for leads, forever pinning, until he finds her, fatally pregnant, and kills the like-minded man who took her.
Despite being a fascinating character that quickly goes from meek to aggressive, Humbert is mostly a static character whose views of others remains constant. Lolita, in his view, is always the girl-child he must possess, without any consideration of her mental health. Because Humbert’s view of Lolita remains static, Lolita herself seems static, although she goes through several changes from girl-child to a pregnant woman in an impoverished house.
How could the author write from the perspective of an inconsiderate pervert? What’s it like to write from the perspective of a static, yet dynamic, character? And-I believe this is not a question Nabokov could consciously answer I would ask him how he approached a deplorable pervert and managed to assimilate his voice seamlessly. Did he have an experience with a pervert or a kidnapper that his subconscious had to express? Did he simply have an inescapable fascination with perversion? Was it not about the perversion but a search to express a different view of love? I believe the answers lie in the two latter questions. Even if he did not have a fascination with general perversion, he did have a fascination with Humbert’s abnormal love of Lolita.
Humbert’s love would seem perverted to outsiders, torture to Lolita, yet deep, unquestionable love to Humbert. The difference between perversion and love is that perversion is single sided, concerned with only the pervert’s desires while love places higher value on the other’s needs and desires. The author’s work was in clouding love in perversion, or vice versa, while maintain a realistic pervert’s voice.
In an essay further analyzing Lolita, I would ask ‘what does Nabokov do to disguise love as perversion, or vice versa?’ I would look at how he describes Lolita as contrasted against the descriptions of those deemed inferior. I would look at Humbert’s immaturity and ignorance of other’s emotions. I would ask if he truly loved Lolita, or was still clinging to dead Annabel’s image.