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Is Nabokov's Humbert The Victim? Essay

2342 words - 10 pages

In Vladimir Nabokov’s acclaimed novel Lolita, Nabokov’s character Humbert Humbert seeks to justify his affair with a child. Throughout Lolita the reader picks up on Humbert’s constant sexual perception of children, as well as his obvious discourse regarding the pre-meditation, action, and consequences of seducing Lolita. Often, critics describe Humbert’s actions as “monstrous”. Dolores “Lolita” Haze becomes the sexual object of a pedophile’s desires and is left unprotected with the sudden death of her mother. Lolita is an innocent young girl who is victimized and seduced by a pedophile.

Humbert has a predisposition towards children that affects his entire life prior to meeting his ...view middle of the document...

Haze solely as “a maneuver to ensure physical proximity to Lolita” (Whiting 843). Marrying Mrs. Haze puts Humbert even closer to Lolita, thus giving him easier access to prey upon her sexually. This demonstrates how pedophilia has followed Humbert Humbert through the years, from Annabel, Valeria, and Mrs. Haze to focus entirely on Lolita.

Humbert, in addition to his pedophilic ways, is mentally disturbed prior to meeting and victimizing Lolita Haze. He recounts stories, almost fondly, of his time in asylums. In order to gain access to Lolita, he speculates what it would take to kill Mrs. Haze. Humbert Humbert makes up stories and outlandish dreams to feed to the psychologists and sporadically mentions throughout Lolita his time in various asylums. Humbert was crazy (intelligent, no doubt, but mentally disturbed) prior to his seduction of Lo and knew very well what he was doing as he attempts to justify his obsession with the 12-year-old preceding his sexual advances towards her.

Lolita, much to her detriment in the eyes of readers, idolizes Humbert throughout the novel, which only assists Humbert in his unabashed pursuit of her. Lacking a father figure, she seems to gravitate towards any man that shows any real attention towards her. The lack of a genuine Mr. Haze in Lolita is a pivotal point when deciding who is at fault for seduction. Opponents, like Douglas Fowler in his book Reading Nabokov, may put Lolita at fault, claiming that she is promiscuous and manipulative.

[Humbert] does not kill Charlotte; he does not seduce Lolita; his sexual enjoyment of her is imperfect because of her indifference; her thralldom to him depends in part on her own indifference, rootlessness, and meretriciousness, for Lolita wants to be entertained. Humbert goes to enormous lengths to maker her happy, and she encourages this. (Fowler 151)

However, when Fowler’s reading selection is interpreted differently, these attempts to receive attention merely reflect Lolita’s lack of a prominent male role model in her life. Matthew Winston agrees that he “use[s] his knowledge to deceive” (Winston 422). A teenager may not perceive when an adult, especially one she idolizes, is lying to her. Like any teen, she idolizes movie stars and dreams of happy endings. Even when Humbert Humbert is in bed with her, she tries to impress him (like a child would impress their parents) by mentioning a supposed “lover” from camp! According to Bordo, Lolita is very much a teen, even fumbling her attempts to be womanly, like smudging her lipstick (304)! As he is the only real father figure he as ever known, Lolita idolizes Humbert and because of this she remains unsuspecting of his desires until he chooses to consummate them. It is only later that she is able to break away from this fantasy world and eventually lead a normal life.

Humbert coerces Mrs. Charlotte Haze and her daughter to do his bidding in Lolita. Humbert deceives Charlotte and feigns attraction for...

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