Lolita is probably the most disturbing novel I have read recently. The titular character is Dolores Haze, a young girl who becomes sexually involved with her step-father, Humbert Humbert, who nicknames her Lolita. Their relationship is portrayed in the novel through the eyes of the step-father, throughout the novel he explains his love for Lolita, despite understanding that the relationship is wrong. The reason I found this novel so disturbing is just that; Humbert’s lust for this child is despite him knowing that the relationship is wrong, and the fact that after a while I started to sympathise with Humbert.
Lolita has a foreword by a fictional psychologist, John Ray PhD. This foreword is used by Nabokov to outline the rest of the novel which is written as though it is the diary of Humbert Humbert, who had suffered a number of mental breakdowns, and has now died in jail awaiting his trial for murder. Humbert’s diary tells of his life in Europe, firstly his childhood sweetheart, Annabel Leigh, who is taken away from him before they have the opportunity to have sex, and later dies. His diary insinuates that this is the cause of his later obsession with ‘nymphets’, young girls between 9 and 13. Later we are told about his ex-wife, and her having an affair which results in her leaving him for the other man. This episode triggers the second mental breakdown of his life, after which he leaves for America.
Upon arriving in America, Humbert moves in with Charlotte Haze. Mrs Haze is a widower who politely offers a room in the house after his previous arrangement is no longer feasible. Humbert actually contemplates declining her offer, then sees her daughter Dolores. After moving in with Charlotte and Dolores Haze, Humbert begins to see Charlotte as a barrier between himself and Dolores, whom he has begun to fantasise about. His fantasies become an obsession that he records in a diary, in which he nicknames her ‘Lolita’. At the same time Charlotte has fallen for him, and eventually tells him of her love for him in a letter. Following this declaration of love, Humbert proposes marriage to Charlotte, which she accepts. Some time after their marriage, Charlotte discovers his diaries about Dolores and tells him he will never see ‘Lolita’ again. She runs out the house to post some letters to friends telling them of Humbert’s diaries, but is killed by a car.
After Charlotte’s death, Humbert takes Lolita away from her summer camp and plans to drug her before raping her; the drug isn’t actually strong enough to knock Lolita out so he doesn’t touch her. The next morning Lolita actually initiates sex with him, and he informs her of her mothers death. Humbert is a man who clearly has a sexual interest in young girls, but throughout the novel Lolita herself plays the seductress. This becomes clear as the pair travel around America, playing the roles of father and daughter in public, but in private Nabokov uses innuendo and double entendres to portray their true activities.
As the novel progressed I came to the conclusion that Humbert had murdered Lolita after she had left him, my reasoning for this stemmed from the constant cat and mouse between the two. Like I said to begin with, this novel is disturbing; one starts to sympathise with both of the main characters, this is Nabokov’s gift. I became to think of the diary as an extended love note to Lolita, however, it is hard to ignore the fact that we know very little abut her despite her being the subject of the whole novel.