Through Humbert Humbert’s Looking Glass: A Closer Examination of Lolita and the Tragedy of Dolores Hazethrough the Eyes of a Nymphet Crazed Psychopath.
Throughout Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, Humbert Humbert struggles to make sense of what his pedophilia has caused and whether his actions are worthy of moral consideration. The novel is centered around a man, a child and a prolonged yet questionable sexual relationship. There is, however, much more depth to this eloquently depicted yet chilling account of pedophilia. Humbert Humbert is infatuated with a twelve year old girl, he dubs, Lolita. She is not visibly different than other girls her age, yet is unlike, and superior to them due to characteristics Humbert has pinpointed within those he distinguishes as nymphets. To Humbert, Lolita is everything. To Dolores Haze, “Lolita” is but one nickname given to her by Humbert. To readers, Humbert is portrayed as a criminal and “Lolita,” a victim, who has served as the main focus to illustrate the true nature of Humbert’s condition. In this paper I aim to shed light on the rhetoric of Nabokov and the way he manipulates readers so that they can see through the cracks in Humbert Humbert’s account of what happened to Dolores Haze. Despite his efforts to rationalize his pedophilic obsession, Humbert attempts but fails to persuade readers that his unique depiction of characters, events and situations that occur, are accurate. Readers will utilize these intentional cracks within Nabokov’s beautiful prose to piece together the grim reality behind Humbert’s story despite its glimpses of Lolita’s innocence, her playful curiosity and childlike demeanor.
Nabokov’s diction and particular lens he selects enables readers to see the fragile sugar coating that Humbert has tried to blanket over the bitter reality of what he has enabled to happen. Even when the sugar coating appears intact, there is still enough sunlight to melt its exterior for the cracks within Humbert Humbert’s story to be exposed. I encourage readers to lay aside his paternalistic and caring mannerisms to truly see him for who he is. I aim to achieve this effect by focusing primarily on Nabokov’s particular angle to which readers are to perceive Humbert’s account and the overall treatment of Lolita. To better illustrate Humbert’s unreliability as a narrator, I will draw upon the familiar Nature vs Nurture debate.
Whether his pedophilia was a byproduct of internal biological factors and genetics or external factors such as the environment he was raised in or trauma that he experienced in his life, Humbert is aware that what eventually becomes of Lolita is his doing. What he fails to comprehend yet yearns to discover is whether or not his rationalization of his pedophilia can lead to his redemption as a character. I will discuss particular points within the novel where Humbert claims that his Nature is to blame and others in which he thrusts it upon Nurture. To better exemplify Humbert’s dilemma, I will do a close reading of passages which revolve around his initial relationship with Annabel and consequently that which discuss the charm and curse of the nymphet. Additionally, I have chosen to analyze specific moments in which Nabokov enables Dolores’s voice to be heard, to illuminate the true severity of what Humbert has so diligently attempted but inevitably failed to cover up.
From the very beginning of the novel, we are introduced to 36 year old Humbert Humbert and it is clear that, as the narrator, the story is going to be told through his unique lens. Right away, we are catapulted into Humbert’s fantasy world in which pedophilia dictates his every thought and rules over his every action. He initially discusses and reminisces about a girl named Annabel, who he met and became infatuated with at a young age. He explains that
There are two kinds of visual memory: one when you skillfully recreate an image in the laboratory of your mind, with your eyes open . . . and the other when you instantly evoke, with shut eyes on the dark inner side of your eyelids, the objective, absolutely optical replica of a beloved face, a little ghost in natural colors (and this is how I see Lolita). (11)
Despite his infatuation with Annabel, Humbert is unable to clearly remember all of her features in the detailed and vivid way he is able to when he thinks about Lolita. This passage signifies that anything Humbert is going to recall about Annabel may be distorted due to his inability to fully remember her features and mannerisms. Humbert’s relationship with Annabel, although he is unable to recall every detail, serves as the spark which perhaps ignited his pedophilic obsession with children.
Very early on, Nabokov recounts the timeline for and development of Humbert’s pedophilia. The first few pages serve to establish the cause of Humbert’s condition as well as the time and location which it first erupted. Before delving into the account of his relationship with Dolores Haze, Humbert brings up the following question; “did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child” (11). Is this so? Initially, Humbert questions whether or not his genes or the environment are at the underlying cause of his pedophilia. He seems to perceive himself as a prisoner of the things that occurred during his childhood or his genetic makeup; these are two things Humbert has been chained to and has no feasible way of altering or escaping. He then goes on to describe how
I leaf again and again through these miserable memories and keep asking myself, was it then, in the glitter of that remote summer, that the rift in my life began; or was my excessive desire for that child only the first evidence of an inherent singularity? (13)
What Humbert means by this is as follows; he grapples with determining whether or not his pedophilia stems from his childhood relationship with Annabel, or if it is a condition he was born with that had no real beginning but resided within him from the day he was born. Readers are aware that Humbert is, in fact, a pedophile. There is no mistake there. It is more difficult, however, for Humbert and readers alike to fully determine whether or not nature and/or nurture are responsible for his actions and behaviors. Because Humbert is an unreliable narrator and a pedophile to boot, there is no way that he can be taken seriously. Not only is Humbert unable to pinpoint the root cause of his pedophilia, he as a grown adult, is relentless in blaming other characters, events and things for its domination over his life.
Humbert’s nature is that of a pedophile and it doesn’t take long for readers to realize that Nabokov has positioned his narrator to be portrayed in this way. Since Lolita is a story, and things that happen to characters are not true facts, readers may find it hard to discuss the nature of a fictional character in terms of reality. When referring to truths presented within the text, I will be doing so in terms of fictional reality that have been depicted through the lens of Humbert Humbert, an unreliable and utterly fictitious narrator. So if that which is perceived as truth is merely fiction, how are readers to truly believe the word of Humbert Humbert or really anything within the novel, for that matter? Feelings are created, though they may only exist within the context within the novel, but they are still real and as equally valid if they were to be felt in real life. Readers may develop empathy for Humbert Humbert, but it is forced, manipulated by means of Nabokov’s word choice and specific direction within his prose. Although readers do feel a twinge of empathy for Humbert and a wave of compassion for Dolores Haze, that which is felt towards Humbert is easily diminished especially after he tries to blame Dolores Haze, the nymphet as the culprit behind his pedophilic tendencies.
Humbert whole heartedly believes that it is within the nymphet’s nature to be seductive. He invites readers to imagine themselves within the scenario and encourages them to “examine its every detail and see for themselves how careful, how chaste, the whole wine-sweet event is if viewed with . . . ‘impartial sympathy’” (57). Humbert is tidying up and depicts a situation in which Lolita is, according to his account, seducing him. The young nymphet is depicted holding a tantalizing red apple and Humbert observes her every move and is mesmerized by her every action. Dolores plays with the apple, which can either be perceived as a normal occurrence or something more questionable. After tossing the apple into the air, Humbert recalls how she
grasped it and bit into it and my heart was like snow under thin crimson skin, and the monkeyish nimbleness that was so typical of that American nymphet, she snatched out of my abstract grip the magazine I had opened (pity no film had recorded the curious pattern, the monogrammic linkage of our simultaneous or overlapping movements. (58)
According to Humbert, it is the “demoniac,” (16) nature of the nymphet which is to be held accountable, instead of his own pedophilic nature. Humbert displaces what resides within him and dumps it on the nymphet, in order to rationalize his sexual encounters with Dolores. Since pedophilia is wrong, it is hard to truly accept what Humbert is claiming, as factual. He is blaming that which lurks within his genes, on a child whose true nature is of innocence and bliss. Instilling within the nymphet, “demoniac,”(16) qualities, Nabokov plays with the idea that it is not Humbert who is attracted to nymphets and rather it is the superior girl-child and in this case, Dolores Haze who is to be held accountable. The nymphet, according to Humbert, can’t help but seducing those “bewitched travelers,” (16) because it is within their true nature to do so. Humbert plays along with Dolores and pretends to be interested in the magazine she is flipping through. Dolores finds something she wants Humbert to see and the pedophile
Faked interest by bringing my head so close that her hair touched my temple and her arm brushed my cheek as she wiped her lips with her wrist . . . she was all over me . . . then with perfect simplicity, the impudent child extended her legs across my lap. By this time I was in a state of excitement bordering on insanity; but I also had the cunning of the insane. (58)
Nabokov positions readers to witness events through the lens of a pedophile. If he had decided instead to instill within Dolores, the narrative voice, events that occurred and encounters between the nymphet and pedophile would be vastly different. In fact, there may not be a nymphet at all. The nature of Dolores Haze would be that of any other young girl which would be of innocence and nothing more. Her actions would perhaps be depicted in a far more childlike and innocent way rather than the skewed way they are conveyed through Humbert Humbert’s narration. Because readers are intended to perceive Humbert as the voice of reason throughout the fictitious novel, every action is twisted in such a way that innocent acts are portrayed as “demoniac” (16) and repulsive. Nabokov’s beautiful prose and seductive encounters between Dolores and Humbert are tools he utilizes to his advantage to portray the grim reality of what is actually going on, in a more appealing and less abrasive way. What is hidden beneath the surface is anything but innocent.
Nabokov entices readers to question whether or not Humbert’s account is true and whether or not Dolores and her story are depicted in terms of reality. When it comes to reality, and as I have mentioned previously, it is vital to view events, actions and behaviors in terms of fiction. Of course that which is depicted in the novel isn’t real, but what readers are encouraged to do is decide whether or not the fictitious realities are presented in a truthful way or if they are skewed perceptions and nothing more. Likewise, in terms of Humbert’s first sexual encounter with Dolores, it is clear that there is more to the situation than initially meets the eye. Humbert dictates prior to this interaction that his relationship with Annabel was an “inherent singularity, (13)” and nothing more.
Annabel was Humbert’s first love and it is the relationship that he had with her, which is said to potentially have sparked his pedophilic interest. Humbert states that in regard to his relationship with Annabel that “All at once we were madly, clumsily, shamelessly, agonizingly in love with each other”(12). Humbert is beside himself once his relationship ends abruptly after he finds out that Annabel has died of Typhus. Was it Humbert’s relationship and infatuation with Annabel that sparked his pedophilic desire? Or was it merely a misinterpreted quest to reclaim what he found so enchanting in his relationship with Annabel, with another? Humbert insinuates that perhaps it was his relationship with his first love, Annabel which sparked his pedophilia. Likewise, he depicts his relationship with this young girl as an “inherent singularity” (13). Consequently, his relationship with Annabel can be described in terms of nature. Humbert’s nature is that of a pedophile, whereas Annabel’s is of innocence as she is portrayed as a young girl. Due to the fact that she is depicted as a nymphet, she is therefore the epitome of all Humbert and other “bewitched travelers,” (16) young girls should be. It is her death which is said to have impacted Humbert in such a way that he became a changed man. It is his relationship with Annabel, and the trauma her death invoked upon him, which altered his nature from innocent man to ruthless pedophile.
After Annabel’s untimely death, Humbert attempts to move on but is fixated in the past and appears as if on a journey to recover what he so desperately craves yet is unable to realistically obtain. Elizabeth Prioleau, author of Journal, Twentieth Century Literature’s enlightening article entitled “Humbert Humbert Through the Looking Glass,” highlights the way in which Nabokov utilizes objects such as mirrors, to represent the novel’s motifs of time, reflection and that which is no longer unattainable. She claims that
Humbert’s whole narration has a “Looking-Glass world” (Alice, p. 341) perspective: time and space move backward, doubles proliferate, language fractures into new combinations. At the same time, within Humbert’s story itself, there is a concurrent dramatization of Humbert’s struggle to penetrate the looking glass. (428)
Humbert vacillates between pinpointing nature or nurture as the cause of his pedophilia. In regard to Annabel, Humbert discloses that prior to meeting her, that he was normal. He is adamant that her life as well as death sparked something within him which was a unique and one time occurrence. In some ways, Humbert blames his relationship on Annabel, her charm and ultimately her death. Readers obtain, through the text, that pedophilia plagues Humbert and is not merely an “inherent singularity,” (13) but something far more drastic and detrimental. Contrary to Humbert’s lustful behavior and attempt to rationalize his relationship with Annabel, it is not likely that his time with her was the sole indicator of his pedophilia.
Humbert loved Annabel and is relentless in his mission to rekindle that flame with another young girl, possessing similar, if not identical personality traits and physical attributes. This desire to reclaim what Humbert found so appealing within Annabel is representative of Nurture end of the spectrum. Humbert was enthralled by Annabel and certain nymphic qualities she possessed and states that “I am convinced . . . that in a certain magic and fateful way Lolita began with Annabel” (14). It is rational to suggest that the name Lolita is interchangeable with Humbert’s pedophilia. Humbert grapples with Nurture and believes; if he had not met Annabel that he would not have met Lolita. Or Humbert is really indicating is far more provocative; if he had not met Annabel and fallen in love with her, he would have been a normal man who was not plagued by pedophilia. Humbert therefore would not have a story to tell if this were the case.
Humbert claims not to really remember much about Annabel, regarding her physical attributes. Humbert was deeply saddened by the loss of his dearly beloved and recalls how her memory plagued him relentlessly though he could not adequately remember her features as time progressed. Humbert mentions how madly in love he was with Annabel until he realizes after she is deceased and he has first seen Lolita, that
The haze of stars, the tingle, the flame , the honeydew and the ache remained with me, and that little girl with her seaside limbs and ardent tongue haunted me ever since-until at last, twenty-four years later, I broke her spell by reincarnating her in another. (15)
Humbert claims to have reincarnated Annabel, within another, who happens to be Dolores Haze, or his beloved nymphet, Lolita. On the other hand, Humbert goes against his “inherent singularity,” (13) belief earlier on by suggesting that his relationship with Annabel was not a one-time expression of romanticized love towards a child. If this is the case, he almost affirms his pedophilia as a byproduct of Nature as well as Nurture but still is unable to truly pinpoint whether it is solely one or the other. Nurture aside, Humbert establishes the concept of the nymphet to rationalize his pedophilic obsession and to blame it on young girls, and Lolita, specifically. He is very much aware that his affliction is not deemed socially acceptable by society and therefore tries, especially at the beginning of the novel, to cover up and rationalize his actions by claiming he hasn’t hurt Dolores in the process of getting what he wants. After his first sexual encounter with the nymphet, Humbert claims that
What had begun as a delicious distension of my innermost roots became a glowing tingle which now had reached that state of absolute security, confidence and reliance not found elsewhere in conscious life. (60)
Humbert’s “innermost roots,” (60) are that of a pedophile and it is this moment which he seems to realize the true extent of his condition. He affirms his nature despite still going back and forth between it, and his nurture or upbringing. After Humbert takes advantage of the child, he claims to have “felt proud of myself. I had stolen the honey of a spasm without impairing the morals of a minor”(62). Humbert attempts, but fails to rationalize what he has just done by downplaying the fact that he has just stripped Dolores of her virginity and emphasizing the fact that she was left unscathed. In Humbert’s mind, because he did not physically harm Dolores, she is not to be perceived as a victim. Instead, Humbert boasts that he was able to get what he wanted without causing harm to the child. Little does he know that is actions alone, even the most benevolent ones, have impacted Dolores in more ways than one. Humbert continues, stating that “Lolita was safe-and I was safe. What I had madly possessed was not she, but my own creation, another, fanciful Lolita . . . having no will, no consciousness –indeed, no life of her own”(62). Humbert distances himself from what he has enabled to occur, by removing Dolores and replacing her with his own fantasized nymphet, Lolita. He claims that
Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens, who, to certain bewitched travelers . . .reveal their true nature with is not human, but nymphic (that is demoniac) . . . the fey grace, the elusive, shifty, soul shattering, insidious charm separates the nymphet from [other girls] (18–19).
The nymphet, or Lolita in this instance, is nymphic in Nature. These young girls are innately enchanting, mysterious and awe inspiring. In creating the nymphet, Nabokov has instilled within readers that these are girls who are different and more spectacular than other girl-children of the same age. Humbert claims that the nature of the nymphet is “demoniac” because, by nature, these girls lure him in. The term “demoniac” is instrumental in Humbert’s attempt to rationalize his pedophilic obsession and in Nabokov’s intent as an author. Since Humbert is perceived as the voice of reason, readers are persuaded that it is not the pedophile who is to blame for the lustful seduction that is bound to occur. Similarly, in distinguishing nymphets from other girls, Nabokov instills upon his readers that Humbert too, must differentiate himself from other men in order to identify a nymphet. He refers to himself as a “bewitched traveler” which signifies that nymphets are only able to be distinguished by pedophiles. It takes a pedophile to identify a nymphet and consequently it takes a nymphet to entice and elicit feelings within a pedophile. According to Humbert,
You have to be an artist and a madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in your loins and a super-voluptuous flame permanently aglow in your subtle spine to discern the nymphet among her human playfellows. (17)
Humbert implies that in order to identify a nymphet, one must be of a certain Nature to do so. Nabokov helps readers to better understand Humbert’s infatuation with Nymphets through the genealogy of his protagonist’s interactions with them. Explaining that Lolita had a predecessor is vital towards understanding Humbert as well as his attempt to rationalize his condition. Discussing Annabel and her relation to Humbert’s account of what happened to Dolores Haze is relevant but still clouds the fact that the novel, Lolita is not the story it is intended to be. Even though Dolores Haze is a fictional character, her identity or lack thereof within the novel helps to illustrate the overarching idea that her identity, her name her childhood and her story have all been stripped from her. Nabokov’s novel, Lolita, is actually the recollection of Humbert’s account of his relationship with Dolores Haze. When it comes down to it, the real story that should be told is that of Dolores Haze. Unfortunately, while Dolly is present, her story is lost, and replaced with that of Humbert Humbert.
Dolores Haze is a child and therefore shrouded by innocence and moral consideration. She is portrayed as a victim whose seemingly innocent actions are portrayed through the twisted mind of a pedophile. Elisabeth Ladenson, author of the eye opening chapter, “Vladimir Nabokov: Lolitigation” within the anthology, Dirt for Art’s Sake, argues that Nabokov positions the story to be read and its events to be perceived from one, instead of multiple perspectives. While some might argue that Dolores is a child and is not aware of the true nature of her sexual relations with Humbert Humbert, critics such as Ladenson claim that
She is both completely unprepared and all too prepared for what Humbert has in store for her. Throughout the novel she vacillates between utter innocence and cagey experience. (199)
At twelve years old, Dolores is a child on the cusp of puberty. As Ladenson argues, “the great lure of the nymphet is her blend of the “demoniac” and of innocence, which –Lolita is the story of this — is irresistible only to the extent to which it can be defiled, after which it is no longer innocence, and therefore no longer desirable”(198). The lure of innocence, childhood and the unattainable are all elements which, as Humbert’s vices, are depicted throughout the novel to represent the temptation that Humbert should but is unable to resist. Even after his first sexual interaction with Dolores, Humbert still feels very passionately about her and continues to lust after her long after he has stripped her of her virginity. Dolores Haze serves to depict the innocence of childhood and the darkness that lurk beneath its metaphorical walls. As a child, Dolores exhibits normal tendencies that coincide with being a boisterous adolescent. She is at an age where sexual curiosity, exploration and innocent flirtation are considered acceptable and utterly normal, in terms of child development. Nabokov enables readers to view her innocent desires, but intentionally positions them to be told through Humbert’s perspective, so that Lolita’s innocence is tainted with Humbert’s pedophilic fantasy.
Richard Locke, author of chapter, “Vladimir Nabokov’s Abused Nymph” within the book, Critical Children: The Use of Childhood in Ten Great Novels enlightens readers as to the true horror that is hidden beneath the beauty of Nabokov’s rhetoric. He argues that his particular word choice serves as a jewel encrusted mask, covering the bitter truth that lies underneath its misleading outer shell. Readers are drawn in by Nabokov’s unique prose, yet he has “constructed it so that we become accomplices in aestheticizing a physical and moral crime: child abuse, rape. Our intellectual, literacy, and moral vanity seduces us” (157). Similarly, readers are encouraged by Nabokov to search for truth which belongs to Dolores Haze in addition to her story, between the lines of this eloquently written novel. In many ways, Nabokov positions readers, through the retelling of Humbert’s account, to be accepting of the events as they are depicted through his narrow mindset. Humbert, however, is not as reliable a narrator as the unsuspecting reader might take him to be. It seems, upon first glance, that Humbert is addressing a jury regarding a crime he has committed, although its details are never directly stated. According to Locke, “Humbert’s change of focus from jury to girl is presumably proof of his self-proclaimed evolution from criminal to lover. But Nabokov immediately establishes that “Lolita” is Humbert’s nickname for a child primarily known . . . as Dolores or Dolly Haze.”(158)
Nabokov intricately weaves the web of Humbert’s account regarding the pain he inflicts upon Dolores Haze, through his beautiful rhetoric. Lolita embodies everything Humbert wants to possess but cannot rightfully attain. It is evident that Nabokov’s prose encourages readers to look past Humbert’s depictions of the young girl. As a pedophile, his views are distorted and though his depictions may contain some truth, they are tainted in such a way that Dolores is to be perceived, through Humbert’s narrative, as a sexualized young girl. In reality, however, she is a 12 year old child who possesses qualities and personality traits that are not sexualized in the slightest, but are perfectly normal for those her age to possess. We are shown what Dolores looks like, through Humbert’s skewed lens. Humbert describes the features he pinpoints within the larger demographic of girls he classifies as nymphets:
Only in the tritest of terms (diary resumed) can I describe Lo’s features: I might say her hair is auburn and her lips as red as licked red candy, the lower one prettily plump-oh, that I were a lady writer who could have her pose naked in a naked light! But instead I am lanky, big-boned wooly-chested Humbert Humbert, with thick black eyebrows and a queer accent, and a cesspool of rotting monsters behind his slow boyish smile. (44)
Dolores Haze is a child and despite being depicted in a sexualized manner, she is a young girl and not even Humbert’s crude descriptions can remove that piece of her identity from her. Childhood and the inevitability of growing up plague Humbert and we see at various points throughout Nabokov’s prose, his desire to revert to simpler times. It isn’t merely the blissful nature of childhood, which Humbert craves; he regresses into a more simplified dialect in order to connect with Dolores on a more age appropriate level and persuade readers that his actions are nothing more than that of innocent curiosity. Dolores is a child, and there are moments in which we truly get to see her for who she is; a young girl who is on the cusp of entering puberty and is encouraged, by society to explore her budding sexuality. Like many young girls her age, Dolores takes part in actions that are typical of childhood. One incidence in particular occurs when Humbert accompanies her to a candy store. According to Humbert,
Lolita was served an elaborate ice-cream concoction with synthetic syrup. It was erected and brought [to] her by a pimply brute of a boy in a greasy bow-tie who eyed my fragile child in her thin cotton frock with carnal deliberation. (115)
The act of getting ice cream is a very innocent act, and Nabokov intentionally positions readers to interpret it as anything but. Humbert describes how the ice cream was “erected”. Was it really “erected”? Through Humbert’s viewpoint, even the most innocent of objects, events and indivuals are sexualized even if there is nothing innately sexual or inappropriate about them. Readers view Dolores Haze through the way in which Humbert always views her; to Humbert Lolita is always portrayed as enchanting and partaking in questionable ways. Dolores’s actions, despite being depicted through Nabokov’s prose and Humbert’s voice, may always appear questionable. To the more observant reader, her actions are normal occurrences in childhood that have been skewed in such a way that her youthful innocence is mistaken for being something that they are not.
Readers and critics alike can agree that Dolores Haze has undeniably been sexually molested by a pedophile and that she is a victim. Even though she is a child and is not to be held accountable for the horrible things Humbert has done to her, I think it tends to be forgotten how much she truly is aware of. As a child, Dolores falls into a category in which she is not to be held accountable for actions which she might be, if she were an adult. She is a victim not only because she is a child, but because of what Humbert has done to defile her. Regardless of her age, she has been taken advantage of and abused and the things that have happened to her are not redeemable in any way, shape or form. For instance, when the two are on their journey, they get into an altercation and Humbert recalls how Dolores looked at him and stated the following:
“You chump,” she said, sweetly smiling at me. You revolting creature. I was a daisy-fresh school girl, and look what you’ve done to me. I ought to call the police and tell them you raped me. Oh, you dirty, dirty old man. (141)
Dolores may be a 12 year old girl, but the fact that she is a child does not indicate that she is unable to recognize right from wrong. Even though Nabokov silences her voice throughout much of the novel, when it is heard, it speaks volumes. Humbert is not the innocent man he tries to claim that he is. Dolores is quite aware of the animal she is dealing with, yet is unable to flee as a child, due to the power discrepancy between the two of them and the fact that she has nowhere else to go once her mother passes away. Through his skillful depictions of events, Nabokov instills within readers an intense surge of empathy towards Dolores Haze. Not only is she aware that what Humbert Humbert has done and continues to do to her is wrong, but she continues to remain within the tight grip of her abuser.
Ultimately, Humbert Humbert is a pedophile and Dolores Haze is a child. Even when Humbert journeys from determining whether or not it is his nature to nurture which is to blame, he is still held accountable for his actions. Whether it is inherent biological qualities which cause him to act in the way he does or external factors such as his upbringing in addition to childhood trauma, his condition is inexplicable and unavoidable. Humbert might pinpoint nature or nurture or perhaps even both as being the root of his condition, but at the end of the day does it really matter? Regardless whether or not his pedophilic tendencies stem from heredity or the environment or a mixture of the two, what readers obtain from this novel is far more important. When all is said and done, Nabokov’s Lolita is a novel which depicts Humbert Humbert’s account of something far more serious than he attempts to convey to readers. Dolores Haze and her story might be told, but it is through the lens of an unreliable, indecisive narrator in which it is delivered. At the end of the day, Nabokov has deceived readers into thinking his novel is going to depict Lolita’s story. The tale is not of Lolita’s nor does it belong to Dolores. Perhaps Nabokov should have kept his original title, Confession of a White Widowed Male as it is Humbert’s story, rather than the young nymphet’s which the novel revolves around. Ultimately, Dolores Haze and her account of what happened should be treasured more than that of Humbert Humbert. The story is merely a story, though it is not the tale readers were expecting. I implore Dolores and her story to have the opportunity to be heard and for Humbert’s voice and skewed perspective to be silenced.
Ladenson, Elisabeth. “Vladimir Nabokov: Lolitigation”. “Vladimir Nabokov: Lolitigation”. Dirt for Art’s Sake: Books on Trial from “Madame Bovary” to “Lolita”. 1st ed. Cornell University Press, 2007. 187–220.
Locke, Richard. Lolita. “VLADIMIR NABOKOV’S ABUSED NYMPH”. Critical Children: The Use of Childhood in Ten Great Novels. Columbia University Press, 2011. 154–172.
Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita. 50th Anniversary Edition ed. New York: Vintage Books. Print.
Prioleau, Elizabeth. “Humbert Humbert Through the Looking Glass”. Twentieth Century Literature 21.4 (1975): 428–437.
Tweedie, James. “Lolita’s Loose Ends: Nabokov and the Boundless Novel”. Twentieth Century Literature 46.2 (2000): 150–170.
Tamir-Ghez, Nomi. “The Art of Persuasion in Nabokov’s Lolita”. Poetics Today 1.1/2 (1979): 65–83.