Lolita is a story that has no real message. It’s not trying to say, “Don’t talk to strangers,” or, “Desperate women shouldn’t get remarried so easily,” or even, “blame the victim.” It’s just a story about a hebophile (some inaccurately refer to Humbert as a pedophile) that was written to entertain. Or perhaps even disgust or shock people.
I firmly believe this is the underlying reason why Vladimir Nabokov has been put under a microscope and ridiculed for over 60 years. A lot of people just cannot or will not accept such a sordid story without a moral behind it. Especially when the story is written from the POV of a pervert.
It’s transparent that Nabokov wrote Humbert Humbert as an Unreliable Narrator in his own “biography.” Nabokov did this without throwing things in the reader’s face as some authors are wont to do (cough, Suzanne Collins, cough). It would be insulting to our intelligence if he did (Collins, take note. Please). The problem is that he pulled this off so humbly and quietly that some readers fail to see the unreliable narration at all. Thus labeling Nabokov a victim blamer, or even worse, a closet pedophile.
But to be fair, he did have Humbert give away the truth. For example, the aftermath of the first time Lolita is raped. Even though Humbert went into great detail about Lolita’s supposed sexual past (the lady doth protest too much?), he accurately described the following day when Lolita was clearly in physical pain and accuses Humbert of raping her. I believe this makes it obvious that she was a virgin. But even if she wasn’t, there’s zero excuse for what he did.
What makes this so true-to-life is the heartbreaking fact that all hebophiles/pedophiles do this. Every single one of them blames the victim. Personally, I think they’re delusional about this because otherwise, they would feel guilty and that guilt would lessen their fun.
I say we should
but that’s just me.
Another important thing to mention is how well Lolita’s mother, Charlotte Haze, was written. Anyone who wants to look for the population of children who are at-risk for becoming victims of sexual violence need only to look at the mothers, never the children.
I have a confession to make. Normally I wouldn’t bother to include this, but I feel excluding it would somehow dirty this review, and that’s not fair. I cried when Humbert broke down after seeing Lolita again. I realize there’s a fine line between Stockholm Syndrome and feeling real love or compassion toward someone like Humbert, but he’s only human.
We can call people as sick as he is a monster, and perhaps that’s true. I know it makes some of us feel better when we can label people who do evil things, stick them in a box in the back of our mind, lock that box and walk away, letting it collect dust for the rest of our lives.
Otherwise, it makes some people feel uncomfortable or even downright frightened to ponder the horrifying idea that monsters are capable of true love. What would that say about us? That they’re not as different from us as we need them to be? Or is it so we don’t feel guilty for wanting to be as violent toward these predators as they have been toward innocent people, especially children? And what does this really say about who we are and what we’re capable of doing, regardless of the reason?