The storyteller of Vladimir Nabokov ‘s novel Lolita, Humbert Humbert, denounces himself and refers to himself as “ a beast, ” ( Nabokov 193 ) . It is all excessively easy for many readers to add their ain disapprobation ; after all, Humbert is a adult adult male who over the class of the narrative lecherousnesss after and engages in sexual dealingss with a 12 twelvemonth old miss. Yet a deeper reading of the stuff reveals that there may be more to the narrative than a simple instance of paedophilia. An scrutiny of character and symbolism in Vladimir Nabokov ‘s Lolita provides grounds to back up the theory that Humbert is a sympathetic but blemished character who is manipulated by Dolores Haze.
First of all, Humbert offers an statement for his actions that allows penetration into his logical thinking. The relationship between Humbert and Lolita is non socially acceptable, but Humbert tries “ to normalise his actions, mentioning Poe, Proust, and Petrarch to demo how norms have altered over clip, ” ( Rothstein 22 ) . Humbert defends himself from clip to clip by mentioning historical relationships that were similar to his with Lolita, indicating out that such relationships were acceptable in certain times and topographic points, and even reasoning that many misss of Lolita ‘s age have reached a province of physical adulthood. When he states that “ shortly I found myself maturating amid a civilisation which allows a adult male of 25 to tribunal a miss of 16 but non a miss of 12, ” it becomes clear that Humbert positions society, instead than himself, as the blemished factor in this equation ( Nabokov 16 ) . Regardless of his statements, harmonizing to the criterions of 20th century American civilization Humbert ‘s relationship with Lolita is socially unacceptable and he remains branded as a kid molester. Once more, Humbert is saved from being wholly evil. Humbert is non interested in kids, and is described as holding “ the extreme regard for ordinary kids, with their pureness and exposure, and under no fortunes would he hold interfered with the artlessness of a kid, ” ( Nabokov 19-20 ) . Douglas Fowler agrees, asseverating that Humbert is “ no deflowerer of guiltless kids ” ( 49 ) . Alternatively, Humbert ‘s involvement lies with what he calls a “ nymphet, ” or a immature miss who attracts those much older than herself and who is “ a lifelessly small devil among the wholesome kids, ” ( As Nabokov 16-7 ) . Equally predatory as his behaviour may look, Humbert has no purpose of perverting or harming the inexperienced person.
Unfortunately, these rationalisations lose some of their effectivity when taking into consideration that they come from an grownup who should cognize better. On the other manus, the statement that Humbert ‘s “ interior kid ” plays into his behaviour provides an alternate account for those actions. Near the beginning of the text, Humbert relates the narrative from his childhood of a seaside love affair with a miss named Annabel, which was broken off first by the intervention of a brace of grownups and eventually by the miss ‘s decease. This sad state of affairs reflects the verse form “ Annabel Lee ” by Edgar Allan Poe, with its narrative of lost love.
I was a kid and she was a kid,
In this land by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee ; ( Poe 7-10 )
Humbert feels per se tied to Annabel, once more shadowing the talker of the verse form ‘s averment that nil ” [ c ] an of all time dissever my psyche from the psyche of the beautiful Annabel Lee, ” ( Poe 32-3 ) . It can be argued that Humbert ne’er wholly grew up as a consequence of this incident ; portion of his psyche was stunted by his unconsummated childhood love matter. Humbert himself admits to the influence that these fortunes have on later events when he says that “ in point of fact, there might hold been no Lolita at all had I non loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child, ” ( Nabokov 9 ) . The construct that Humbert ‘s interior kid influences his behaviour is reinforced by yet more grounds from the narrative. For illustration, when Humbert and Lolita set off on their initial route trip he showers her with gifts and goes out of his manner to entertain her, mentioning to himself as “ eager, hopeful Hum, ” ( Nabokov 140 ) . This reads like a nervous immature male child seeking urgently to delight the miss whom he admires, trusting to catch her attending and derive her favour. The fact that Humbert expresses disgust with his ain grownup signifier, which he refers to as his “ grownup camouflage, ” besides lends support to this statement ( Nabokov 39 ) . Margaret Morganroth Gullette points out that to Humbert, “ [ a ] ll adult features – over-sized frame, pilosity, smell – are unnatural to the psyche that feels itself to be basically childly, ” ( 223 ) and that this is “ a abhorrence which he undertakings onto big adult females, ” ( 222 ) . The thought that Humbert is really a kid trapped in a adult male ‘s organic structure makes his infatuation with Lolita if non socially acceptable, so at least slightly more apprehensible.
If the reader can happen a hint of artlessness by diging beneath Humbert ‘s sinister surface, an scrutiny of Lolita exposes a surprising deficiency of virtuousness lying underneath her childlike mask. Nabokov establishes the incompatibility of her character within the really first paragraph: “ She was Lo, field Lo, in the forenoon, standing four pess ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the flecked line. But in my weaponries she was ever Lolita ” ( 9 ) . The miss ‘s invariably switching name mirrors the metamorphous quality her character ; in one minute she is an injured kid, and in the following she reads as a calculating seductress. In many ways she seems to be an mean American kid, and yet she has none of the artlessness that childhood implies. The truth is that she is cognizant of Humbert ‘s infatuation with her and tortures him with lines such as “ [ tungsten ] ell, you have n’t kissed me yet, have you? ” ( Nabokov 112 ) . Humbert may ne’er hold gone so far as to really hold intercourse with a nymphet were it non for his interactions with Lolita. In fact, it is Lolita who really seduces Humbert, and so goes on to uncover a history of sexual deviancy. “ Suffice to state that non a hint of modestness did I perceive in this beautiful barely formed immature miss whom modern co-education, juvenile mores, the campfire racket and so forth had utterly and hopelessly depraved, ” Humbert remarks, ( Nabokov 133 ) . Because of this old corruptness, “ Nabokov saves him from the act of really ruining precocious Dolores Haze ” and “ shifts moral duty off, ” ( Fowler 149 ) . This brush occurs in an hostel named The Enchanted Hunters, presenting the symbolism of the “ huntsman, ” by which Humbert is a huntsman whose programs are turned on their caput by the vernal nymphet. This subject is echoed subsequently by Lolita ‘s engagement in a drama titled The Enchanted Hunters, in which she portrays “ a perfect small nymph ” who places several lost huntsmans under hypnosis ( Nabokov 196 ) . Indeed, Humbert spends the entireness of the narrative under Lolita ‘s enchantment.
Possibly the most compelling statement in Humbert ‘s favour is that he truly loves Lolita. At first it seems that his love is based upon his position of her as the reincarnation of his lost Annabel, but while Lolita ‘s resemblance to Annabel may hold sparked Humbert ‘s attractive force to her, the thought that this is the driving force behind his attractive force shortly loses its authority. As Humbert explains, “ A small subsequently, of class, she aˆ¦ was to overshadow wholly her paradigm, ” ( Nabokov 39-40 ) . Therefore, it becomes clear that Humbert ‘s love is for her, and non for a mere replacing of Annabel. The novel is filled with Humbert ‘s endearments for Lolita and his compulsion with her is tangible. However, there is a difference between compulsion and love, and throughout the novel the nature of his feelings for Lolita is equivocal. It is at the terminal of the novel that the true extent of his love for Lolita is revealed. As Noni Tamir-Ghez writes, “ merely at the terminal does he ( and hence the reader ) understand that he really loves Lolita, non the nymphet in her, ” ( 82 ) . When Humbert eventually locates Lolita after three old ages of searching, he discovers that his nubile nymphet has been replaced with a to a great extent pregnant and raddled house-wife. Surprisingly, the adult male who has been disgusted by marks of aging throughout the entireness of the novel is non repulsed by this glaringly big version of Lolita. Rather than dispersing, his love for her shows through with full force. He insists that “ I loved my Lolita, this Lolita, picket and polluted, and large with another ‘s kid, ” ( Nabokov 278 ) . Humbert shows the most humanity when he non merely discovers the true deepness of his feelings for Lolita, but besides takes duty for his portion in the events in the narrative. He relates an incident during Lolita ‘s absence when he listens to the voices of kids and comes to recognize “ that the hopelessly affecting thing was non Lolita ‘s absence from my side, but the absence of her voice from that Concord, ” ( Nabokov 308 ) . Merely now does Humbert ‘s love for Lolita overcome his demand for her. This combined with his sorrow for his actions makes it easier for the reader to sympathise with him.
Humbert attests to his ain guilt and the full novel is intended as a confession. However, if Lolita can be viewed as the victim of a kid molester, so Humbert can besides be seen as the victim of both his ain warped head and the use of a aberrant kid. Without the context of the narrative it would be hard to understand Humbert ‘s actions, allow entirely forgive him for them. However, Nabokov provides ample stuff to back up the decision of Humbert ‘s exposure. Upon analyzing his character, Humbert is shown to non genuinely be a monster, but alternatively a deeply flawed single: emotionally stunted, self-deluded, and overwhelmingly drawn to that which society has deemed is unachievable.