Humbert in Lolita Vladimir Nabokov Creates the essay

Download this essay in word format (.doc)

Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formatting

Excerpt from essay:

Humbert

In Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov creates the character of a clear anti-hero in Humbert, a man who has is guilty of pedophilia, possibly rape and murder. The bulk of the book, however, is devoted to Humbert's narration of his affair with his stepdaughter, a "nymphet" named Dolores Haze or, in Humbert's mind, Lolita. For Humbert, the various forms of love he feels for the young girl are inextricably linked with his lust and sexual desires.

This paper examines the running theme of Humbert's sexuality and lust in Nabokov's Lolita. For Humbert, love can only be seen in the context of his powerful desire to sexually possess the object of his attention. Thus, he is unable to express any love for the teenage Lolita -- filial or romantic -- without turning her into an object of his lust.

The first part of this paper looks at how Humbert treated the other women in his life, from Annabel Leigh, Valeria, Charlotte Haze and the insane Rita. This section discusses how, for Humbert, the level of sexual attraction determines whether or not a woman would be treated with love.

The next part of the paper then contrasts Humbert's relations with these other women with his defining relationship with the nymphet Lolita.

This paper evaluates arguments that Humbert's Humbert's attentions were akin to pedophilia or rape or that his lust was brought on by its forbidden nature, versus other theories that state how Humbert's sexual desire is also an expression of his love for the adolescent Lolita. This paper argues that Humbert's willingness to commit murder on her behalf is proof that he not only lusted but also loved the nymphet Lolita. However, due to his tendency to maintain control in his relationships, particularly with Dolores and Annabel Leigh, Humbert's first-person narrative accounts should also be read with skepticism as to his interpretations of the motives and decisions of the young girls.

Other women

Lolita is by no means the only girl or woman in Humbert's life. In the novel, he details at four other females, all of whom shed light on his fascination with Lolita.

His responses to Annabel Leigh, Valeria, Charlotte Haze and finally to Rita also shows how his responses to nymphets are also necessarily creative, psychologically unbalanced and very sensual.

Annabel Leigh harsh critic of psycholanalytic theory, Nabokov has always discounted theories that Humbert's lust for his Lolita was bought on in large part by his unrequited love for Annabel Leigh, the girl he has longed for since he was 13 years old. However, a closer reading of Humbert's narration and an examination of her very name would show otherwise.

Humbert describes Annabel as "a lovely child" (12), an outright admission that the preadolescent girl is not a woman. However, neither is Humbert a man during this time. Despite their efforts, however, their affair is never consummated, a reality which "drove our healthy bodies to such as state of exasperation that not even the cold blue water...could bring relief" (12).

Annabel dies only months later of typhus, the first of many sudden deaths in this novel, after the long-ago death of Humbert's mother. This loss of Annabel precludes any chance of Humbert ever "possessing (his) darling" (13).

This unrequited adolescent love affair essentially halts Humbert's sexual maturity, and could have laid the foundation for his lifelong obsession with the preadolescent girls whom he would later term as "nymphets."

Annabel represents Humbert's first love. If his confession is accurate, then Annabel would be the only other female that Humbert truly loved, aside from his Lolita. One reason for this inference is the way Humbert tries to "possess" Annabel, both on the deserted French beach and later, even after her death. Critic Stephen Jay Parker attributes Humbert's "rift" to his inability to satisfy his sexual desires with Annabel Leigh (Parker 72).

Instead of a simple psychological motivation, however, critic Daniel Thomieres observes that a careful reader could see how Humbert can easily interpret these events as he wishes, to make himself sympathetic before launching into the details of his adult relationship with Lolita. As proof, Thomieres rightly points out that Humbert could not even recall Annabel's physical traits. Humbert has lost her photograph and admits that the way he sees Annabel in his mind is also "the way I see Lolita" (11). Through the first person narration, Thomieres also discerns that Humbert does not let Annabel speak for herself. In a sense, Annabel provides "(her) bod (y) and den(ies) her mind so as to incarnate that fantasy for Humbert" (Thomieres 168). Humbert states that she wanted him as much as he desired her, but nowhere in the account does he give Annabel a voice.

Thomieres goes as far as to suggest that Annabel Leigh may not even have existed, and may just be Humbert's ploy to justify his "rape and violent imprisonment of Dolores" (167). As his relationship with Annabel indicates, Humbert demonstrates a desire for power and a need to control the images of the objects of his obsession. In the absence of actual sexual possession, Humbert now recreates Annabel in his mind, a recreation that conveniently matches the current physical state of his stepdaughter Dolores (Thomieres 171). After all, later in the novel, Humbert weaves tales of fictional lovers in his past, to appease the curiosity of his wife Charlotte. It is therefore reasonable to question whether Humbert is doing the same for his readers in his account of Annabel Leigh.

Nabokov's choice of name for this character is significant as well.

The young girl's name recalls Edgar Allan Poe's poem Annabel Lee. By extension, Humbert's own Annabel Leigh also evokes Virginia Clemm, Poe's child bride. Furthermore, critic L.L. Lee extends the reference of Annabel's mother Mrs. Leigh, who was "born Vanessa van Ness," to Jonathan Swift's Vanessa. These name references all allude to the stories of young girls who were involved in love affairs with older men (Lee 117).

Eventually, because of this novel, the significance of these names would pale in comparison to the cultural icon status of the name "Lolita."

In summary, the brief account of Annabel Leigh presents powerful insight into Humbert Humbert's character. If she did exist, Annabel offers an explanation for Humbert's obsession with Dolores. If she is a recreation or a ploy for sympathy, the account of Annabel still illustrates Humbert's ongoing need to control the objects of his affection. Through his first-person narration, choice of name and the blurring of his mental image of Annabel/Lolita, Humbert reveals a tendency to control and possess the bodies and images of those he swears to love.

Valeria

Humbert is first attracted to Valeria because of "the imitation she gave of a little girl" (25). He soon realized, however, that her childlikeness was actually an image. Her hair was dyed and her unshaven legs began to feel prickly. Instead of a thin, smooth, young and hairless nymphet, Valeria was "large, puffy, short-legged and big breasted" (26). In Humbert's mind, the only trait that corresponded to being childlike was Valeria's "brainlessness."

Four years into their marriage, Valeria admits to an affair with another man, a Russian taxi driver. Humbert's account of his emotions during what should have been a devastating moment is quite telling. Instead of being hurt, Humbert explains how he felt suffocated by "a mounting fury -- not because I had any fondness for that figure of fun, Mme Humbert, but because matters of legal and illegal conjunction were for me lone to decide" (28).

Humbert uses the excuse of "legal and illegal conjunctions" to justify his rage and anger, rather than the more common reason of a broken heart (Norton). In his reconstruction, Humbert takes pains to mask his lack of control over his wife and the subsequent loss of pride this entails. In a way, his inability to control or even punish Valeria mirrors Humbert's inability to control or consummate his possession of Annabel Leigh. For Humbert, the worst pain was caused not by the fact that Valeria -- who, in his mind, was ugly -- did not love him. Instead, Valeria chose to take action towards her own happiness. As an adult, she was free to take up with another man and to leave her husband. Though he wanted to punish her, there was ultimately nothing Humbert could do to stop her.

Valeria's actions shed further light on Humbert's choice of Lolita. Compared to his narration of Annabel Leigh, Valeria's story rings more true.

This is due in part to the fact that Valeria has an important - albeit short - voice: "There is another man in my life" (27). Unlike Annabel, Humbert's account allows Valeria to articulate her won desires. Furthermore, this account is replete with Humbert's failures, his losing place "on the losing end of the balance of power" (Norton).

For revenge, Humbert can only concoct the unlikely account of Valeria and her new husband's humiliating role in an anthropological experiment. As with Annabel before her and Charlotte and Dolores,…[continue]

Cite This Essay:

"Humbert In Lolita Vladimir Nabokov Creates The" (2003, November 30) Retrieved December 10, 2016, from http://www.paperdue.com/essay/humbert-in-lolita-vladimir-nabokov-creates-159647

"Humbert In Lolita Vladimir Nabokov Creates The" 30 November 2003. Web.10 December. 2016. <http://www.paperdue.com/essay/humbert-in-lolita-vladimir-nabokov-creates-159647>

"Humbert In Lolita Vladimir Nabokov Creates The", 30 November 2003, Accessed.10 December. 2016, http://www.paperdue.com/essay/humbert-in-lolita-vladimir-nabokov-creates-159647

Other Documents Pertaining To This Topic

  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov Specifically

    It is very clear that he can be much more dark and scheming than he seems to be. That is illustrated by just how far he will go to possess Lolita - marrying her mother and then literally abducting her after her mother dies. In addition, they both are tragic figures who never get what they really want. Humbert discovers he is capable of love, and that he loves Lolita,

  • Freudian Themes Elements in Vladimir Nabokov s Lolita

    Freud in Lolita The narrator of Vladimir Nabakov's novel Lolita, Professor Humbert, begins his story by recounting his childhood and the early stages of his sexual life, and particularly his experiences with his first love (or at least, his first obsession), a young girl named Annabel Leigh. Humbert recalls their sexual (mis)adventures together in some detail, and his description of this childhood romance closely echoes Sigmund Freud's formulation of the "infantile

  • Female Lolita Nabokov s Famous Novel Lolita Would

    Female Lolita Nabokov's famous novel, Lolita, would have some important and essential differences had it been written by a woman. A female writer would have created a more complex and sympathetic characterization for Lolita, expanding on Nabokov's treatment of Lolita as simply a vulgar personification of the qualities of the nymphet. The impact of Humbert's obsession with Lolita and their sexual affair would have been explored more thoroughly by a female

  • Free Will and Deviant Behavior

    The novel vividly illustrates this event, stated as follows: The scorching blade slashed at my eyelashes and stabbed at my stinging eyes. That's when everything began to reel. The sea carried up a thick, fiery breath. It seemed to me as if the sky split open from one end to the other to rain down fire. My whole being tensed and I squeezed my hand around the revolver. The trigger

  • Pervasive Philosophies Behind Many Postmodern Forms of

    pervasive philosophies behind many postmodern forms of art and literature is the idea that human identities are defined more by their social circumstances than by any universal truths. The human is not a self-sufficient entity, but is built through social conventions. This notion reveals itself in the transitional postmodern works by Samuel Beckett and Vladimir Nabokov -- specifically, in Lolita and Waiting for Godot. Humbert is continually attempting to

  • Theme of Fool s Love in Naomi

    fool's love in Naomi by Junichiro Tanizaki Naomi (1924) by the 20th century Japanese writer Junichiro Tanizaki has often been anachronistically called the Japanese Lolita in that it relates the obsession of a middle-aged man for a much younger woman. (Nabokov's novel was published in the 1950s). Tanizaki's male protagonist Joji is somewhat younger than Nabokov's Humbert and the female heroine Joji is somewhat older (although still a teenager) than

  • Turn of the Screw in

    It is after all a ghost story, so one may assume, just based on the conventions of the genre, that the two apparitions in the story are indeed evil. Supposing the reader takes the narrator at her word, there is evidence to support that the red-headed lecher, Peter Quint, and his infamously beautiful paramour, Miss Jessel, are the hell raisers the Governess makes them out to be. The Governess describes


Read Full Essay
Copyright 2016 . All Rights Reserved