Power of Words Nabokov's Lolita Term Paper

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She is ten and very tired."("Lolita," 87) Again in the hotel room, in the ecstasy of his dream, Humbert loses his 'word-control' in a dialogue with Lolita, building up the tension through a virtual linguistic explosion. Language breaks free, and Humbert lets himself be carried away into a maze of Latin and English and linguistic inversions: "What's the katter with misses?' I muttered (word-control gone) into her hair. 'If you must know,' she said, 'you do it the wrong way.' 'Show, wight ray.' 'All in good time,' responded the spoonerette. Seva ascendes, pulsata, brulans, kitzelans, dementissima.Elevator clatterans, pausa, clatterans, populus in corridoro. Hanc nisi mors mihi adimet nemo! Juncea puellula, jo pensavo fondissime, nobserva nihil quidquam... "("Lolita," 95) Significantly, as Nabokov emphasized in his essay Good Readers, Good Writers 'fiction is fiction', that is, it has to deceive as its name implies: "Literature is invention. Fiction is fiction. To call a story a true story is an insult to both art and truth. Every great writer is a great deceiver, but so is that arch-cheat Nature. Nature always deceives."("Good Readers, Good Writers") Moreover, the greatest quality of the writer is the ability to enchant the reader and plunge him into the soft and deep world of his invention. Reality is banned and replaced not merely by invention, but by enchantment: "A great writer is always a great enchanter, and it is here that we come to the really exciting part when we try to grasp the individual magic of his genius and to study the style, the imagery, the pattern of his novels or poems."(" Good Readers, Good Writers") Needless to say, language plays a very significant place in this pattern, as it is the vehicle that carries the reader on the 'other side' of reality. The fictional world is actually composed of words which enclose the reader into their margins. The young poet is an enchanted hunter, like the one described by Quilty's play: "But a seventh Hunter (in a green cap, the fool) was a Young Poet, and he insisted, much to Diana's annoyance, that she and the entertainment provided (dancing nymphs, and elves, and monsters) were his, the Poet's, invention."("Lolita," 145) as Couturier emphasizes thus, Nabokov played with the unreality of the real and the arbitrariness of language like a postmodernist would: "Nabokov discovered the unreality of the real and the arbitrariness of language in a more private and also more tragic fashion. One might suggest that his first exile made him a modernist and his second a postmodernist."(Couturier, 257) One of Humbert's exclamations at the beginning of the narrative is probably the most significant in this case. Thus, Humbert painfully realizes that he never got to play with the real Lolita as he would have wanted to, and the only substitute is the infinite play with words that forms his narrative: "Appeared (I notice the slip of my pen in the preceding paragraph, but please do not correct it, Clarence) in the Murdered Playwright. Quine the Swine. Guilty of killing Quilty. Oh, my Lolita, I have only words to play with!"("Lolita," 15) as Moore emphasizes thus, Humbert is at once the degenerate pervert who takes advantage of a minor, and the regenerate artist who manages to capture the essence of his enchantment while relating the same story of pedophilia: "Put simply, we can view Humbert not only as the deceiving individual represented in much commentary, but as two narrators. Each is simultaneously present in the memoir, although each has a different interest in Dolores as his subject. On the one hand, he is the fully-grown degenerate character obsessed with pedophilia, his own glamorized leading man. On the other hand, he is the regenerate artist who, as we read, develops the integrated consciousness which fits him to complete the text."(Moore, 78) on the other hand, Hustis emphasizes that the linguistic games Humber plays reveal a Baudrillardan world in Lolita, where the real disappears under the pile of language and simulation heaped by the narrator: "Lolita's seduction, as described by Humbert, is dependent upon what lean Baudrillard has identified as "simulation." As Baudrillard acknowledges, simulation complicates the distinction between "the real" and the "not-real" in ways that go beyond mere pretending: "pretending, or dissimulating, leaves the principle of reality intact: the difference is always clear [...] whereas simulation threatens the difference between the 'true' and the 'false,' the 'real' and the 'imaginary.'" (14) Nymphets are, in essence, simulations -- by Humbert's own admission, they inhabit an "intangible island of entranced time" (17)."(Hustis, 97) the pedophile is thus an enchanted hunter and Lolita is not an abused girl but a nymphet. As Humbert exclaims at one point, the novel could be made up of Lolita's name written and repeated all over the pages, as a sacred incantation. This image suggests that the enchantment of literature is produced through the magic of language.

Thus, Nabokov's Lolita is a huge linguistic puzzle, in which reality is covered over by simulacra and everything is alchemically transformed through the artistic eye.

Works Cited

Couturier, Maurice. "Nabokov in postmodernist land." CRITIQUE: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 34.n4 (Summer 1993): 247(14)

Hustis, Harriet. "Time will tell: (re)reading the seductive simulacra of Nabokov's Lolita.(Vladimir Nobokov)(Critical essay)." Studies in American Fiction 35.1 (Spring 2007): 89(23).

Jenkins, Jennifer L. "Searching high and Lo: unholy quests for Lolita.(Critical essay)." Twentieth Century Literature 51.2 (Summer 2005): 210(34).

Moore, Anthony R. "How unreliable is Humbert in Lolita?." Journal of Modern Literature 25.1 (Fall 2001): 71(11).

Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970.

Good Readers, Good Writers. http://www.helium.com/items/651032-vladimir-nabokov-wrote-essay

Phelan, James. "Estranging unreliability, bonding unreliability, and the ethics of…[continue]

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