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Russian-born author Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, published in 1955, is a controversial and provocative novel that tells the story of Humbert Humbert, a literature professor, and his obsession with a twelve-year-old girl named Dolores Haze, whom he nicknames Lolita. The novel is narrated by Humbert, providing a complex and unreliable perspective that challenges readers to confront the morally reprehensible nature of his actions. Set against the post-World War II American landscape, Lolita explores themes of language, alienation, and the consequences of unchecked desire.

The setting is significant, as Nabokov’s portrayal of suburban America becomes a backdrop for Humbert’s startling thoughts and actions. The novel reflects the cultural and social dynamics of the 1950s, addressing the veneer of normalcy that conceals the dark undercurrents of Humbert’s obsession and the consequences of Lolita’s exploitation. Historically, Lolita has been a subject of controversy due to its explicit content and themes, sparking debates about artistic freedom, censorship, and the ethics of literature. Nabokov’s masterful use of language and narrative structure adds layers to the story, inviting readers to engage with the complexities of morality and perspective. Lolita continues to be studied and discussed for its literary merit and the challenging questions it poses.

The novel has inspired various adaptations for film, stage, and other artistic mediums. These include a 1962 film directed by Stanley Kubrick starring James Mason as Humbert, Sue Lyons as Lolita, and Shelley Winters as Lolita’s mother, Charlotte Haze. A 1997 film adaption of Lolita directed by Adrian Lyne starred Jeremy Irons, Dominique Swain, and Melaine Griffith.

Explore the full plot summary, an in-depth character analysis of Humbert Humbert, and explanations of important quotes from Lolita.

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