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Although the name Lolita has become synonymous
with underage sexpot, Nabokov’s Lolita is simply a stubborn child.
She is neither very beautiful nor particularly charming, and Humbert
often remarks on her skinny arms, freckles, vulgar language, and
unladylike behavior. Lolita attracts the depraved Humbert not because
she is precocious or beautiful, but because she is a nymphet, Humbert’s ideal
combination of childishness and the first blushes of womanhood.
To nonpedophiles, Lolita would be a rather ordinary twelve-year-old
girl. Her ordinariness is a constant source of frustration for Humbert,
and she consistently thwarts his attempts to educate her and make
her more sophisticated. She adores popular culture, enjoys mingling
freely with other people, and, like most prepubescent girls, has
a tendency toward the dramatic. However, when she shouts and rebels
against Humbert, she exhibits more than the frustration of an ordinary
adolescent: sheclearly feels trapped by her arrangement with Humbert,
but she is powerless to extricate herself.
Lolita changes radically throughout the novel, despite
aging only about six years. At the beginning, she is an innocent,
though sexually experienced child of twelve. Humbert forces her
transition into a more fully sexual being, but she never seems to
acknowledge that her sexual activities with Humbert are very different
from her fooling around with Charlie in the bushes at summer camp.
By the end of the novel, she has become a worn-out, pregnant wife
of a laborer. Throughout her life, Lolita sustains an almost complete
lack of self-awareness. As an adult, she recollects her time with
Humbert dispassionately and doesn’t seem to hold a grudge against
either him or Quilty for ruining her childhood. Her attitude suggests
that as a child she had nothing for them to steal, nothing important
enough to value. Her refusal to look too deeply within herself,
and her tendency to look forward rather than backward, might represent
typically American traits, but Humbert also deserves part of the
blame. Humbert objectifies Lolita, and he robs her of any sense
of self. Lolita exists only as the object of his obsession, never
as an individual. The lack of self-awareness in a child is typical
and often charming. In the adult Lolita, the absence of self-awareness
Ace your assignments with our guide to Lolita!