Humbert Humbert’s Tragic Misconception of Love in Nabokov’s Lolita

The trouble with an unreliable narrator often lies in choosing what to believe. In the case of Vladimir Nabokov’s incestuously illicit novel Lolita, it proves to be an intriguing predicament, as the unreliability of narrator Humbert Humbert is unquestionably severe, yet his convincing intellect persuades the reader to at least consider his point of view and reasoning. As one of Humbert’s main goals in his testimony is to persuade his “jury” that he was actually in love with his pre-pubescent stepdaughter – whom he essentially kidnapped and repeatedly took advantage of sexually – he is somehow able to have us consider his disturbing and inconceivable claim as truthful, an indicator of his powerful cogency. So is it possible that this clearly unreliable and heinous pedophile loved Lolita as he says he did? As unlikely of a notion as it is, there are many indications that his feelings were more than carnally driven. He even says to his audience at a point when he has nothing to gain in pleading, “You may jeer at me, and threaten to clear the court, but until I am gagged and half-throttled, I will shout my poor truth. I insist the world know how much I loved my Lolita, this Lolita, pale and polluted, and big with another’s child…...

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