Solipsizing Lolita: The Unreliable Narrator in Nabokov's Lolita
In his "On a Book Entitled Lolita", Vladimir Nabokov recalls that he felt the "first little throb of Lolita" run through him as he read a newspaper article about an ape who, "after months of coaxing by a scientist, produced the first drawing ever charcoaled by an animal: this sketch showed the bars of the poor creature's cage." The image of a confinement so complete that it dominates and shapes artistic expression (however limited that expression may be) is a moving and powerful one, and it does, indeed, reflect in the text of Lolita. Humbert Humbert, the novel's eloquent poet-narrator, observes the world through the bars of his obsession, his "nympholepsy", and this confinement deeply affects the quality of his narration. In particular, his powerful sexual desires prevent him from understanding Lolita in any significant way, so that throughout the text what he describes is not the real Lolita, but an abstract creature, without depth or substance beyond the complex set of symbols and allusions that he associates with her. When in his rare moments of exhaustion Humbert seems to lift this literary veil, he reveals for a moment the violent contrast between his intricately manipulated...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 860 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 6520 literature essays, 1773 sample college application essays, 268 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in