Lolita as a Psychological Case Study

Nabokov's Lolita is a unique book in that its narrator, under the 'pseudonym' of Humbert Humbert, often breaks the fourth wall to retroactively embellish his story. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury," he addresses the reader on multiple occasions, the way he would if he were standing trial. Nabokov does this in order to play with the reader's sense of what is and is not real. Humbert literally comes to life through his apparent total untrustworthiness. Nabokov's choice to include the forward in Lolita is his way of preparing the reader for Humbert’s unreliable narration. The fictional John Ray Jr. serves to inform us that we are reading the memoir of an unstable man, and blatantly tells us that “Lolita will become, no doubt, a classic in psychiatric circles.” In effect, he is telling us to consider the book as a case study, a look into the mind of the pseudonymous Humbert Humbert, which is how Nabokov intends it to be read.

Humbert’s unreliable narration is effective in demonstrating to us, as readers, precisely how his mind works. As the book is written more as a psychological study than a narrative, it’s important that we see the events of the story through the eyes of the criminal, so we gain...

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