Time, Memory, and Preservation within Nabokov’s Lolita

In Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita, narrator Humbert Humbert exerts the power of memory as he attempts to manipulate time to suit his devices and desires. Realizing that the nymphet stage which occurs in the lives of a select number of girls endures only between the ages of nine and fourteen, Humbert employs a variety of techniques as he struggles to cope with his unusual lust for these young girls whom he claims possess a rare grace and charm that sets them apart from their peers. Annabel Lee becomes Humbert’s nymphet prototype as well as childhood sweetheart when she dies of typhus at the age of twelve. She leaves the child Humbert with a plethora of unfulfilled sexual fantasies which he retains long after he has left his childhood behind. Upon fulfilling these fantasies twenty-five years later with the twelve year old nymphet Dolores Haze, Humbert creates a dilemma for himself as the only way to insure his prolonged happiness is to stop time. Thus, Humbert dooms himself from the moment he combines the entity of Annabel Lee with the flesh and blood vessel of Dolores, as he unsuccessfully attempts to preserve the fleeting phenomenon that is “Annabel Haze, alias Dolores Lee, alias Loleeta” (Nabokov 167).

In her essay “Memory,...

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