Trusting the Narrator in 'Lolita'

“At the time I felt I was losing contact with reality” – How far can we believe and trust the narrator in ‘Lolita’?

The reality of ‘Lolita’ may differ from the narrative of Humbert Humbert, simply because there is no alternative or neutral version of events from which to disprove such a conclusion. Lolita has no voice in the novel so it is difficult to judge whether she is victim or lover. As narrator, Humbert has free reign to select as little or as much of the real information, perhaps depending on how agreeably it portrays him. Moreover, as murderer, paedophile and frequenter of asylums, there is arguably a basic human principle not to trust such a person. Especially as this is somebody who is not realistic, who longs for entry to his sexual fantasy world, and who becomes creative and intellectually alive when in jail, shut away from reality. Through Humbert’s prose comes an intellect, knowledge of literature, linguistic virtuosity and love for Lolita, that combine to characterise a most untypical villain. He is likeable and humorous to the extent that, at times, there can appear to be very little reason to disbelieve our narrator. Through the powerful and ornate text produced when awaiting trial, the possibility of the...

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