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Loving Lolita A Critical Analysis of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita Cover of Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita.

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Presentation on theme: "Loving Lolita A Critical Analysis of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita Cover of Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita."— Presentation transcript:

1 Loving Lolita A Critical Analysis of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita Cover of Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita

2 Forward to the Reader Describes how the editor came to possess HH’s manuscript. Editor’s descriptions force readers into a sympathetic light prior to beginning the narrative. Nabokov is easing you into a more susceptible state of mind. “A desperate honesty that throbs through his confession does not absolve him from sins of diabolical cunning. He is abnormal. He is not a gentleman. But how magically his singing violin can conjure up a tendresse, a compassion for Lolita that makes us entranced with the book while abhorring its author.” 5 Sue Lyon as Lolita in the Kubrick film


4 Humbert’s Youth Mother died suddenly. Aunt, who took his mother’s place, foretold her own death. Died shortly after. (Suicide???) Father was a womanizer. Rarely around. “Somebody told me later that she had been in love with my father, and that he had lightheartedly taken advantage of it one rainy day and forgotten it by the time the weather cleared.” 10

5 The Annabel Incident Places the weight of blame for his pedophilia on this situation. Has flashbacks of her throughout Part One. She also dies tragically only months after HH’s thwarted sexual encounter with her. “I was on my knees, and on the point of possessing my darling, when two bearded bathers, the old man of the sea and his brother, came out of the sea with exclamations of ribald encouragement, and for months later she dies of typhus in Corfu.” 13

6 Think About It? Do you think that Humbert’s youth and the trauma he experienced through Annabel are understandable excuses for his behaviour? (Please don’t mistake the term ‘understandable’ for condonable.)

7 The Monique Incident His first real sexual encounter with a child. She lied about her age and said she was 18. He knew she wasn’t. “So let her remain, sleek, slender Monique, as she was for a minute or two: a delinquent nymphet shinning through the matter-of-fact young whore.” 23

8 The Valeria Episode His first wife. Married her to stem off any suspicion of his secret desires. She ended up leaving him for The Tsarist. He was very upset because it damaged his pride, but not because he lost her. “I can swear that he actually consulted me on such things as her diet, her periods, her wardrobe and the books she has read or should read. ‘I think,’ he said, ‘she will like Jean Christophe?’ Oh, he was quite a scholar, Mr Taxovich.” 28

9 Nymphets “You have to be an artist and a madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in your loins and a super- voluptuous flame permanently aglow in your subtle spine (oh, how you have to cringe and hide!), in order to discern at once, by ineffable signs – the slightly feline outline of a cheekbone, the slenderness of a downy limb, and other indices which despair and shame and tears of tenderness forbid me to tabulate – the little deadly demon among the wholesome children ; she stands unrecognized by them and unconscious herself of her fantastic power.” 17

10 Meeting Mrs. Haze Instantly disinterested in her. Completely preoccupied with her mundane features and home. Note: How quick HH is to judge and form immediate dislike for people. Has absolutely no intention of staying with her or even knowing her until he meets Dolores. “She was, obviously, one of those women whose polished words may reflect a book club or bridge club, or any other deadly conventionality, but never her soul; women who are completely devoid of humor; women utterly indifferent at heart to a dozen or so possible subjects of parlor conversations, through the sunny cellophane of which not very appetizing frustrations can be readily distinguished.” 37

11 Lust at Fist Sight “I find it most difficult to express with adequate force that flash, that shiver, that impact of passionate recognition. In the course of the sun-shot moment that my glance slithered over the kneeling child (her eyes blinking over those stern dark spectacles – the little Her Doktor who was to cure me of all my aches) while I passed by her in my adult disguise (a great big handsome hunk of movieland manhood), the vacuum of my soul managed to suck in every detail of her bright beauty, and these I checked against the features of my dead bride.” 39

12 The Apple Incident “…there was, I swear, a yellowish bruise on her lovely nymphet thigh which my huge hairy hand massaged and slowly enveloped – and because of her very perfunctory underthings, there was nothing to prevent my muscular thumb from reaching the hollow of her groin – just as you might tickle and caress a giggling child – just that – and: ‘Oh, it’s nothing at all,’ she cried with a sudden shrill note in her voice, and she wiggled, and squirmed, and threw her head back, and her teeth rested on her glistening underlip as she half turned away, and my moaning mouth, gentlemen of the jury, almost reached her bare neck, while I crushed out against her left buttock the last throb of the longest ecstasy man or monster had ever known.” 61

13 The Diary and Haze’s Death HH married Mrs. Haze to ensure his closeness to Lolita. Lolita is sent to summer camp. He wrote down all of his lustful thoughts about Lo and all of his frustrations about Haze in a black diary. Haze found the diary and ran out of the house. She was hit by a car on the street and died. “‘The Haze woman, the big bitch, the old cat, the obnoxious mamma, the – the old stupid Haze is no longer your dupe. She has – she has …’ My fair accuser stopped, swallowing her venom and her tears. Whatever Humbert Humbert said – or attempted to say – is inessential. She went on: ‘You’re a monster. You’re a detestable, abominable, criminal fraud. If you come near – I’ll scream out the window. Get back!’ Again, whatever H.H. murmured may be omitted, I think. ‘I am leaving tonight. This is all yours. Only you’ll never, never see that miserable brat again. Get out of this room.’” 96

14 Rape at the Enchanted Hunters Hotel HH picks Lolita up from Camp Q. He doesn’t yet tell her that her mother’s dead. He takes her to Enchanted Hunters Hotel. Drugs her (but the pills don’t work). They have sex in the morning. “Human beings, attend! I should have understood that Lolita had already proved to be something quite different from innocent Annabel, and that the nymphean evil breathing through every pore of the fey child that I had prepared for my secret delectation, would make the secrecy impossible, and the delectation lethal. I should have know (by signs made to me by something in Lolita – the real child Lolita or some haggard angel behind her back) that nothing but pain and horror would result from the expected rapture. Oh, winged gentlemen of the jury!” 124-125

15 Humbert’s Paranoia Around the time of Haze’s death, Humbert begins to show signs of paranoia about losing Lolita (physically / emotionally). After they have sex, this paranoia drastically increases. The more paranoid he becomes, the harder Lolita pushes away. “Except for my poor little gifts, there was not much to pack; but I was forced to devote a dangerous amount of time (was she up to something downstairs?) to arranging the bed in such a way as to suggest the abandoned nest of a restless father and his tomboy daughter, instead of an ex-convict’s saturnalia with a couple of fat old whores.” 138

16 Lolita’s Loss Because of the narrative style, you tend to focus more on the motivations and emotions of HH. In retrospect, what can we see happening to Lolita? “At the hotel we had separate rooms, but in the middle of the night she came sobbing into mine, and we made it up very gently. You see, she had absolutely nowhere else to go.” 142

17 General Themes Alienation The Nymphet as a Sexual Deviant The Monster Within Material Girls Disenchantment with Adulthood Word Play Restlessness and Travel –(Romantic Travel Novel) –America vs. Europe


19 Traveling the States Humbert spends a year traveling the states with Lolita. He is constantly keeping her moving from one place to the next. Constantly occupying her mind so that she can’t focus on the ugliness of the situation.

20 Humbert’s Tactics He is constantly buying her clothes, candy, magazine’s. He is constantly taking her out for dinner, movies, to museums. He reminds her of her situation, of the unpleasant alternatives and the hopelessness of any other option. “So I go to jail. Okay. I go to jail. But what happens to you, my orphan? Well, you are luckier. You become the ward of the Department of Public Welfare – which I am afraid sounds a little bleak. A nice grim matron of the Miss Phalen type, but more rigid and not a drinking woman, will take away your lipstick and fancy clothes. No more gadding about!” 151

21 Home Sweet Home HH and Lolita finally settle down and rent a home in Beardsley. HH’s paranoia grows immensely. Lolita starts rebelling. They decide to leave Beardsley and travel again. “I was so struck by the radiant tenderness of her smile that for an instant I believed all of our troubles gone. ‘Can you remember,’ she said, ‘what was the name of that hotel, you know [nose puckered], come on, you know – with those white columns and the marble swan in the lobby? Oh, you know [noisy exhalation of breath] – the hotel where you raped me. Okay, skip it. I mean, was is [almost in a whisper] The Enchanted Hunters? Oh, it was? [musingly] Was it?’” 202

22 Clare Quilty A playwright Lolita had a crush on before HH. HH noticed someone following them during this trip. Noticed Lolita slipping away now and then and refusing to explain where she’d been. Started causing massive paranoia and tension between HH and Lo.

23 Lolita’s Disappearing Act HH took Lolita to the hospital and they opt to keep her overnight. When HH came back in the morning, she’d gone. He tried to find the man and Lo, but only hit dead ends. After a long desperate struggle, he gave up.

24 Wife Number Three Meets and marries Rita. Again, the decision is made out of both paranoia and boredom. Rita is a bit of a flake, and a starlet. Still is obsessed with Lolita. Basically, just biding his time.

25 Lolita’s Letter Years go by since he has seen Lolita. He receives a letter from her one day, telling him that she’s married, pregnant, and asking for money. He immediately leaves Rita and hits the highway to find her and kill the man who took her away from him. “I was again on the road, again at the wheel of the old blue sedan, again alone. Rita had still been dead to the world when I read that letter and fought the mountains of agony it raised within me. I had glanced at her as she smiled in her sleep and had kissed her on her moist brow, and left her forever…” 267

26 The Letter Dear Dad, How’s everything? I’m married. I’m going to have a baby. I guess he’s going to be a big one. I guess he’ll come right for Christmas. This is a hard letter to write. I’m going nuts because we don’t have enough to pay our debts and get out of here. Dick is promised a big job in Alaska in this very specialized corner of the mechanical field, that’s all I know about it but it’s really grand. Pardon me for withholding out home address but you may still be mad at me, and Dick must not know. This town is something. You can’t see the morons for the smog. Please do send us a check, Dad. We could manage with three or four hundred or even less, anything is welcome, you might sell my old things, because once we get there the dough will just start rolling in. Write, please. I have gone through much sadness and hardship. Yours expecting, Dolly (Mrs Richard F. Schiller)

27 Think about it? What sort of conclusions can be drawn about Lolita from this letter? Why do you think the author includes all of the information about Dick’s job and the situation they are going to end up in? What struck you about the passage wherein he describes leaving Rita?

28 Seeing Her Again He finds her at home. Sees Dick isn’t the man that stole her. Demands to know who it was, and discovers Quilty. He realizes that he loves her, completely, as a person now, and not just a nymphet. “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, but still gray-eyed, still sooty-lashed, still auburn and almond, still Carmencita, still mine…” 278

29 Think About It? What do you make of the last quote? Do you believe him? Do you think this justifies HH at all? Why do you think the author wants us to know HH loves Lolita as an adult too?

30 The Adieu HH finds Clare Quilty, and after shooting him numerous times, finally succeeds in murdering him. He is apprehended and arrested, where he writes this memoir. While in jail, he learns that Lolita has died, and dies too, from heart failure.

31 Think about it? What do you think the author is trying to suggest through HH’s murder? Was it justified? What do you think the author was trying to suggest with the manner of HH’s death? How do you feel about the novel in general? Do you think you are going to read it in it’s entirety now?

32 Presentation written and dictated by: Ashley Janes Kristi Ballard Lainna Eljabi References: Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. Vintage International, NY. 2 nd ED,1997.

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