I’m a bit more than halfway through Lolita, and am beginning to feel disturbed and disgusted. A slow, sickening feeling has been building for a while, and finally made me realize that Humbert is not a pathetic loser, but a cold predator.
He is telling his story with the object of gaining sympathy. To do this he paints himself as a helpless freak, who knows what he’s doing is gross but can’t help himself. He tries to show how good his intentions are, how much of a sap he is for Lolita, how she has such power over him to make him want to do these things. But in reality he is manipulating and using her as an object purely for his own pleasure.
Little things, little hints, show this to be true.
From the start of the story he tries to show that Lolita has only captured him so because she reminds him of a lost love he had with a girl her age, when he was that age also. It is only her (that lost girl from his past), specifically that does this to him, she is special–a psychological longing for an incomplete romance–and when he sees Lolita she reminds him so much of that girl from his past that he has to be near her, in any way he can. It is possible, dear reader, to be sympathetic with these feelings.
However, as the story progresses we find that Humbert, despite his insistence of Lolita’s singularity, is attracted to–and leers unabashedly at!–every girl-child that crosses his path. Clearly, this is not a one-time occasion for him, as he would have us think.
Humbert claims to care for Lolita, to love her, to want only to please her and make her happy. Yet, when her mother is killed in an accident his first thought is to lie to her about it in order to keep her in a better mood. Not for her own sake, but so he doesn’t have to stop enjoying her presence.
There are so many other instances, subtle phrases or points of view–too many to list, and I’m sure many I haven’t noticed–that show Humbert’s monstrosity. It is fascinating and disgusting at once.
This book is so finely crafted and subtle, despite its blunt subject material, that I imagine I’ll be thinking about it for years to come.