Lolita Lolita question

Why do people think Lolita is a love story?!
Sophie Sophie Dec 01, 2018 06:32PM
Sure, Nabokov uses beautiful language and writes flowing sentences, but it’s obvious that when you look past the beauty of his language and the aesthetic of Lolita (croptops, lollipops, red lipstick, bubble gum, and a foul mouth) , that this is a story of rape and abduction. I know Lolita might have took things further with H.H. (Kissing him before she leaves for camp), but she was twelve and believed that he liked her because he payed her attention and looked similar to one of her favorite actors.
Later on he didn’t allow her to do anything without paying him sexual favors first. If that doesn’t say something.... it infuriates me that people view this as a love story. He was obsessed, and loved the idea of his Lolita, but not who she actually was. I know at the end of the novel H.H. Said he regretted taking her childhood away and that he never got to know her, but still loved her even though she wasn’t a nymphet anymore. That doesn’t make it love story. This is totally all Over the place and I LOVE this book but it just shocked me to know how many people really thought this was love. It’s aesthetics and pretty language that fools you into believing otherwise.

Gary (last edited May 19, 2020 10:21PM ) Dec 20, 2019 10:27AM   0 votes
Sophie wrote: "Sure, Nabokov uses beautiful language and writes flowing sentences, but it’s obvious that when you look past the beauty of his language and the aesthetic of Lolita (croptops, lollipops, red lipstick, bubble gum, and a foul mouth) , that this is a story of rape and abduction."

I think there are several factors.

First, Nabokov uses much of the language of romance in Humbert's narration, and people are accustomed to that language being used in that context, so they miss the language that Nabokov pairs that verbiage up with to indicate that the narrative is that of a pedophile. In part, I think we can attribute this to Nabokov's talents as a writer and a scholar, because he so thoroughly employs the language of romance that many readers take it as a romance, even though he was using that language ironically.

Second, I suspect an awful lot of people haven't read anything by Nabokov other than Lolita. The unreliability of the narrator is something of a Nabokovian theme. His narrators are often madmen or fools or liars or all three. Again, his skill as a writer is such that the difference is often too subtle for a lot of readers, and they miss that core theme.

Third, everyone is the hero of their own, inner narrative. As such, they make an emotional connection between their own very human capacity for post-rationalization and self-justification, and that of the narration in Lolita. Because Humbert is the narrator, many people put themselves in his shoes, and though that was part of Nabokov's point, some readers can't make the disconnection between the rationalizations and lies as presented by Humbert and their own egos. They take his narration "as read", we might say, miss or ignore the inconsistencies and admissions that tell the real story, and so misunderstand the book on a fundamental level.

Fourth, (and this is where I think things get quite unpleasant) I think people are accustomed to sexualized little girls in our art and entertainment. So, when they pick up Lolita there is an assumption that it is going to be yet another text in which the under-age female seductress wields her pubescent feminine charms to manipulate some hapless adult male. From the paintings of Gauguin to movies like The Beguiled, it's a constant theme of Western art. Even the adaptations of Lolita (either the Stanley Kubrick or the Adrian Lyne version) unironically make the assumption that Delores is the aggressor and poor, beleaguered Humbert is the victim. As such, people are indoctrinated to this line of rationalization, and when they pick up the text, they do so within that mindset, even if the text itself is explicitly (in every sense of that word) opposed to exactly that concept.

It's just like you said, the way the story is written suggests his "love" for her is reciprocated, which it is not. You also have to remember that the story is written by him and thus, you are getting his version of the story and none of hers.

Nabokov has a way with words, and the beautiful/poetic/romantic way of writing creates an air of romance, which, of course, is far from true since a 12 year old cannot consent.

I agree with you. Many people who haven't read the book also think that Lolita initiated, which isn't true. I think that it comes down to the fact that this is a book written from the perspective of a person who is extremely at-odds with reality, so the narrator is not trustworthy.

Nabakov relies, perhaps wrongly, on his readers to have a moral repulsion to what Humbert is doing so that they can weigh it against the lies they're being told from Humbert's narrative perspective. Sadly, I don't think people understand this and tend to interpret it instead as consensual in some twisted way.

Specifically, the movie adaptation presents it in a visual format and implies that Lolita was the initiator. While this is certainly how it went down in Humbert's own twisted perspective, it is all too common for people in society to blame the abused for "asking for it", and a visual representation of Humbert's delusion, which I don't believe the movie distinguished from reality properly, is fuel for that kind of mentality.

I struggle with this beautiful book, but I think that Nabakov meant us to. It's the people who think it's a love story that aren't really understanding it. I think that it's an important one to go into with the right attitude. Nabakov is not endorsing Humbert's actions, nor is he even saying that Humbert is a good person, he is just presenting Humbert's perspective in order for the reader to understand that Humbert sees it as "love", as much as it is completely the opposite in my opinion. From Humbert's perspective, it is a love story, but it really isn't, we're just meant to see that Humbert thinks it is.

He never intended that people (as readers) see it as a love story, he intended for people to see that Humbert thought it was a love story. So yes, he intended for it to be a love story from the perspective of the narrator, but I have a hard time believing that the author felt the same way or intended for people to take it at face value and see it as a love story as well, but I can see how confusing that is. It was rosy because Humbert saw it as rosy, not because Nabakov saw it that way.

alexa ♡ yes thank you! sorry if my reply was confusing. i meant to say that it was (of course) written in the pov of humbert and therefore, was written to be ...more
Dec 12, 2019 08:05PM · flag

It is a love story. The story is not about Lolita but about Humbert. Of course, if you you consider Lotita's point of view, it is a horrible story, but from Humbert's point of view, it's a love story as strongly as Shakespeare's Roméo and Juliette. Really, try reading it from his point of view (and I truly believe that the author wanted it that way). It's hard for us, because we don't have that sexual deviation, but really try. All the elements of a tragique love story, in his mind, is present.

Nabakov actually said that Lolita was written to be a love story. And although it is between a 12-year-old a full-grown adult, that is the way it is described to be. Nabakov romanticized it, he made it seem... rosy? I can't even begin to explain what that means. But people most likely interpret it as a 'love story' because that is what Nabakov intended for people to interpret it as.

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