Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita: Various Literary Lenses

March 15, 2019 by Essay Writer

In Nabokov’s Lolita, an effectual force of individuality converges with a force of society into a prolific battle between what is morally justified by a community, versus what is justified by an individual, revealing the essential choice everyone must face: the isolation of individuality or the incorporation in the social sense of “belonging.” This conflict is played on by two major themes, Pedophilia and Murder, and represents the crux of the novel. Through the various literary techniques of interpretation, Formalist, New Historicist, and Feminist, Lolita begins its journey as a modern classic of literature, its ambiguity in morality masterfully propelled by Nabokov and his main character Humbert Humbert. Applying a formalist lens, we see Nabokov’s view of an intrinsically suffering man, and his attempt to alter society, if not escape from it, in order to solve his problems. Using characterization, irony, and point of view, Nabokov presents the reader with a psychological case study on an incestuous murderer, who begs the reader for his redemption and understanding. From a New Historicist perspective, we question the intent of the written novel – why Nabokov chose to write Lolita during the 1950’s, a time of unrestrained mechanization and conformation. Through his utter disgust with socialization of the popular masses, we begin to see Humbert not only as an ideologist standing up for what he perceives to be the right way to act, but also a criticism on pop culture and pseudo-intelligentsia. Finally the last critical lens through which we will view Lolita is that of the Feminist perspective. We will see Dolores Haze, or Lolita, as the vulnerable and nave child and Humbert as the stereotypical male only too in touch with his sexual desires. From the development of the story, we begin to see a reversal of roles; the empowerment of the woman through her sexual control of the man. We see the overlapping roles of women in Lolita from capsules of lust and desire, to the pragmatic, to the representation of an idea that Humbert takes too far. Using these literary lenses, the reader should derive three distinctively different conclusions upon the same Nabokov book; a comedic tragedy about a lustful man, the appeal to be different in a conforming society, and the responsibility of women in a Freudian society. A contemporary reader will find that a feminist reading of the book to be the most relevant to today’s society. Social changes have permitted pop culture to display icons of youth to be attractive; instead of protecting the innocence of a child, America is using the powerful undertones of the same obsessiveness that Humbert so desperately tries to escape to obtain a marketable and profitable product, reaching beyond its own moral code of “right and wrong” and rewriting the rules.It was with painstaking precision that Nabokov created Humbert Humbert, a man mentally unstable by all conventional manners. As if merely creating the persona was not enough to actually “understand” the character, Nabokov utilizes the power of the narrative to mold the meticulously detailed, almost stream-of-conscious, testimony that drives the plot of the story. From the very beginning, Humbert addresses the readers as “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury…” (Nabokov 9) as if he was presenting a case filled with evidence referring to “exhibit number one…” (9). It is with this presumption that the reader understands his intentions of writing his memoirs such that later generations would be able to judge the morality of his actions. He will try with great effort to convince us the justifications of his actions.Humbert rose out of aristocracy attending school in Paris and educated with all the necessities of the Old World of Europe. His teaching is reflected in his writing in an elevated prose, “I discussed Soviet movies with expatriates. I sat with uranists in the Deux Magots. I published tortuous essays in obscure journals. I composed pastiches…” (16) rambles Humbert, attributing his scholarship to the ability to access a wide range of culture. Throughout the novel, Humbert inserts pieces of French to his thoughts in order to further the image of the thoroughness of his education. “…far from being an indolent partie de plaisir, our tour was a hard, twisted teleological growth…” (154). This pedantic tone with the usage of language and bookish phrases coupled with the exceptional education of Humbert presents the reader with an implicit respect and trust for him. Perhaps Colin McGinn describes Humbert the best as “old-fashioned…professorial in manner, quietly studious, fussily pedantic, impractical, timid, tiresomely erudite, intellectually snobbish, verbose, and much given to pseudo-scholarly defenses of his pedophilia” (31). His background becomes the foundation with which we view Humbert, the observations which he recounts in the readers’ minds are acute and accurate, a deception by which Nabokov plays upon his readers.Now I wish to introduce the following idea. Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travelers, twice or many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demonic); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as “nymphets.” (Nabokov 16)Said like a true professor on the subject, Humbert launches the reader into the inner depths of his psyche. The readers learn of Humbert’s singular temptation of “nymphets” which become his life-long obsession and the driving force behind his motivation. The fact that Humbert sets “limits” on the existence of the creatures tells the readers he is very specific in defining the parameters. He is also a self-admitted solipsist; a person who only knows its present state and thinks he or she is the only existent thing (336). This explains Humbert’s incredible selfishness as he is considerate of only his own feelings and never that of Lolita’s or any other person in the novel. This driving force further polarizes Humbert from his place in society as his source of pleasure is perceived to be perverse by the public2E He needs to hide this “atrociousness” as to be extremely cautious of not letting the public discover his pedophilia, his individuality.Perhaps that is why a few utterances of less-than-sentimentalities belay his feelings for the death of his own mother. “My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning)…” (10). His feelings do not extend beyond what is pleasurable or painful to himself but only to his own reality. Other deaths that occur in the story do not evoke any more emotions from Humbert, as he sees it as a channel to obtaining his own pleasure. For example, Charlotte Haze’s unfortunate accident was met with joy, if not a wishing that she had passed sooner so that he may be alone with her daughter, Lolita. “The numbness of my soul was for a moment resolved. And no wonder! I had actually seen the agent of fate…and here was the instrument…hurrying housewife, slobbery pavement, a pest of a dog, steep grade, big car, baboon at its wheel…” (103). Nabokov, through his usage of the narrative as well as the acquaintance of the reader with the workings of the novel poses a moral dilemma, only one of a plentitude. Should the death of Humbert’s wife evoke a sense of guilt inside himself, or even the reader? From all that we know of Charlotte, she is a kitschy, popular-minded woman who treated her daughter in contempt, an innocent child, believing her to be a burden, whereas Humbert was only trying to protect his Lolita. In his own words, a departure from his regular prose, “The Haze woman, the big bitch, the old cat, the obnoxious mamma…” (95). In relaying the events of Charlotte’s death, Nabokov is able to weave a bit of irony inside the story2E A dog that Humbert had swerved to avoid had caused the accident that had killed his wife. The reader is given the task to choose the morality of Humbert’s actions, in death as well as in his obsession. Death thus becomes a parallel theme to pedophilia how can we as readers judge oppositely on both issues?Through deconstruction of the characters, the reader begins to see not only the dual sides of the moral story that Nabokov poses to the reader as he did the previous question, but also the dual nature of all characters inside this story. Even Humbert Humbert, a repetitious echo of the name of the main character, seems to represent a second-sided nature to the man. This remains true of his history, and his views of Lolita. While a strict conservative by his political standards, he less inclined to believing himself of committing an atrocious crime such as pedophilia if he skews the actions to be justified by his solipsism. In fact, McGinn suggests “his circumlocutions and fastidious euphemisms do indeed enable him to keep the immorality of his actions at some distance from his conscience; and moral enlightenment tends to be accompanied by plainer speech” (32), basically stating that because Humbert has chosen to coexist within his two selves, the formal, sophisticated, well-educated Humbert, he needed an outlet for his “human” side, his lust for Lolita. In order to cover up his and justify this wild side, Humbert resorts to the usage of “fastidious” speech. This battle between the restraints of the Old World as opposed to the unrestricted freedoms of the New World, as represented by Humbert’s journey to America, is faced by Humbert both internally and externally. His choice of passively living his life inside this society which explicitly prevents him from doing do believes him to be society’s ogre if he reveals his other side – shows that Humbert is trying to make his choice of appreciating aesthetic beauty in young girls, an individualistic option.It is interesting to note that there was no revelation of Humbert’s aberrant association with Lolita until the confessions he wrote in a mock play that Charlotte discovered aptly right before her death. We see society blind to Humbert’s perverseness, or perhaps, it was a result of his extremely capable ability at concealing it. The concealment was further illustrated by the two road trips undertaken by Humbert and Lolita in the novel. These trips, the “first circles of paradise…” (283) are symbolic of an escape from a constant source of danger, the exposure of Humbert’s pedophilia, or perhaps a greater fear to him, Lolita learning about the wrongfulness of their actions. It was a means by which Humbert was able to keep mobile, nomadic life. Never staying more than one night at a hotel, Humbert does not allow the society to peek into his personal life. He becomes sterile to the “belonging” stage of a community. Through this choice, he seeks to isolate himself, and his perversion (Lolita), from any commitment by the community to do “the right thing.” This is his individuality at its peak, his morals prevent him from seeing what is deemed “wrong” by society and by physically placing himself away from the criticism, Humbert avoids the society.What is peculiar about the Nabokovian novel is the depiction of authority that Nabokov is supposedly poised against. One would believe that his struggles with the law pertain to the Pedophilia that his actions in that area resulted in his incarceration. However, such was not the case as each of the times Humbert has been in trouble with the law, it has been for something other than his incestuous affair with Lolita. The reader must keep in mind that his memoirs are written from jail and not from a psychiatric institution. The mandate of law which he has violated was not his relationship with Lolita, but rather was his murder of Quilty. Thus, we are to believe that the restrictions of his moral dilemma were not of killing or murdering; his plea to “ladies and gentlemen of the jury…” (9) was not to justify his murder, although he does do a fantastic job of fabricating a motive, but rather to justify his love for Lolita, which causes him to kill Quilty. This distinction should be made clear as we once again see the conflict of society; Humbert is able to avoid the persecution of pedophilia, but he not able to escape murder, a product of his mental disorder (that is, if we were to classify pedophilia as a psychological disease and not as a condition of appreciating one’s vision of “true beauty” (34) as supported by Humbert)2EThe murder of Quilty poses the ultimate moment of duality by which Humbert is in essence murdering a form of himself. He observes that there are many “nympholepts” (32) who fall under the spell of girls like Lolita, who lose control of their mind in chase and pursuit. Quilty, the secondary character who Humbert seeks throughout the second part of the book, represents the alternate parallel shadowing Humbert’s every move. The last scene of struggle before Quilty’s death between Humbert and Quilty (301) could be interpreted as a struggle between Humbert and himself. The only difference between Quilty and Humbert is Humbert’s own assumptions of solipsism and his thinking of exclusive “ownership” of Lolita. The struggle for the gun, which is phallic symbol in Freudian psychoanalysis, is representative of the fight for power between Quilty and Humbert, as both of their respective masculinities are threatened by the existence of the other. As Humbert shoots and kills Quilty (302), a formidable task but one made with great comical effect, he absolves the morality of his actions, and yet reaffirms them at the same time by pulling the trigger. The duality of Humbert’s character surfaces again, Nabokov seeks to ask the reader, why would he kill someone seemingly so similar to himself? Quilty only shares in Humbert’s appreciation for beauty, he no less falls for Lolita much the same way Humbert does. Why does he not understand the emotions of Quilty as they are perfectly the same as his own “individuality?” Because it is an attack on his own individuality, his identification with Lolita, the bond he has found with her beauty, in Humbert’s mind is unique in itself. While society can parade on with its course, Humbert takes a sideline, as the adage goes, “slows down to smell the roses.” When another comes along to violate his “property”, his only action is the elimination of that threat. James Tweedie agrees as he states, “Humbert’s solipsism aims at near-complete isolation, and the world beyond his insular existence is always confronted as a threat, as the intrusion of an incipient end into the precarious story of his time with Lolita” (161).The question is deferred back to Humbert’s solipsism, and his obliviousness to the interactions of the outside world. To continue development of the understanding of Humbert, we refer to a single moment in his life, which he strives to relive, the epitome of the repetitive actions which he has tried to duplicate. One might say he experienced a moment in his life, which he wants to relive over and over again, through the immortalization in the image of not only Lolita, but of countless girls which he has lusted after. This experience dates back to his first love with Annabel. She was seen in “general terms as: ‘honey-colored skin,’ ‘thin arms,’ ‘brown bobbed hair,’…a little ghost in natural colors” (11) quotes Humbert, “and this is how I see Lolita.” There is no question that his relationship with Lolita is founded on the yearning for the memory of Annabel. Nabokov makes a literary allusion to Edgar Allen Poe’s “Annabel Lee,” which spells out the tragedy of Annabel in Nabokov’s own Lolita; the loss of a young loved one to a disease which could not be prevented. (Several clues to Humbert’s, and thus accordingly Nabokov’s allusion of “Annabel Lee” include the check-in name of Humbert as a “Dr. Edgar Humbert” (118)) Humbert tries to emulate with every single relationship the ideal image of his lost Annabel, and as so, the image of the young and innocent child in Lolita fits this role. It was a unique experience he is trying to recreate; he believes that society would not understand this suffering. This becomes the purpose of the entire memoir: to convince his readers of his personally morality.In a last stance, Humbert pleads with the readers to comprehend his suffering, as according to him, he is only trying to relate back to his nature, “I have but followed nature. I am nature’s faithful hound” (135). This presents the paradox in the characterization of Humbert, from which we know him as. On one hand, Humbert has been the calculating, omnipresent fellow educated in the most elite universities of Europe, and as we are to see him on the other, a wild man giving into his natural desires. Even with the elegant prose, Humbert is not able to conceal this side of him, and that is precisely what Dr. John Ray, Jr. concludes about Humbert.I have no intention to glorify “H.H.” No doubt, he is horrible, he is abject, he is a shining example of moral leprosy, a mixture of ferocity and jocularity that betrays supreme misery perhaps, but is not conducive to attractiveness…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)Thus through characterization, irony, the use of point of view, Nabokov creates the character of Humbert: an incessantly calculating fellow, making a choice between his adaptations of society versus the pursuit of personal pleasure in a self-advocated philosophy of solipsism, of which he chooses the latter. After putting himself in jail, he has chosen to finally share his obsession with the rest of the world in the form of a testimony in which he constantly begs the reader for his redemption. The reader is put to the task of evaluating Humbert’s arguments, are we to agree with him? Perhaps even sympathize with him? What exactly is Nabokov wanting us to conclude about the entire ordeal, should we view Humbert’s position of choosing individuality over society as a model to our own lives or should we do exactly the opposite? Nabokov does not make a definitive conclusion in the text, that is, that is, he does not suggest one way or the other. This book does not answer its own questions, but rather poses them for the reader to reflect upon. Dr. John Ray, Jr. characterizes is best as a “case history…a classic in psychiatric circles” (4) by which we are to evaluate future patients upon. As for Humbert, we see his pain, feel his sorrow, but we do not judge him one way or the other. His pleas are left as the dying remarks of a man who believed so strongly in his individuality, in his pursuit of aesthetic perfection, that he would kill for it. Humbert later dies, as Nabokov is a master of metaphors, of “coronary thrombosis” (3), otherwise known as a broken heart for the loss of his Lolita, for the loss of his individuality.With the formalist analysis, we are able to decipher the characters, interpret the hidden meanings and perhaps even form some sort of conclusion about the novel, the basis of the book. The reader feels the polarization of the two forces, the individual versus the society, as we see its battle being fought by Humbert. His struggle illuminates this issue of individuals and their freedom of choice. However, to begin a deeper understanding of Nabokov’s intentions of writing the book, we must also utilize the technique of New Historicism and see how his Lolita was a reflection of the events during that time period. We resort to the usage of material outside the confines of the novel, and look at what was going on the criticism Nabokov received, censorship, the social conformity of the post-war era, and the popularization of mass media to induce the conformation of individuals.Lolita was published in 1955, the middle year of a decade characterized by a post-war economic boom. America was as Ehrenhalt puts it, “…a world of limited choices” (4). Through the mass industrial production of the 1940’s in the wake of the war, America had developed a mass institutionalized system in which government standards, industrial competition, and economic factors rival the decadence of the Gilded Age, when monopolistic entities of a few controlled the opinions, options, and decisions of the population. Ehrenhalt typifies it to the entire socioeconomic and political aura stating, “this was true of commerce as it was of sports and politics, and it was nearly true of the smallest transactions as it was the big ones” (4). He further relates to this to shopping in a grocery store, “day-to-day commerce was based on relationships on habit, not on choice” (5). This lack of choice contributes to the conformation of a society in which only one set of values could be set, and recognized as the “correct” one. Even in dress for teenagers, society has a set of rules which perceivably cannot be broken. The dress code was described as “…almost a uniform: jeans, letter sweaters, and loafers” (Tefertillar 1). These values extend its reach to personal morals. Using the institution of Church as an example of central authority figures, we see that adultery is a sin in the Bible, and therefore morally wrong for us, our neighbors, and consequently society as a whole. No one questions this authority; no one stands up outside of not only the social conformity, but the moral one as well. Nabokov’s Humbert is one such figure, who does in his own way progress his rationalizations on the morality of his actions. He is conflicting with the social norms of that time period by lusting after prepubescent girls, the inception of which is not considered by any authority figure in the book, as it is construed as too taboo for even Law, the ultimate authoritarian, to touch. Nabokov thus provides a two-fold front against this mechanization and conformation. First, by publishing this book of questionable “poerotic” (Couturier 1) material, he is pushing the limits of free speech in society, going against the grain of all other material published during this time. Second, his subject matter of his novel becomes his very response to the criticisms of his peers and of society, by having a fictitious certified doctor prepend the Lolita text, Nabokov is making a point of creating this book as a piece of art to be studied, not to be abused, much as Humbert studies Lolita as a piece of art. The pure aesthetic value of the book becomes the central theme, not the topics of which it deals with.Nabokov received countless criticisms for his Lolita, some of which began before he was even able to get it published. In his own response to the expected criticisms on an explanatory article he adds to the end of Lolita entitled “On the Book Entitled Lolita,” he explains his complications with numerous publishers who read over the book and thought it was either too risqu for their tastes to publish, or not pornographic enough.Certain techniques in the beginning of Lolita (Humbert’s Journal, for example) misled some of my first readers into assuming that this was going to be a lewd book. They expected the rising succession of erotic scenes; when these stopped, the readers stopped, too, and felt bored and let down. This, I suspect, is one of the reasons why not all the four firms read the typescript to the end. (313)Nabokov did not fit into the mold of either a writer of great merit with a book of artistic value, or a dispenser of sinful words portraying the indecencies of a man and a child, catering to the underground. He was not able to conform to either the best in society, or the worst the same dilemma faced by Humbert in Lolita. Nabokov in this sense joins the scores of other artisans, writers, poets, actors, in reforming the 1950’s who inspired a culture revolution in the next ten years. “The Fifties have suffered, as many things in history (and life) do, from uncomfortable neighborhood. This decade retained an aura of domesticity that poorly compared with the emotional havoc wreaked by the previous years of war or the subsequent disturbances of counterculture and Civil Rights” (Alves 25). Alves goes on to describe a pair of playwrights who “…cinematically found the right angle to highlight the assailed self…a victim of ruthless and corrupted society…an art engaged in exposing self-indulging nostalgia and the consensus that had shut American eyes to the McCarthy hysteria” (28). Nabokov joins these playwrights in criticizing the blind faith of the American public in its own moral system, and as so, publishes a controversial novel which through its subject matter is able to expand the process of thinking outside the box, going beyond the set of rules.Even inside the novel, Nabokov critiques American society. The setting of the story corresponds with the contemporary time of its author, the 1950’s. The roles of women in the novel are a representation of the type of conformity that Humbert desperately despises, and Nabokov scorns. The best example is the role of Charlotte Haze and her decadence in materialism and dedication to climbing the social ladder. “Into our fifty days of our cohabitation Charlotte crammed the activities of as many years. The poor woman busied herself with a number of things she had foregone long before…” (Nabokov 77). These activities included what was “traditional” to do in the lives of a married couple. She is not able to see beyond these traditions as only social restraints, but rather becomes a slave, an operator within the system. Much like the movie The Matrix, she is blinded from the truth, which has become obsolete, trusting the crooked system of the rat race to obtain a piece of the American corona (wealth, family, religion), and is, in the process, enslaved by its massive reach. Humbert, being a deviant of that system and its traditions, despises her as well as her motives for operation. One gets the feeling that the only reason Charlotte marries Humbert was out of practicality, once again fitting the social mold, and to promote her social position from a widow, to a more encouraged “family.”Nabokov’s “successful attempt to capture the elusive nature of the Fifties…” (Alves 38) in his Lolita, as previously described, works on two levels: the reaction to it, and the novel itself. Both promulgated the idea of rejection of the institution. “Looking back on the Fifties, we come to realize that behind the faade of conformity, vital declarations of independence were being made” (36), and Nabokov’s writing of Lolita becomes his message to the reader to be aware of the social constraints placed upon him or her. Lawrence Kohlberg, a philosopher at Harvard University, describes the system of authority in his stage-model”Conventional reasoning” is oriented toward the norms of group expectations or the authority of law. Stage 3 is an interpersonal orientation in which moral reasoning is congruent with conformity to majority behavior. Stage 4, the orientation is toward law and social order…”post-conventional reasoning” is characterized by efforts to define moral values and principles personally, apart from the external authority of peers or the law. (Robinson 2)Nabokov would agree with stage 4 of Kohlberg’s model of authority, and reject stage 3. Humbert is not basing his actions off of the behavior of the majority, but rather is defining his moral values personally “apart from the external authority of peers.” As with last few words of the Kohlberg statement, “the law,” Humbert is not able to escape. His morality, his reasoning for being with Lolita, is justified in his mind; however his act of murder is not overlooked by law.In writing Lolita, Nabokov places a criticism on his time period, to watch out for “overprotection” by authority, for adjusting our civil liberties, and for splitting from the majority in believing to do what is right, justified in one’s own mind, rather than ideals in the minds of others. This becomes relevant today as we still have to take heed to Nabokov’s warning. Many artists, which we will of course consider Nabokov as a literary artist, have spoken out against conformity well after Nabokov’s publishing of Lolita. One such person, an R&B and hip-hop musician accurately portrays the stigma of American life as she sees it today in her song “Mystery of Iniquity”, “What are we working for? Empty tradition? Reaching social positions? Teaching ambition to support the family superstition?” The same problems that became the reason for Nabokov’s writing the book are still faced by our society today. Contemporary artists are producing material, albeit in a different medium such as a song or a poetry reading, that carry the same message of individualism and shedding the confines of conformity in their works. Using new historicism, we not only focus on the effects of that conformity and those who speak out against it in that time, but also on how it relates to our sense of individualism. Nabokov’s intentions for writing the book are thereby relevant to story in Lolita, and are relevant to our society today.New Historicism focuses on a time frame in which social forces, through one way or another causes an author to write a particular work. Feminist criticism focuses instead on the representation of women in the work, and how they are portrayed as figures of power. In Nabokov’s Lolita, as in his portrayal of the character of Humbert and his depiction of the social forces of choice, the readers are once again subjected to his dual notion. Nabokov uses Lolita, the twelve year old girl, as a character who decidedly is possessive of her sexuality, and in turn becomes the power figure in the novel. Her actions, whether they are intentional or not, holds Humbert in bondage to his conflict between individuality and society. She is as much to blame for Humbert’s pedophilia as his own thoughts and actions are. Therefore, she remains outside of the society’s morals, where supposedly women do not belong in the first place, and as such is immune to the effects of it. Using feminist analysis of Lolita, we are able to conclude that women remain outside the strict confines of society’s conformity because they were not the ones who create the conformity, although most choose to live in it. However, this immunity of the females to the standards of society that are applicable to males, are abused by the males in an attempt to capitalize economically on it.On a very basic understanding of the plot level of Lolita, the reader might suspect that this is a very typical phallocentric novel. It is Humbert who takes Lolita on the road trip, provides for her entertainment, and becomes the center of her life. It is Humbert, who controls the life of this child, possessing her as if she was a piece of property. This possession is not due to the person herself, but rather to the image of that person.Thus had I delicately constructed my ignoble, ardent, sinful dream…What I had madly possessed was not she, but my own creation, another, fanciful Lolita perhaps, more real than Lolita; overlapping, encasing her; floating between me and her, and having no will, no consciousness indeed, no life of her own. (62)The very first words, coupled with the very last words of the memoir summarize this point very well. “My Lolita” (9), “My Lolita” (309), Humbert has in his mind obviously taken ownership of Lolita, in part because of her aesthetic qualities that he obsesses over so much, and in part because he is male. He even calls her his “…dreamy pet” (120) as if she was some creature that he holds upon a chain, a dog or a cat, obedient to his every command. This deception of male in possession of a female is quickly overridden by a more careful analysis of the text.Keep in mind that Lolita is written from Humbert’s point of view, it is only logical that he believes in his ownership of Lolita. However, upon coming across several clues in the novel, we see Nabokov’s real ploy as he depicts women as the stronger sex. It is in fact Humbert on that leash, held in check by “his Lolita.” The first clue comes through the description of Humbert’s obsessiveness of Lolita. Nabokov through Humbert uses words of magic, superstition, as he describes Lolita as a “fiery phantasm” (264), or in other words an “out of the earthly realm” object. During the first night that Humbert explores the sexuality of Lolita, putting his thoughts in action, they stay at the “Enchanted Hunters Inn” (129). In that same passage, Humbert describes the initiation of what he has tried so hard to do by escaping society, using words of possession, “the enchanted prey was about to meet halfway the enchanted hunter…” (131). In this instance, the term possession is not used as the ownership of something, but rather in the magical sense, as if someone was “possessed.” Humbert, through his false image that it is he who controls Lolita, is in fact possessed by her powers of sexuality. He is the “enchanted hunter” blindly following his prey that will lead him to places of trouble. “Lolita is no longer a vulgar little flirt but the archetypal seductress and temptress” (Couturier 1) is an accurate description of the transformation that Lolita has undergone through the novel. Nabokov further continues this premise in the plot by a play produced by Quilty. The play is ironically named “The Enchanted Hunters” (this is no coincidence!) in which Lolita is cast as the witch who casts the spell on the hunters. Nabokov utilizes the irony to speak out to the reader wanting him or her to think that Lolita is not as innocent as Humbert believes her to be. This at last proves true as we find through the development of the plot that Lolita has been cheating on Humbert with Quilty, and makes the choice of leaving him.What is significant about this is how the rules of social conformity do not apply to the females in the book. Lolita does not have any grave moral conflicts in her actions with Humbert or Quilty. She is choosing to not live by rules set up by any males of the society, but instead, because of what she possesses (her sexuality), rewrites what is definitive of her individuality. Her source of power is derived from this escape of a social order, which Humbert tries to do, but fails. It can be inferred then, that Nabokov is trying to make a statement about how the society in the 1950’s perceives women. While they are part of the machine that assimilates culture, they were not the makers, thus allowing a few of them like Lolita to escape its grasp. With their charms, their magical powers of seduction, they are able to enslave the male population to their liking.In today’s world, we see an adaptation by society to try and incorporate women into the “fitting roles.” “One little girl was listening while her mother was being interviewed. She was around nine or ten. She wore large, gold earrings, and her face was heavily made up” (Appleyard 20). This “little girl” is the modern version of Nabokov’s Lolita, only that her free will has been taken away and replaced with the mold of society. Her make up, her jewelry, are all social stigmas that characterize the becoming of a female. Appleyard’s essay goes on to say, “…children these days are allowed or obliged to grow up too soon. Little girls, in particular, are arrayed in the sexually provocative paraphernalia of big girls boob tubes, short skirts, bikinis, make-up” (21). This is a direct result of the media association of “fashion” or as Appleyard calls it, “a kind of uniform…” (21). Because it is now socially acceptable to and in fact, fashionable, to associate one’s self with the image of youth, which Humbert falls for in Lolita, the morals of society have shifted so that it accommodates the mass market economic advantage. Pop culture icons such as Britney Spears are used as instruments by the male dominated economic world to change the moral issues of society and institute a conformity based on their inception of fashion2E The woman’s power of youth in sexuality is used to enchant the money from the pocketbooks of males and females alike.Nabokov’s Lolita poses the reader with several interesting and introspective questions. He pushes the edge on our limits of morality and questions our allegiance to society. He reflects upon a time of severe social conformity. And finally, in writing this book, he makes us observe our status quo and come to the realization that the warnings given about preserving your individuality need to be heeded. Through the feminist criticism, the reader is best able to relate the themes of Lolita to the contemporary times. The reader should realize the conforming aspect of popular culture, and compare the differences between Humbert’s time and the status quo to form the conclusion that things have not changed at all. The drive for conformity as taken on a new face, through the promotion of youth and freedom of sexuality. It is hard to qualify exactly how today’s society would react to a man like Humbert. We dare not be hypocritical in accepting this society, and condemning a man like Humbert, while being mesmerized by images of youth. Even though our society has shifted its morals a bit, we are still its drab prisoners. It is through feminist analysis that we realize these things, thereby making it the most appropriate literary lens to use in relating it with a contemporary audience. When a reader views the book through a feminist lens, he or she will be able to identify the hypocrisy of his society.

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