In Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita, Nabokov elects to ignore the societal need to establish a clear ethical dichotomy when dealing with crimes such as pedophilia. Nabokov instead writes main character Humbert Humbert as a man rich in humor and individuality. His behavior evades negative connotation and conveys absolute sincerity. He doesn’t acknowledge the interwoven perversity within his actions towards Dolores Haze because he does not identify with it. Humbert’s genuineness contrasts with the overwhelming social criticism towards pedophilia. The contradistinction leaves the reader searching for Humbert’s moral resolve in the form of regret or a righteous conscience; however, the reader is only met with a vast ethical grey area as Humbert manipulates the reader’s understanding of the truth by embodying solipsism. Both Humbert and Nabokov challenge the early 20th century Freudian psychoanalysis that had cemented popularity and acclaim during the initial publication of Lolita in 1955. They use memoir style novel, Lolita, as a platform to question established psychiatric thought and utilize dismissive insults and veiled parodies to express the inadequacy of a defined psychiatric and ethical dichotomy.
Nabokov had no qualms with speaking ill of Freud and his psychoanalytic theories. Nabokov disliked the Freud’s school of psychology that incorporated the study of unconscious elements in the conscious mind and dream interpretation. When asked why he so openly detests Freud, he responded:
Freudianism and all it has tainted with its grotesque implications and methods appears to me to be one of the vilest deceits practiced by people on themselves and on others. I reject it utterly, along with a few other medieval items still adored by the ignorant, the conventional, or the very sick. (Strong Opinions 23-24).
Nabokov believed that there was an element of cruelty in the personal practice of Freudianism. He further insisted Freud had limited not only himself, but also those who engaged in the school of thought to solely black and white thinking. He felt as if Freud’s psychiatric compartmentalization was not capable of capturing the broad spectrum of human experiences. Nabokov claimed that Freud’s harsh determination was fueled by personal subjectivity therefore making his two-categorization system “medieval” and inapplicable to individuals. Nabokov also disliked how psychoanalysis stripped artists of trademark originality by operating under the pretense that all actions, artistic and non-artistic, could be predicted and broken down by using psychoanalysis. Nabokov and Humbert both parody and dispute psychoanalytic Freudianism in Lolita through unreliable narration, ethics, and dream description.
Lolita is a self-aware work as it accomplishes a sentiment of ethical dismissiveness within the first few pages. The foreword explicitly compares the faux memoir to a “case history” and claims that it “will become, no doubt, a classic in psychiatric circles” (5)....