Obsession In Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita Essay

2471 words - 10 pages

Obsession in Lolita

    The relationship between Humbert Humbert and Lolita is no doubt a unique one. Many people who read the novel argue that it is based on "lust", but others say that Humbert really is in "love" with Lolita. However, there is some astounding evidence that Humbert has an obsessional-compulsive disorder with Lolita. The obsession is clearly illustrated when Humbert's actions and behavior are compared to the experts' definitions and descriptions of obsession. In many passages, Humbert displays obsessional tendencies through his descriptive word choice and his controlling personality. Many people are obsessive, so this is not an alien subject. We see it everyday in the entertainment industry as well as in everyday life. Comparing Humbert Humbert to clinical and other definitions, it seems as if Humbert is one person who is an obsessed person.


       Obsession is a tricky topic because it is hard to come up with a concrete definition. Who decides what obsession is? Where does one draw the line between obsession and deep admiration? According to S. Jack Rachman, "an obsession is an intrusive, repetitive thought, image, or impulse that is unacceptable or unwanted and gives rise to subjective resistance" (2). In addition, Andrew Brink states that "...the popular meaning of the term obsession, including the new verb 'to May 2 obsess', which means to be persistently preoccupied about something, usually an unsatisfactory relationship" (195). Both of these definitions are fairly similar, so now it is important to look at Humbert's actions and analyze how he fits into these defined categories.


       First, Brink argues that most people, especially men, have an obsessional defense which surfaces due to men's fear of women. More specifically, this defense mechanism is characterized by the "internalization of bipolar impulses to both accept and reject the same attachment object..." (Brink, pg. 195). He further describes it as "...a defense in which the internalized mother is split into accepting and rejecting aspects by which the person gains quasi-independence from her by identifying with her" (112). This idea is clearly illustrated in Humbert's relationship with Charlotte Haze. He clearly despises Charlotte as seen when he first meets and describes her: "The poor lady was in her middle thirties, she had a shiny forehead, plucked eyebrows and quite simple..." (Nabokov, pg. 37). He also describes her as Lolita's "Phocine mamma" (42). This is a zoological reference to seal-like animals.


        Furthermore, Humbert expresses his fear of Charlotte when he admits to the reader that he does not know how to handle her: "Had Charlotte been Valeria, I would have known how to handle the situation by merely twisting May 3 fat Valechka's brittle wrist but anything of the sort in regard to Charlotte was unthinkable" (Nabokov, pg. 83). Then, the reader senses his hatred...

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