Power Of Diction: Vladimir Nabokov Essay

1475 words - 6 pages

A theme is any universal idea explored in a literary work. After reading the novel Lolita it became obvious that there were multiple themes occurring throughout the book. In my eyes the most important theme of them all was the power of diction and how Nabokov honored words because they elevated his artwork otherwise dreadful topic. This particular book is known for being risqué, but it is important to note that there are no four-letter words or any obvious graphic material; that's because of Humbert's word choice. The language used in Lolita successfully overcompensates the unadvisable content and allows a sense of beauty to prevail. Subjects such as murder, pedophilia, rape, and even incest are surprisingly appealing due to the way Humbert Humbert narrates each scene with powerful word choice. Humbert uses diction and other forms of diction such as alliteration and imagery to ensure the captivation of his readers, entangling and convincing them into buying his version of the confession.
Humbert's deliberately uses specific words to emphasize his innocence in the first sex scenes of the confession. When Humbert masturbates in front of Lolita, he uses words like “impudent child” and “masked lust to her guileless limbs” (Nabokov 58). This scene could have been really gross and more obvious, yet he chose words like “I performed the adjustments necessary for the success of the trick” (Nabokov 59). By using elevated diction, he successfully indulges the reader and creates a beautiful scene no matter what the subject is. If you read the novel and looked up every word you haven’t yet met in the dictionary (which for me would be several a page), you’ll be amazed at the perfect choice of word construction. There’s so much substance in Lolita‘s telling that we as readers are tempted to sympathize with Humbert’s story.
Another example takes place in their first "make out" scene; Humbert uses several forms of diction to influence the reader, two of which in particular stand out to this reader. The first is his poor speech patterns while talking to Lolita. Claiming his "word-control [was] gone" (Nabokov 120), Humbert childishly mixed up the first letter of pairs of words, allowing him to sound innocent and Lolita as the “pursuer”. The passage is charming and Humbert fools his audience. In a scholarly journal discussing Nabokov and his writing style in Lolita, it states that Humbert is “like a magician and distracts his audience with one hand while his other commits a uncivilized crime”. We need plenty of practice reading and rereading Humbert before we come to rely on his styles, for there’s always so much else to think about” (Moore 2001). Another form of word choice is alliteration and how the author puts certain words together with similar beginning letters to put the reader in a tongue-twisting coma.
Right off the bat, in the first paragraph of the novel, Humbert begins with intense alliteration. Writing Lolita’s name over and over, suggesting...

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