Should the Reader Forgive Humbert?
Lolita, by Vladamir Nabokov is a controversial book that elaborately represents and forces the reader to deal with a pedophiles obsession with his 12-year-old stepdaughter. As the reader finishes reading Lolita, he must establish a meaning for the novel which hinges heavily upon whether or not he should forgive Humbert for his rape of Lolita and for stealing her childhood away from her. This rape is legally referred to as a statutory rape because Humbert is having sex with Lolita who is under the age of consent. Humbert also figuratively rapes Lolita of her childhood and a normal teenage life. This decision to forgive Humbert will rely upon Humbert's words as he realizes what he has done to Lolita. In order for the reader to be able to forgive Humbert he must determine if Humbert is truly sorry for his actions.
One must overlook the fact that Vladimir Nabokov has written, Lolita has no moral in tow. (314). Nabokov has obviously anticipated the reader's response to his novel and so he discloses that he sees no moral value in the book. This is obviously a false statement that is used to complicate the book and make the reader think. Lolita is full of moral choices and situations that learned readers will recognize and make judgments on. Most readers have a conscience and thus look for the moral contained in the story. This argument thoughtfully represents Nabokov's Lolita with real world morals.
An ethical or moral reading of Lolita would lead the reader to the question of forgiveness of Humbert for his actions toward Lolita. To fully understand all that is involved in this question it is necessary to examine the word forgiveness. The word "forgiveness" has been used extensively throughout history to mean a pardon given to a wrongdoer for something he has done that has hurt another individual. In Lolita, Humbert is the wrongdoer and society is the judge of this crime. Though Lolita is a fictitious novel, let us presume for the sake of this argument that the novel can be represented by real world situations and morals.
In this world there are two kinds of forgiveness: forgiveness that comes from man, and divine forgiveness that comes from God. A definition from the Ungers Bible Dictionary gives this distinction: It (scriptural forgiveness) is not to be confused with human forgiveness which merely remits a penalty or charge. Divine forgiveness on the other hand, is one of the most complicated and costly undertakings, demanding complete satisfaction to meet the demands of Gods outraged holiness. (377). This definition gives a clear difference between how the world views forgiveness and how a Christian views forgiveness. This essay will primarily address forgiveness from a human perspective.
Another definition that will clarify the meaning of the word "forgiveness" comes from the Oxford English Dictionary. It describes forgiveness as the action of forgiving; pardon of a fault, remission of a debt, etc....