Vladimir Nabokov’s Controversial Novel Lolita Essay

2795 words - 11 pages

Vladimir Nabokov?s controversial novel Lolita has endured heavy criticism ever since its publication in 1955. Criticism, however, is always met with opposition, and in the case of Lolita critics and supporters have expressed their concerns and applause vehemently. ?Throughout its history, Lolita has been the subject of arguments veering between the two points of literary value and pornographic reprehensibility.? (Bowlby 156). Objectors of the book have always said that it is pornographic and thus a tale of immorality that does not belong in the Canaan or even in publication for that matter. However, if immoral literature like Lolita should be destroyed then shouldn?t other works like Paradise Lost or The Bible be subjected to such a fate. The distinctions between what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable only exist of a plane of current trends and intolerable taboos. Incest in royal blood lines (real life) like Cleopatra (she was her aunt?s daughter and her brother?s wife) was socially and morally acceptable in ancient Egypt, and is even pompously tolerated now because we are so much wiser and civilized than our predecessors?even though they built the pyramids. Adam and Eve came from one another, from the ribcage, but sex between clones is tolerated in Adam and Eve?s case because we accept their naivety, but today the mere mention of even experimental human cloning (not sex) is considered off limits. ?Incest?is the last, or the first taboo of human culture.? (Bowlby 156). Lolita did survive its critics though, because the book offers more than a picture of incest, pedophilia, and rape; the aesthetic literary value supersedes predisposed taboos, and presents to the reader with beauty not pornography.The beauty is in the ability of Nabokov to turn a cynical plot, with an abhorred protagonist, into a lyrically poetic novel that ultimately reveals Humbert Humbert as a sympathetic character or one who we (the reader) come to understand. Consequently the story is not pornographic but romantic. ?I suggest that we best describe Lolita generically not as a love story or a novel of pathos but as a romance.? (Frosch 39). Thus the novel transcends typically love stories that exist on the surface as unique, but unraveled are full of deplorable cliché. Not saying that Lolita isn?t unique because of its distinctive lovers but because its distinctive character?s, H.H., love for Lolita becomes palpable. In other words, Nabokov allows us to see Lolita as H.H. sees her, and through his eyes we are able to view Lolita in the same light and with the same passion Humbert does. That is with idyllic love and beauty regardless of her age. We understand H.H?s desire and believe in his love. ?Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of my tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.? (1). This understanding of H.H.?s love, however, is what makes the book so perverse to...

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