Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita
Love, what is it? Love is a powerful feeling that is expressed in many ways throughout our society between men and women. Sometimes powerful feelings can have a negative ending, such as the ending in the novel Lolita.
The affair, Humbert argues, was made possible because he resembled a movie star to Lolita, and ends when Quilty offers her a chance at Hollywood, something Humbert cannot do. Lolita is perceived by the adults in her life--Humbert, Charlotte, and Quilty--as a star. The novel's consistent invocation of filmic metaphors to describe Lolita invites us to read her as a literary version of Hollywood's child star. Her career is as short-lived as the average child star's: as first Humbert's lover and then Quilty's whore, Lolita's career spans roughly four to five years. Humbert scrupulously remarks throughout the confession that he is working with the wrong medium. He is convinced, and he obviously wants his reader to become so, that Lolita could be forever his, that his seduction would be a complete achievement.
Recognizing that "Lolita will not forever be Lolita", Humbert uses film as a proleptic defense against losing her to those witnesses who would attempt to reformulate her. Since film works only as fantasy, however, Humbert risks losing control over the definition of his art to a series of doubles with whom he competes, such as the playwright and pornographer Clare Quilty, who takes advantage of Humbert's initial foresight, using it as a stepping stone to the next limit and leaving Humbert in the dark.
Humbert Humbert's use of cinematic metaphors makes explicit what is at stake, in Lolita's representation of pedophilia and incest, namely, control over the means of visual representation and male adult memories of childhood sexual desire. What marks Lolita as a desirable nymphet for Humbert is the way she can be remembered through implicitly filmic terms. At the start of his confession, Humbert provides his reader...