Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita The Shocking Lolita

2106 words - 8 pages

The Shocking Lolita

     Vladimir Nabokov wrote Lolita not only to create controversy and shock the public, but also for money and fame. Nabokov wrote Lolita to get attention. This novel engages moral dilemmas that are sensitive to its readers. The sensitive subject matter created such a controversy that it perpetuated sales and made it a bestseller, and he knew that if he wrote a book shocking and personal enough he would become wealthy. The novel speaks as though it were a lived event which adds to the intensity of Humbert's actions and to the shock of the reader. The delivery and depth of his thoughts make one think this is a true story, and the effect can be that the reader finds the action even more appalling.


Simon Karlinsky once declared that the publication of Lolita in America and England signaled the final "collapse of the Victorian moralistic censorship that had persisted in Western countries till the end of the 1950's"(Iannone 54). Alternatively, Nabokov states, "Lolita has no moral in tow. For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstacy) is the norm"(314). This statement is taken from the epilogue that he wrote after the novel to state his intentions. The work has no other meaning than to shock the reader. None. Why would Nabokov bother taking the time to write a three hundred page novel just for the sake of "aesthetic bliss"(314)? Although he dismisses it entirely, moral issues arise quickly in this novel. The first moral is that by the age of twelve, one American girl has already been "hopelessly depraved" by "modern co-education, juvenile mores, the campfire racket and so forth"(Nabokov's words), and that whatever indignities and brutalities are inflicted upon her thereafter add little of nothing to her degradation.


The first moral is that by the age of twelve, one American girl has already been "hopelessly depraved" by "modern co-education, juvenile mores, the campfire racket and so forth"(Nabokov's words), and that whatever indignities and brutalities are inflicted upon her thereafter add little of nothing to her degradation. The second moral is that prolonged assault of a 12-year-old, though horrible, is no more sordid than what Mr. Nabokov calls the "philistine vulgarity of the American scene," which he finds "exhilarating." What happens to Lolita blends into and is not of a different order from the middle-class squalor of endless motels and juke boxes. The third moral is that a 12-year-old, can be submerged in the kind of cesspool Mr. Nabokov describes with such imaginative power and come out of it with things having "fallen into place in a world which she views as just one gag after another'." Lolita, he concludes "had not been destroyed; indeed she has exhibited the strong...

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