Ah, ma chérie, the story of the romantic taboo; the ravings of the lewd; the pervert with his nymphet; the beast with two backs.
Lolita is a mix of drolling, journalistic passages occasionally accompanied with its infamous hyperrealized portrayals. By conforming a rigid structure with a whimsical poetic style, Nabokov accomplishes what few writers could ever do. Those delusions, those moments of venereal glory between a not-so-innocent aged man and his slightly-more-innocent maiden—it’s that dry caustic humor which belies the heart of Lolita. It is a case study of the English language at its most imaginative form, always whipping linguistic novelties out of thin air; and yet what’s perhaps most astonishing is Lolita‘s deceptively intricate layering of themes and characterization, providing not only a poetic saunter but a powerfully depthful tale.
Lolita is like some odd fornicating Franco-Russo-English-American heebee jeebie voodoo. Spindled by a foreign charlatan with his wily genius, Nabokov in no way spots truth to the fact that English is not even his native language, or dare say, his second (!). Indeed, his prose breathes such soul into every scene it’s hard not to consider it English canon: Humbert Humbert [insert example of crazy dry humping followed by semicolon list in Nabokov fashion, outlining outlandish H.H. shenanigans]. There are often so many promiscuous tragicomic gestures leaving you at ends whether to interpret campy absurdity or sheer grotesqueness: the imagery is violent when most excited and hilariously enduring otherwise. Every scene from the work meticulously sneaks toward the next verse with such planned brilliance that Lolita can in no way be considered the mad perversions of an old man.
Lolita also makes the character progression so profoundly ironic. Humbert projects his own image into pubescent Dolor(es), even with his own coinage, “Lolita”; what results is his failure to notice all the emotions assaulting Dolores Haze as she copes with the loss of her mother, the backend of her pseudo-incestual relationship, and the birth of an onset, enveloping loneliness. What painfully funny black humor! This is a significantly unaffected turnover coming from the fact that Mrs. Haze had herself projected her own image of Humbert as some vaguely handsome European gent, rather than ever noticing his obvious hebephilia. The parallels from subplot to subplot make for a riotous affair and the tragic behind the tragicomedy become all the more emotive.
What I’ve also found a fascinating study is the sheer passion in Humbert’s scribbles dependent on the scene at hand. One that may not be as noticeable is the sparsity of the climactic events whenever he has sex with Lolita. In fact, I had to reread the passage when they first do it several times in order to realize that it even happened. Humbert’s pathological perverseness seems then not to be for the carnal pleasure but the various actions he takes in mundanity. It also suggest his solemn respect for her under the lens of the log being an immortalization of their tale, and as such, Lolita.
This juxtaposition of love and infatuation also rings true of their mixed relationship: sometimes playing father and daughter, other times lover and (uninterested) lover, and most times both. As the story meanders from day to day, it is quick to realize their decadence. As Humbert clings so strongly toward his image of Lolita, he restricts any of her freedom to act as a child. Instead, he fervently attempts to have Lolita be interested in his own passions—tennis, for one—and constantly comes in conflict with the fact that Lolita is only a pubescent girl, and does not exactly care for his interests. She enjoys the “banal”, the “soppy”, the “generic” (all his words), and she holds the same brazen child demeanor that he occasionally wishes would be more mature. Directly in cognitive dissonance with his fetish for little girls, his inability to accept their dissimilarities only continues to strain their relationship. More specifically, it causes Humbert to more firmly hold his leash on Lolita—a fatal mistake in turn causing her to grow sick of him.
Lolita has trouble balancing her staging puberty what with all these events; the instability in her life only digs further as she and Humbert frolick about in cheap motels and she is alone in consulting her depression. What’s so painful about this portion of the story is that you can see exactly what causes their relationship to stale, and Humbert is too lost in his idolatry and savage clinginess to ever truly help. Rarely do you encounter much dialogue between them save for Humbert very blasédly narrating his own actions and motives for trying to hide his crimes—practically treating her as none other than a pet prostitute he pays (with money, gifts, even the occasional freedom) services for. In the course of the story, you see just how emotionally this forces Humbert to reevaluate his love for her, and ultimately come to the conclusion that he is not simply a common hebephile, but one dastardly in love with the imperfect, tainted, corrupted Dolly. How late the realization.
Ultimately what may at first seem simply a witfully vulgar joke, Lolita achieves far far more in its progression. The novel portrays a selfish pitiful man nostalgic of his first-time, finally imprinting in his mind a love that outgrows its starter passion and fetish; and it portrays young Lolita, whose innocence is so sullied and who is unable to overcome the frequent rapes she endures that her life is permanently altered.