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Nabokov’s Lolita. Character Analysis (Humbert)

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Redemption from Guilt

Imagine that one receives no negative consequences for harming another. That person would just continue with his or her actions. Furthermore, he or she will probably do worse and worse things, as long as everything stays fine.. This is the case for Humbert, who looks at young females in ways that society deems inappropriate. First, he just has thoughts of them, but as time progresses, he starts to be more controlling as he acts out his desires. He does everything he can in order to satisfy his passion. Though Humbert, in Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, is driven into an abyss everytime he thinks his lecherous acts are okay, which is illustrated through tone and repetition, he starts to have a realization of what he’s doing and tries to redeem himself.

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Through tone and repetition, Humbert shows that he originally does not feel guilty about any of his actions. For example, Humbert declares, “She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line, But in my arms, she was always Lolita” (9). By using a form of repetition in his thoughts and always mentioning a lot of details, he shows how he is paying overly close attention towards Lolita. In addition to this, he is also somewhat possessive when he says his last line; he assumes that Lolita will be in his arms. In these ways, Humbert already starts off as a very controlling person. He thinks his way of thinking is okay, because his tone doesn’t show any sign of regret. Therefore, he will stick to that kind of mindset. Furthermore, he will feel okay about going on to do or think worse things, as long as he does not get any negative feedback. Furthermore, Humbert almost proudly says that he experienced “some interesting reactions on the part of [his] organism to certain photographs, pearl and umbra, with infinitely soft partings, in Pichon’s sumptuous La Beaute Humaine that [he] had filched from under a mountain of marble-bound graphics in the hotel library” (11). In this monologue, Humbert has a cheeky tone; he openly says that he “filched” something and even shared his experience. That must mean that he was not apologetic at all. Furthermore, it illustrates how, just for pleasure, Humbert had already gone to such extremes at such a young age. Similarly to his thoughts on Lolita, he thinks what he is doing is not bad, so he will move on to do worse things in the future until he realizes that there is a line that cannot be crossed. This is similar to an abyss because as long as nothing makes him define his limits, he will continue with his actions.

Humbert becomes very spontaneous and controlling as he continues down the path to follow his passion. He once thinks, “I knew I had fallen in love with Lolita for ever; but I also knew she would not be for ever Lolita. She would be thirteen on January 1. In two years or so she would cease being a nymphet and would turn into a ‘young girl’, and then, into a ‘college girl’ – that horror of horrors … So how could I afford not to see her for two months?” (69) In this way, Humbert expresses his fear of Lolita growing up. For him to counter this fear, he wants to see Lolita even more, which means that he will force his way into Lolita’s life. He is unable to let go of anything, and he wants to satisfy his passion of Lolita by staying attached to Lolita. Furthermore, Humberts mindset of loving her forever even though she changes will distort the reason why he loves Lolita. He will love her even as she changes. Humbert does not realize that what he’s doing is wrong, and this will lead him to find more excuses to see Lolita. By wanting to see Lolita more even though she changes, Humbert will also ironically destroy his own love for “nymphets” even though that is the reason why he originally loved Lolita. Not only that, change can already be seen within Humbert. Before, he only had thoughts of Lolita. However, now he wants to see her more. Humbert will continue on this path as he tries to desperately love and fulfill his growing passions for Lolita. On another note, when Lolita says something serious, Humbert says, “Was she joking? An ominous hysterical note rang through her silly words. … The sweat rolled down my neck, and we almost ran over some little animal or other that was crossing the road with tail erect” (148). Lolita threatened to call the police and tell them he raped her in order to cause Humbert to feel this way. He reveals his uncertainty and nervousness towards Lolita’s jokes about serious matters. He does this with the hypothetical question and the tone as depicted by the events – a ringing hysterical note and almost running over an animal. Even if he is uncertain about whether or not she is serious, it still means that Lolita cannot be saying nonsense. This also emphasizes how even Humbert’s personality changes – he starts to become curious about Lolita’s thinking, and he tries to understand it. Since he doesn’t want her to be serious about this, it means that he does not want to hear her arguments and wants to completely control her.

Eventually, Lolita runs away and marries another person before she finally tells Humbert of the situations she went through and ended up with. During this point, Lolita has matured, and Humbert has not seen her in a long time. This could have probably been the reason causing Humbert to think, “I simply did not know a thing behind my darling’s mind and that quite possibly, behind the awful juvenile cliches, there was in her a garden and a twilight, and a palace gate – dim and adorable regions which happened to be lucidly and absolutely forbidden to me” (299). In the past, he wanted to penetrate into all of Lolita’s life in order to control her. However, now Humbert acknowledges that there are parts of Lolita which he cannot ever understand and even be part of. Just by acknowledging the fact that he cannot force himself into all of Lolita’s life already shows that Humbert is breaking away from his wrong path. Although he still loves Lolita in a way, he starts to let go of his unrestrained passion for Lolita. This is the first step to Humbert redeeming himself – he realizes his actions and wrongdoings. Furthermore, in the end, Humbert writes indirectly to Lolita, “Be true to your Dick. Do not let other fellows touch you. Do not talk to strangers. I hope that you will love your baby. I hope it will be a boy. That husband of yours, I hope, will always treat you well” (325). In this way, Humbert’s words are like the words of a father giving advice to his child. The advice includes morals for relationships with people. He also hopes for her own happiness, which means that he is finally able to let go of her. Before, Humbert only wanted to use Lolita to satisfy his own passion and make himself happy. However, in the end, Humbert’s realizations allowed him to free himself and Lolita from each other. He wishes the best for Lolita, which shows that he is trying to correct his past actions; he is doing something he had never done before in the past. Therefore, Humbert himself grows and changes his mindset completely, allowing for him to try to correct his actions.

Ultimately, Humbert illuminates that he does make the effort to correct his actions, proving that he realizes his wrongdoings and how he wants to change his character. Humbert goes through a time when he assumed his actions were fine. He continues with his lecherous thoughts and actions until he realizes his fault. There are times in which people lose their morals and conclude that their actions are not wrong. However, there is always a possibility that people can correct themselves as long as they realize the truth of what they are doing. Despite wrongdoings, people going down the wrong path still have the opportunity to turn back.

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