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Headscratchers: Lolita
  • How did Lolita die? If you subscribe to the Literary Agent Hypothesis, she died a short three years after Humbert, since he requests in 1952 for the book to not be published before her death and it was published in 1955. It seems she only lived to the ripe old age of twenty, but why? Did she freeze to death in Alaska? Did the lawyer just ignore Hum's request?
    • Perhaps she died giving birth to another child? She was pregnant the last time he saw her. Maybe she tried for more before it eventually killed her. I'm pulling at strings here though.
      • Died in childbirth on Christmas Day, 1952. Hidden in Plain Sight (sort of - Nabokov uses her married name when this little tidbit is divulged)
      • Specifically, in the foreword to the book, there are the lines - "For the benefit of old-fashioned readers who wish to follow the destinies of the real people beyond the true story, a few details may be given as received from Mr. "Windmuller" of "Ramsdale," who desires his identity surpressed so that "the long shadow of this sorry and sordid business" should not reach the community to which he is proud to belong. His daughter, "Louise," is by now a college sophomore. "Mona Dahl" is a student in Paris. "Rita" has recently married the propietor of a hotel in Florida. Mrs "Richard F. Schiller" died in childbed, giving birth to a stillborn girl, on Christmas Day 1952, in Gray Star, a settlement in the remotest Northwest." (All the quotation marks look better in the actual book.)
  • Why do so many completely miss the point of the unreliable narrator?
    • Viewers Are Morons
      • A bit harsh to say, as said on the main trope page of Lolita, you have to read the book twice to realize it.
      • Wondering whether I'm a moron or not, here; what was the point? (my assumption when reading was that it stood to further demonstrate H.H.'s depravity and insanity but didn't serve to convey any specific message)
    • The world is turning into a giant pervfest D:
    • If the situation with a certain director indicates anything, a lot of us also have trouble grasping that there's a rather dramatic power imbalance between an adult man and a young girl which makes any kind of sensual relationship between the two hideous child abuse, no matter how "experienced" the girl allegedly is, and we're a culture that thinks twue wub justifies everything and anything
      • There's also a sad holdover of an outdated legal concept: "prior chastity", the notion that rape is only rape if the (unmarried) victim is a virgin, that if she has ever consented to sex with any man that's tantamount to consenting to sex with every man who happens by. Thus, if (and as has been pointed out, that's a very big if) twelve-year-old Dolores Haze consented to a bit of mutual sexual exploration with a contemporary, she's equipped to consent to sex with a manipulative authority figure three times her age who's already expressed a willingness to drug her unconscious.
  • I have a feeling I just missed it, but how does H.H. support himself and Lolita? He said that his family's fortune has since melted away and had described himself as a person of modest means, but he goes into an annoying amount of detail about how much money he spends.
    • He's an unreliable narrator. You can't trust a single thing he says
      • It's pretty easy to tell when he's either being facetious or trying to make himself look better. Pretty much everything else in the book is at least realistic enough that Occam's Razor dictates we should assume it is "true".
    • Book 1, chapter 8: "In the summer of 1939 mon oncle d'Amerique died bequeathing me an annual income of a few thousand dollars on condition I came to live in the States and showed some interest in his business." Chapter 9: "In New York I eagerly accepted the soft job fate offered me: it consisted mainly of thinking up and editing perfume ads." Also, it's suggested that he has some income from his ongoing project, "my comparative history of French literature for English-speaking students". Presumably he has a sum of money saved: what one troper calls the "annoying amount of detail about how much money he spends" is intended to convey what an impact "that extravagant year 1947-1948" had on his existing bank account.
  • Im confuse, only watching the movies, did Lolita seduce H.H. or was that just in his head?
    • I haven't seen the films, but the novel is intentionally ambiguous about it. H.H.'s main goal is to garner sympathy from the reader, so naturally he would try to convince us that "she made me do it". At the same time, it's entirely possible that at some point or another Lo did knowingly seduce him, and she was a bit of a troubled girl anyway.
      • How knowingly? Even H.H. admits that when Dolores invited him to play the "game" she had played with Charlie, she made no association between it and adult sexuality: "She saw the stark act merely as part of a youngster's furtive world, unknown to adults. What adults did for purposes of procreation was no business of hers."
      • Moreover, even if we accept Humbert's highly questionable narrative that she was been a willing participant on the first occasion it's pretty clear that after that point HH is raping her on the regular. Even Humbert's eloquence can't actually hide the horror of Lolita's life.
  • This is more about our culture in general, but I took Lolita out once and another book that wasn't even like it, and yet I still got dirty looks. Why would a library hold a book and then get pissy when people take it out.
    • Lolita is unfortunately more famous for the controversy that surrounds it than the actual content and quality of the novel: Nabokov went through many publishers who refused to publish it, and after it was published, it was banned in many places for being "pornographic" or "an instruction manual for paedophilia" (which it is not). Even for people who aren't familiar with the history of the book, a lot of the covers/jackets make it look like erotica.
    • Lolita is an important piece of American literature and it's the library's duty to carry the book for those who want to read it. Unfortunately, it's not the duty of the library employees or of any onlookers to have read it, nor to avoid making preconceptions based on it.
  • Just a quick question: How can a middle school L.A. teacher have this book on her shelf and not notice right up until the point one student wishes to read it for banned book week and points it out, prompting her to pull it?
    • The irony of doing that when they want to read it for banned book week is hilarious.

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