Thursday, August 17, 2017

Lolita Revisited (spoilers)

Whilst reading the first portion of this book, I felt that it was important (because it was important to the author) to read Lolita again.  If any of you have read my initial response to this book  there is no doubt what my initial feelings where.  But after reading Nafisi's thoughts on the book, and also learning about unreliable narratives from my course How To Read A Novel, I saw that maybe my initial response was biased by my own personal experiences and feelings and that maybe I had missed something.  So I did it... again.
This time, to make it easier, I decided to listen to the audio book narrated by Jeremy Irons (who was also Humbert Humbert in the movie) and he was a perfect choice (for the narration...I'll never see the movie so I can't say how he was in that).  

It was just as disagreeable for me to listen to as to read, maybe more so because having the story read to you by someone you can picture in your mind, and someone who can act who adds emotion, depth and dimension to the role making the novel almost graphic.  Despite all that I tried to listen to it objectively, I wanted to try and see what Nafisi saw, and perhaps something more.   

So what I am going to do now is something I usually avoid... I am going to get into specific details, dig a little deeper than before to see beyond my original perceptions of this book.  
I have to admit, I didn't see too far beyond what I already saw the first time, but before I talk about that I want to say that this time around I was more aware of Humbert Humbert and his perfect understanding of how much of a monster he really was.     
In a nutshell Lolita is about desire, the unhealthy desire if an older man for a tween aged girl, and the lengths he went to, to get this girl.  He moved into her house as a border, married her mother so that he could stay there (and gain access to his Lolita).  The mother discovers, his predilection, but dies before she can do anything about it, so now Lolita is Humbert's for his own pleasure.

Here are some specifics.  I stated in my first blog that I thought that all of these characters (husband, mother and daughter) were awful, selfish and spiteful and I still believe that.  If the mother had not felt threatened by her own daughter's growing sexuality, if she hadn't tried to get rid of her so she could enjoy Humbert for herself, if she hadn't been so selfish, if she had thought more about her daughter's welfare rather than her own needs, things would have been very different.    
 Lolita was a very spiteful and selfish young girl and I still believe that to be the case especially after she initiated sex with her step-father.
While I do agree with Nafisi that Humbert raped her, and continued to use her for his own selfish needs, there was something very wrong with Lolita as well.  She seduced her mother's new husband!  How did she think life would be like after that?  Did she think she could go home from camp and play Happy Family with Mom and her new Daddy-O?  It's pretty clear in the book, she didn't know her mother was dead when she had sex with Humbert, so what was she thinking?  Obviously (hopefully), she wasn't, and Humbert, as the predator he is, just couldn't resist his obsession.
Sadly, for Lolita, it was what I would call some very severe consequences for that particular action and she paid for it for the next two years of her life (basically being kept as Humbert's little sex slave), though I think she remained complicit because of his manipulations and her own fears of having no where to go.  

So I have concluded, after doing this re-read, that my own personal perception of this novel hasn't changed a jot, but I do have a deeper understanding of the characters involved.  I think that when I also re-read the section in the book Reading Lolita in Tehran concerning Lolita, I will have a better understanding of Nafisi as well.  One last thought... this book was written from Humbert's honest, twisted, manipulative, and highly nauseating point of view, could you imagine what it would have been like from Lolitas?

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