Lolita Essay

Lolita Essay - Lolita: Duality, Morality, and Ambiguity...

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Lolita: Duality, Morality, and Ambiguity Christopher Chu
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Humbert Humbert; the comical effect is only one aspect of this repetitive name. The name brings two apparently similar items together to produce an unorthodox title. One “Humbert” represents his bestial, passionate desire for nymphets, particularly Lolita. The other Humbert, symbolizes his intellectual, scholarly side. As the protagonist, Vladimir portrays Humbert Humbert as he sees all mankind. Like Humbert Humbert’s name, humans contain an unnatural duality; the conflict between rationality and sexuality. Humbert Humbert’s name is only one example of the dualism throughout Lolita. Nabokov expands upon two dualities throughout the novel. For one duality, Nabokov compares European culture to American culture which, at first seem distinct. However, to express the inevitability of morally ambiguous actions, Vladimir’s blurs the two cultures together in H.H. and Lolita. In the second duality, Quilty versus H.H., they appear similar, but the stark differences in both their treatment of Lolita and the reciprocation they receive further Nabokov’s theme of moral randomness. These doubles serve to expound upon a theme of moral ambiguity. Our instincts and our rationality intertwine to form a moral grey area. In Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov employs doubles and uses them to depict his view of morality, an ambiguous and arbitrary concept. Nabokov blurs European and American culture to emphasize the unavoidable blending of rationality and animalism in human action. At first, the distinction between the two cultures is clear. Charlotte and Lolita are enemies before Charlotte is killed. Charlotte represents the American striving to become more European, speaking poor French and hosting tea parties while Lolita represents the youthfulness of America. Charlotte’s contrast to Lolita symbolizes the contrast between Europe and America. Lolita is infantile and lively, and Charlotte criticizes Lolita mostly for not “feeling responsibility toward other people” and her lack of “knowledge
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and temper” (64). Later, after Charlotte’s death, Humbert Humbert “begins to understand [Charlotte]” and her inability to cope with Lolita’s American stubbornness when Lolita refuses to learn French and Latin from H.H. (149). A European, H.H. acts as Nabokov’s chief representation of civility against the materialism and ignorance of Lolita. While Europe is seen
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Lolita Essay - Lolita: Duality, Morality, and Ambiguity...

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