For awhile I’ve had a “list” in my mind of classic books that I’ve wanted to read. These are books that have stood the test of time and that people continue to talk about today. A big one on my list was Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I feel like this book and story have remained relevant over the years and that people even still make reference to it in pop culture. I will admit, I didn’t really know what to expect from the novel. I had seen bits and pieces of the movie when I was younger, but I don’t think I really understood what was happening. I was also aware that people had described it as being pornographic or an “erotic novel” so I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into when I started reading it.
First of all, I want to say that I loved how poetic and descriptive it was. At times, it was hard to get through all of the descriptions and tangents that the narrator would go off on, but it was so beautifully written that it didn’t really feel like I was putting that much effort into reading it. However, there was a lot about the story that made me uncomfortable, and sort of took away from me actually really liking this book (which I’m about to get into), but as a whole I can appreciate the story and the writing.
I feel like a lot of my feelings toward this book could come from being a woman who grew up/is growing up in a time when we talk a lot about consent. The whole time I was reading this, I couldn’t help but to try to see the events occurring from Lolita’s point of view and trying to find something that would make me feel like he wasn’t raping her every time they would have a sexual encounter.
That being said, I didn’t really like the whole destruction of innocence theme. I know that’s pretty much what the whole book is about and that the narrator is aware that he is doing this to her, but I don’t feel like he’s even taking into account how she really feels or how this is affecting her. He treated her like she was something he owned, like his own personal sexual object and that kind of makes me cringe.
In my opinion, he was an abuser. I know that at times it seemed like she had seduced him and that maybe she was using him to get things that she wanted, but I also felt like she may not have known what would happen to her if she stopped giving him sexual favors and appealing to his wants and needs. He constantly told her about how good her life was with him and how lucky she was to travel and have all these nice things, and that if she were to go live with someone else she would lose all of her personal belongings. He wouldn’t let her go out with friends if boys were going to be there or enjoy herself as a child/teenager and do normal things that kids do because of his jealousy. In order to do those things and have her way, she would have to give him something in return. He completely manipulated her in every way to get what he wanted out of her, and it kind of made me sick. It was pretty hard to read his thoughts and how obsessed and jealous he would get.
I also felt like the married “adult” version of Lolita would not have greeted him so warmly and go as far as to call him a good father. Perhaps this is part of the narrator being unreliable and trying to make it seem like what he did to her didn’t have that much of an effect on her after all. In my opinion, this interaction between them could have just been Lolita trying to make him happy again so that she would get what she wanted (money) out of him.
I would say that this is definitely not as pornographic as people make it out to be (Thankully, because I don’t know if I would have finished it if that was the case). A lot of the story was about traveling with her and trying to keep her to himself, there were hardly any descriptions of the more explicit content in comparison. It definitely does have these elements and reeks of pedophilia, which made it hard for me to read and fully enjoy and appreciate. I also still don’t really feel like I found anything about the narrator that redeemed his actions. He just seemed like someone who took what he wanted and didn’t really care about how others would be affected by his actions. I do not believe that he really loved her, but rather that he loved the idea of having his own little nymphet.