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Meaning/Purpose of Nabakov's 'Lolita': your views please

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Meaning/Purpose of Nabakov's 'Lolita': your views please

Old 06-18-02, 11:41 PM
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Purpose of Lolita (?!?!?)

In reflecting on Nabokov's Lolita , I'm having some trouble really defining an overall meaning in the story? I can see shades of imprisonment and (most obviously) infatuation, but it doesn't seem to have a very definitive message. It almost seems that Nabokov wanted to see how craftily he could weave in some obscure allusions and jumble up some puns and cliches to create this sordid tale, and thus have himself called a genius.

I do have to give him credit...it is written quite deftly and perhaps the only thing that drove me to continue reading it was his prose style. But what for? Besides that - the latter part of the book is sluggish...I understand that Humbert is madly in love with Dolores, so why does he have to go into a description of her skin and movements every other paragraph? Is anyone out there able to help me in some way - because, for a time, I thought that Lolita might be a symbol for the english language...but that idea tapered off with the rest of any solid devotion to this book.
Old 06-19-02, 08:17 AM
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You're touching on the most striking aspect of the work. Every time I read _Lolita_, I sympathize with Humbert. He can't help it, he's just a middle-aged man who was seduced by a manipulative little vixen and is forced into a crime of passion.

I was impressed with his ability to create empathy for an impossibly grotesque character, something Capote also did very well in _In Cold Blood_.

Nabokov used the controversy around the book as a way of cementing his stature as a giant in American literature, but IMO he selected pederasty for the options it gave him in telling a very funny story that pushes the limits of what we can and can not find humorous. It's not that far from what Kubrick did in _Dr. Strangelove_, though nuclear war was apparently considered less controversial than pedophilia back in the day.
Old 06-19-02, 10:52 PM
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Yes, I can sympathize with Humbert as well...and I understand that is the design of Nabokov...but at the same time it seems like a rather long-winded way of getting out a story. I guess it was just frustrating trying to understand all of the allusions, and I'm just blowing off steam. However, at this point, Lolita is not going down as one of my favorites. Maybe I'll read it again in a couple years.
Old 06-20-02, 12:39 AM
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It's just a beautifully written book.
I've read almost everything Nabokov ever wrote and I gave up trying to divulge some great inner metaphor a long time ago.
I appreciate it for its humanism and unspeakable linguistic deftness... ("dolorous" is my tribute to that )

But if you want to talk about a good book try Pale Fire (or my personal favorite Despair)
Old 06-21-02, 11:29 AM
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I think looking for meaning may be a mistake, the twentieth century has largely been about meaninglessness.

Its a very funny book - at least the first half. It did get fairly sluggish towards the end, and all of the allusions - there were just so samned many of them - were quite trying. Overall, liked the book, but it certainly isn't one of my favorites.

Nabokov does an excellent job making the reader empathize with a pedophile though.

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