Defining Lolita: the Novel and the Name

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Defining Lolita: the Novel and the Name

In his essay, "On a Novel Entitled Lolita," Vladimir Nabokov tries to answer the age-old question, "What is the objective of the novel?" He quickly replies, "...I happen to be the kind of author who in starting to work on a book has no other purpose than to get rid of that book..." (311). There is more to his response than this, however. He goes on to say that his book was not written to celebrate pornography or pedophilia, nor was it written to promote Anti-Americanism (313 - 315). What's the purpose of his novel then? Well, Nabokov writes, "For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm" (314 - 315). He sees his novel in simple terms: art. Whether it be the novel Lolita or the name Lolita, a sexual meaning has been given to the word Lolita, and this is largely due to the strong sexual overtones used by the novel's main character Humbert to describe his character of obsession Lolita; thus resulting in different and confusing interpretations of the novel and the author's intentions.

In his essay, "On a Novel Entitled Lolita," Vladimir Nabokov tries to answer the age-old question, "What is the objective of the novel?" He quickly replies, "...I happen to be the kind of author who in starting to work on a book has no other purpose than to get rid of that book..." (311). There is more to his response than this, however. He goes on to say that his book was not written to celebrate pornography or pedophilia, nor was it written to promote Anti-Americanism (313 - 315). What's the...

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... purpose behind the book, even though it is not the purpose the writer intended. This is the less common interpretation of the novel, as is apparent by the modern definition of the name Lolita.

Because Humbert Humbert defines Lolita in such a sexually explicit way, her name has become a symbol of sex and seduction; this resulted in the widely misunderstood purpose of the novel. Humbert Humbert explained it the best when before his death he wrote:

Thus, neither of us is alive when the reader opens this book...and one wanted H.H. to exist at least a couple of months longer, so as to have him make you live in the minds of later generations. I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art...(309).

Leave it up to the main character of Lolita to sum up Nabokov's purpose for writing the novel.

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