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Lolita
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Lolita

Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, first published in 1955. The novel is famous both for its innovative style and for its controversial subject. The novel's narrator and main character, Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged European emigré living in the United States, becomes sexually obsessed with a pubescent girl named Dolores Haze, whom he calls Lolita.

Table of contents
1 Plot
2 Style
3 Publication and reception
4 Literary allusions
5 Influence
6 See also
7 References

Plot

Warning: Plot details follow.

A scholar, Humbert leaves Europe for America and moves into a rented room in the home of Charlotte Haze, after meeting her, and spying her twelve-year-old daughter (Dolores Haze, affectionately shortened to "Lo," or Lolita) sunbathing in the garden. Charlotte Haze, a lonely widow, becomes Humbert's unwitting pawn in his silent quest to be near her young daughter. Charlotte soon marries Humbert. In a search of Humbert's room, she finds his diary, containing Humbert's written confessions of indifference to his new wife and impassioned lust for her daughter. She runs away in disgust and, in fleeing the home, is hit and killed by a passing car.

Humbert begins traveling around the United States, from one motel to another, in the company of Lolita, with whom he is now having a sexual relationship. This relationship ends when a rival adult suitor, Clare Quilty, convinces Lolita to leave Humbert and run away with him.

At the end of the novel, when Humbert Humbert briefly reunites with Lolita, it is only to give her the money she has requested so that she and her new husband, Richard Schiller, can make a fresh start in Alaska. Humbert realizes that he still wants her, not because she was one of the class of young girls he refers to as nymphets, but because he has truly fallen in love with her.

Style

The novel is a tragi-comedy narrated by Humbert, who riddles the narrative with his wry observations of American culture. His humor provides an effective counterpoint to the pathos of the tragic plot. The novel's flamboyant style is characterized by word play, multilingual puns, anagrams, and coinages such as nymphet, a word which has since had a life of its own and can be found in most dictionaries.

Publication and reception

Because of the subject matter, Nabokov had difficulty finding a publisher, eventually resorting to Olympia Press, a publisher of "erotica" in Paris, which published Lolita in 1955. A favorable notice by English author Graham Greene led to widespread critical admiration for the book, and its eventual American publication on August 18, 1958, by G.P. Putnam's Sons. Today, it is considered by many one of the finest novels written in the 20th century.

Literary allusions

Influence

Lolita has been filmed twice, in 1962 by Stanley Kubrick (starring James Mason, Shelley Winters, Peter Sellers and, as Lolita, Sue Lyon), and in 1997 by Adrian Lyne (starring Dominique Swain, Jeremy Irons and Melanie Griffith).

Lolita is the book referred to as "that book by Nabokov" in the song Don't Stand So Close to Me by The Police.

The term lolita has come to be used to refer to an adolescent girl considered to be very seductive, especially one younger than the age of consent. In the marketing of pornography, it has been used to refer to any attractive woman who has only recently reached, or is still younger than, the age of consent, or sometimes to women who appear to be younger than the age of consent. For this reason, it is especially worth noting that Nabokov's Lolita is far from an endorsement of pedophilia, since it dramatizes the tragic consequences of Humbert's obsession with the young heroine. Nabokov himself described Humbert as "a hateful person" (see Humbert Humbert).

See also

References