06/12/2008

InNoReMo 2008: Lolita, Part Two, Ch.s 1-5

Chapter 1 completely changed the way I view the book. I disagree with Matthew Baldwin's interpretation that at the start of part two "the book becomes a satirical incitement [indictment?] of Americana and our rampant consumer culture" - at least that's not the heart of it in my view. Rather, I now see Lolita not as a book about pedophelia, obsession or some such thing; it is a caricature of the stereotypical Bad Marriage.

Bad Marriage: He puts up with her less-than impressive mind because she is much younger and hence attractive to him sexually; accordingly he wants sex much more often than she does which she trades for money/consumer goods. She knows that if she leaves him her life will be even less attractive, not least of all in financial terms. (Note that in the 1940s/50s (a) men tended to be more educated and, (b) have a much higher earning potential than their wives and accordingly (c) divorce was very unattractive for wives in financial terms.)

Humbert and Lolita: He detests her intellect and tastes but stays with her because he she is dramatically younger than he is and he is obsessed with her as a sex object; accordingly it is almost exclusively he who initiates sex which she grants because he fulfills her extremely consumerist desires; as a supplemental strategy he very openly describes the very unattractive life she would lead if she left him. (We've already been told he will later switch to outright payments.)

I'm not aware of the term "caricature" being in wide use in literary criticizm, but just like someone drawing a caricature will exaggerate bodily features that stand out anyway (making big noses even bigger, etc.), Nabokov exaggerates the features of a Bad Marriage.

Favourite passage
Now and then, in the vastness of those plains, huge trees would advance toward us to cluster self-consciously by the roadside and provide a bit of humanitarian shade above a picnic table, with sun flecks, flattened paper cups, samaras and discarded ice-cream sticks littering the brown ground. A great user of roadside facilities, my unfastidious Lo would be charmed by toilet signs - Guys-Gals, John-Jane, Jack-Jill and even Buck's-Doe's; while, lost in an artist's dream, I would stare at the honest brightness of the gasoline paraphernalia against the splendid green of oaks or a distant hill scrambling out - scarred but still untamed - from the wilderness of agriculture that was trying to swallow it.
"[...] gasoline paraphernalia [...] green of oaks [...] agriculture [...]" - symbolism or not? You decide.

1 comment:

Dr.Misty Wills said...
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