Lolita Is Neither Smutty Nor Serious

Lolita is not the novel the movie poster leads you to expect.

Humbert, a middle-aged, wacko French writer narrates the story. Humbert takes a room in the New England home of a widow, Charlotte Haze. Smitten with her pre-adolescent daughter, Delores, whom he calls Lolita, Humbert marries Charlotte.

After finding a diary in which Humbert confides his lust for her daughter, Charlotte runs from the house and is conveniently run over and killed. Humbert runs off with Delores/Lolita.

Forget the heart-shaped sunglasses. This is not a book about a seductress. Humbert has to bribe and bully Loilta into sex. Afterward, she cries.

After a couple years of being both Humbert’s “daughter” and mistress, Lolita disappears. Humbert finds her married and pregnant and finds out why she left him. Humbert hunts up the pervert who stole her away and kills him. Humbert dies of a heart attack before his trial.

There’s no smutty language in the novel, no graphic description of sex acts. Vladimir Nobokov doesn’t glorify Humbert’s perversion.

But Nobokov has too much fun writing this novel for me to take him seriously. He revels in word play and makes Humbert’s difficulties in dealing with his teenage mistress howlingly funny.

The topic deserves more serious treatment.

by Vladimir Nobokov
Putnam’s Sons, 1958
319 pages
1958 Bestseller #3
My Grade: C+
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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