Humbert Humbert is not only a pedophile, but a literary scholar, and Lolita is as much—or more—about literature as it is about pedophilia. Often, literature functions as a lens through which Humbert sees and interprets the world around him. He also uses it as a tool to justify himself, and to make sense of his life. He uses Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee,” to express his love for his childhood sweetheart. He often uses lines from French poetry to express his love for Lolita. To justify his passion for nymphets, he references the child brides or beloveds of famous literary figures like Petrarch, Dante, and Poe.
Humbert Humbert’s perceptions of America and Americans are, likewise, often influenced by his reading. Where he lacks real knowledge of the world, he substitutes ideas from literature. To give one among many examples, his perceptions of the few black characters in Lolita are clearly influenced more by his familiarity with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin than by any real experience with black Americans: he imagines the old bellboy at The Enchanted Hunters as “Uncle Tom,” and gives Miss Opposite’s young driver and gardener Leslie the surname “Tomson.”
Humbert’s knowledge of literature enriches his imagination and experience of the world, but it often keeps him from seeing the reality in front of his face. The best example is probably his relationship with Lolita. Humbert’s fantastic ideas about what nymphets are like come from mythology and literature, rather than any real little girls. These fantasies of frolicking nymphets on mystical islands keep him from noticing the thoughts and feelings of the real little girl he has abducted, of the damage he has done to Lolita, whom he supposedly loves.
Life and Literary Representation ThemeTracker
Life and Literary Representation Quotes in Lolita
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.
We all admire the spangled acrobat with classical grace meticulously walking his tight rope in the talcum light; but how much rarer art there is in the sagging rope expert wearing scarecrow clothes and impersonating a grotesque drunk! I should know.”
It is not the artistic aptitudes that are secondary sexual characters as some shams and shamans have said; it is the other way around: sex is but the ancilla of art.”
I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.