Morals in Lolita
Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, a man who managed to earn a controversial image due to the content of the novel. It was first written in English and later translated to Russian. As a result of the nature of the content in the novel whereby a man named Humbert Humbert has taken a child of twelve years as his lover; the book has been dismissed from various quarters as a meaningless material that has no moral lesson to teach society. On this, I beg to differ.
Lolita as a novel is one of the novels that have lots of morals that exist as sub-themes, all of which give support to the overall moral that even with rationalization, evil is evil and therefore has consequences. All you need to do is to have an open mind as you read and you cannot miss all the lessons and morals that Nabokov has to teach us.
As a starting point, it is not easily and quickly acceptable that we have pedophiles in society. Any time a case involving a young girl and an old man emerges, it is easily dismissed and in most cases, the young girls are blamed for following old men with money. This is not what we see in Lolita.Humbert Humbert is old and obsessed with someone fit to be his granddaughter. Upon realizing that she (Lolita) has disappeared with Clare Quilty, he says thus; “…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” p 309. This is an old man who is exhibiting a very sentimental nature towards a twelve year old girl.
Another crucial lesson for us to learn from Lolita is that there is need for great caution when it comes to relationships such as the one between Lolita and Humbert. Lolita experiences great suffering in a number of ways before she finally dies after her stillbirth. She cries at night “…..her sobs in the night” (175-176) as she spends time with Humbert. The crying is out of pain that sometimes makes Humbert uncomfortable. The moral here is that young kids of Lolita’s age need protection and guidance so as to ensure that they do not get to such things since they end up subjecting them to immense pain.
The author is also using Humbert to give us a moral lesson. After he manages to make love to Lolita, he begins feeling uncomfortable. During the morning after sex while seated with Lolita, he begins feeling like he is seated the ghost of someone he had just killed (139-140). “More and more uncomfortable did Humbert feel”, the book says. This is a lesson to old people who abuse the innocence of young girls; that at the end of the day, it is a bad experience that leaves them with guilty and self hatred.
There is another twist to the novel that is the gold mine for important lessons. The foreword of the novel tells us that after Humbert Humbert is through with writing the novel, he dies of a heart disease called coronary thrombosis. This coupled with the intense feeling of guilty he used to feel after having sex with Lolita as mentioned in the preceding paragraph, completes the tragic story of a crooked man who leads a queer life and ends in the grave. What else can be a moral lesson than this? Nabokov is telling society not to engage in behaviors similar to the ones of Humbert and if we do, the penalty is the grave. This is why the author kills this evil character.
The moral lesson that we should try to lead straight forward lives as much as possible runs through the novel and the author has used a number of characters to pass this message across. Clare Quilty is another pedophile who also lures Lolita to sex.They in fact run away, something that angers Humbert seriously. He tells Lolita “…And do not pity C.Q….” (309), meaning that when he will get him and beat him up or kill him, she is not supposed to be sympathize with him. At the end of the day, Claire does not survive with his bad ways. He is killed by Humbert, who after killing him awaits the police in a car rolled to a stop “among surprised cows”, a scenario that brings to mind “a last mirage of wonder and hopelessness” (306-307).
The biggest moral lesson of all is that the sections of society where we expect atleast some degree of responsibility end up letting us down. As Humbert moves around with an underage girl, the government is present but it does not care because it does not know.Humbert, an old man who is supposed to take care of young Lolita especially when her mother dies in a road accident ends up predating on her. The same applies to Claire Quilty. An additional moral lesson is that such bad moves and immoral calculations as we witness in Lolita, Clare and Humbert do not have room in society. To send this message or moral lesson, Nabokov mates it tragic by killing all of them. So in other words he is saying that you either stop it or you will die.
In conclusion, it is very clear that the novel, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is full of lessons. And all of them serve as the evidence to the overall moral lesson that as much as we may want to rationalize the evil we do, it is still evil and it has consequences.Humbert thinks what he is doing with Lolita is acceptable when he knows that it is not; so he pursues his line and he pays for it. So it is for the other characters such as Claire Quilty and Lolita. Therefore those claiming that it has no lesson to teach society is either malicious or they have not paid the details in the novel sufficient attention.