So I went into Lolita more than a little afraid of what I would find inside. I like to think sex with 12 year olds is not acceptable to almost anyone, and I wasn't looking forward to reading about it. I will write about my changing attitude toward Humbert throughout (as far as I have read, anyhow, which is just past page 200) the book because I think all of us have probably considered the weight of the subject matter. Mostly, though, I think one's personal reactions to a book ARE important, expecially in a work likely to evoke strong reactions.
Like I said, I went into it with malice already on my mind, so of course it was there. His description of his first love, Annabel, moved me very slightly, but mostly I remained surly, partiularly his descriptions of any woman over the age of 14. And even more so as he went on to describe nymphets in general--the notion that some percentage of the population of pubescent girls are somehow evil and deserve creepy thoughts and desires and "ask" for them! Humbert had that against him, but his general writing (Humbert's, not Nabokov's, if that's possible) also came across as pretentious at best, unsettling at worst. At best, it has a nice tone, but he mentioned how attractive he is about six times and seems to dismiss a lot of things as below him. At worst, he writes about lust for children (and later, the touching of them) as though it is beauitful--thouroughly disturbing! My revulsion hit a peak when he was first infatuated with Dolly, creepily doing anything to be near her undectected. When he got off on her sitting with her legs on his lap, I was oddly... not repulsed, and even less so when he mentioned how glad he was he didn't have to defile her to get off (pleased is much too strong, though).
His decision to marry her mother... didn't really affect me at all, nor did the vivid killing day-dreams. I think I had softened up a bit by this point, actually. When she told him that she was sending Dolly to a boarding school, I thought to myself "oh no!" I rooted for a child molester/rapist/pedophile! What?! I feel like being at such odds with the narrator and protagonist was eventually hindering my ability to get through it and so I accepted what few charms he had to offer--his occasional deep emotion for Lolita, his wit. By the second time they'd had sex, I was almost accepting this relationship as some kind of legitimate, which was also unsettling to me, my own feelings. As they traveled throughout the country, my opinion mostly moved to curiosity as to how this would play out, how long such a secret could be kept. I knew from the start that there was not brutal rape, but I vowed not to be "okay" with the happenings anyway. As I read, though, I found myself not hating Humbert, even rooting for him occasionally. Lolita's blase attitude to what was going on didn't help either. I reminded myself, though, that all I had was Humbert and he was certainly an unreliable narrator. I cannot know for sure what was actually going on at any given time.
Now that Humbert and Lolita have settled and his only sin (besides the continual rape and paying her for sex and kisses, which I have somehow just started taking for granted) is being much too overprotective a father (father?!), I've certainly settled with them into a comfortable, if not grotesque, pattern. I look forward to stretching the limits of my ethics as I read further.