Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Chapter 10, pages192-193

The scene I chose to close read is chapter ten of Part Two, in which Humbert has a conversation with himself about his intense love for Lolita.

“Sometimes…Come on, how often exactly, Bert? Can you recall four, five, more such occasions? Or would no human heart have survived two or three? Sometimes (I have nothing to say in reply to your question), while Lolita would be haphazardly preparing her homework, sucking a pencil, lolling sideways in an easy chair with both legs over its arm, I would shed all of my pedagogic restraint, dismiss our quarrels, forget all my masculine pride- and literally crawl on my knees to your chair, my Lolita! You would give me one look- a gray furry question mark of a look: “Oh no, not again.” (incredulity, exasperation); for you never deigned to believe that I could, without specific designs, ever crave to bury my face in your plaid skirt, my darling! The fragility of those bare arms of yours-how I longed to enfold them, all your four limpid lovely limbs, a folded colt, and take your head between my unworthy hands, and pull the temple skin back on both sides, and kiss your chinesed eyes, and- “Pulease leave me alone, will you,” you would say, “for Christ’s sake leave me alone.” And I would get up from the floor while you looked on, your face deliberately twitching in imitation of my tic nerveux. But never mind, never mind, I am only a brute, never mind, let us go on with my miserable story.” (pgs. 192-193)

Throughout the second half of Lolita, much of Humbert’s account is very matter of fact and straight forward. His intense yearning for Lolita is still clearly present, yet he writes more about the detailed facts of their journey and home life than he does his intense, graphic longings. Humbert’s desires, as much as he is capable of, are temporarily put on the back burner. However, in chapter ten, Humbert’s sexual insanity is more clearly laid out than ever before. For one lengthy, disturbing paragraph, Humbert’s unwavering loyalty and lust for Lolita is uncanny. He sounds like a total mad man.

Humbert starts his schizophrenic paragraph by asking himself how often he is denied by Lolita. Humbert’s obsessive love for the girl is so extreme that he cannot even be honest with himself about her lack of feelings for him, and he recognizes this inability by adding a sentence in parenthesis. “(I have nothing to say in reply to your question).” It is as if Humbert lives in a dream world, recognizes his false reality, and then still accepts his position.

With a quick, sort of spastic change of thought, the narrator then goes on the describe Lolita while she is working on her homework. For Humbert, even the mundane act of a child doing her homework becomes sexual. Lolita is not just sitting in the easy chair, she is “lolling sideways…” Lolita is not stopping to ponder an answer, but “sucking a pencil…” Humbert’s yearnings get the best of him, he loses any sense of pride he once had and actually crawls over to the girl’s chair. Before any words are even uttered, Lolita dismisses Humbert and instead of Humbert assuming that Lolita simply does not want to have any sexual relations with him, his madness overcomes him. Humbert explains that Lolita merely cannot understand his feelings for her, and that is the reason for her dismissive, disgusted attitude.

Humbert calls Lolita a “folded colt,” and continues to stress her fragility. By explaining Lolita as a frail, timid being, Humbert is rationalizing his much needed position in her life. To Humbert, he is protecting her. He sees himself as unworthy and undeserving of such a beautiful creature, and takes note of his worthlessness multiple times. Humbert understands that his droning on interrupts the story, yet does not refrain from doing so. It is as if, second to Lolita’s presence, his own self-worth is his most time consuming thought.

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