Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Close Read pages 85-87

The passage I chose to write about starts on the bottom of page 85 and ends on page 87. This is when Humbert Humbert and Charlotte go to the lake, and all Humbert can think of is the way to commit the perfect murder. With Humbert’s descriptions of Charlotte at the lake, you almost have to remind yourself that the person he wants to murder is a human being, and his wife. “The gooseflesh of her thick thighs”, “flung herself”, “Dutiful awkwardness”,” mediocre mermaid”, “the glossy whiteness of her wet face so little tanned despite all her endeavors, and her pale lips, and her naked convex forehead, and the tight black cap, and the plump wet neck” were the ways Humbert described Charlotte. Instead of the graceful mermaid the Charlotte was likely trying to imitate “For was not her Merman by her side?”, Humbert only sees an animal. In fact, further down the passage, he calls her a “trustful and clumsy seal.” For Humbert to be able to kill Charlotte, he must first dehumanize her, and the more animal like his descriptions get, the more elaborate and foolproof his plans. When Humbert starts describing the way he plans to kill Charlotte, he starts off with “Charlotte swimming…” He uses her name, and from here she transforms from human to mermaid, to animal, and finally, a corpse. On page 87, Humbert reveals that he could not kill Charlotte, and here you see her transform back into a human which is completed when Humbert uses her name again “…but I could not kill Charlotte….”.
On page 87 “She swam with me a trustful and clumsy seal, and all the logic of passion screamed in my ear: Now is the time! And folks, I just couldn’t! In silence I turned shoreward and gravely, dutifully, she also turned, and still hell screamed its counsel, and still I could not make myself drown the poor slippery big-bodied creature.”
As Humbert hesitated, the transformation began to fade. The voices in his head were urging him to kill Charlotte before her transformation back to human was complete, and the chance lost. Humbert does not kill Charlotte, so she “turned.” After this Humbert does not refer to Charlotte as a corpse, but as a seal, and eventually he uses her name, and the chance to kill her is completely lost.

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