Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Close Read

The passage I chose to close read is in fact all of chapter 21 in part 2, which starts on page 236 and ends on page 238. This passage stood out to me for a couple of reasons. First, it is a fantastic sample of Humbert's insane desire and jealousy. At the beginning of the passage he is frantically looking for Lolita, "crying...with...a wealth of anxiety, passion and pain". It turns out that Lolita has only walked outside before he was ready, but he is so afraid of losing possession of his girl that he can't stand not having her in sight even for a moment. When he sees her, he notices another man watching her. He describes the actions of Lolita and the man in gross detail, using harsh imagery such as "his hirsute thighs" and "his tight wet black bathing trunks bloated and bursting with vigor". Humbert finally realizes that Lolita is intentionally putting on a show for her voyeur, and he becomes madly jealous, describing Lolita as a "vile and beloved slut" and pointing out her "obscene young legs". The man eventually notices Humbert watching him, and so he feigns indifference and walks away from the scene. Lolita abruptly ends her charade, and Humbert is literally sickened by what he observed.

I also love this section for all of the clever uses of language Nabokov employs. He uses the same color description, Aztec Red, for Lolita's bathing suit as he uses for the car that has been following them along their journey. He also uses phrases that seem quite paradoxical, such as "beloved slut", "sacred disgust", and "masked by his own nakedness". Lastly, this chapter is full of still more examples of Nabokov using alliteration and rhyme. My favorites are "trim turfed terrace", "bathing briefs and bra", "black bathing trunks bloated and bursting with vigor where his great fat bullybag was pulled up and back like a padded shield over his reversed beasthood", "lechery of his look" and "gambol and glee". 

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