Monday, April 6, 2009

Mrs. Richard F. Schiller

So today I discovered that if we read carefully, we know what happens to Lolita and to Humbert, after Humbert's narrative ends. At the beginning of the foreword, written by the nonexistent John Ray, Jr., Ph.D., it mentions that Humbert Humbert "died in captivity, of coronary thrombosis" (basically a heart attack) "on November 16, 1952, a few days before his trial was scheduled to start." And in the third paragraph it talks about a few other characters in a type of 'where-they-are-now' scenario, including a Mrs. 'Richard F. Schiller'. We wouldn't have known it at the time (being that the foreword is usually read beFORE the actual novel), but Mrs. Richard F. Schiller is in fact the married, pregnant Lolita we meet at the end of the novel. And according to John Ray, Jr., Ph.D. she "died in childbed, giving birth to a stillborn girl, on Christmas Day 1952".
I just thought this was a really unique way to incorporate this piece of information. Usually an epilogue or afterward gives up the where-they-are-now facts, but since Humbert did die, his narrative couldn't end this way unless an afterword were written by someone else. I think it's very intriguing that Nabokov decided to share this with us at the beginning, and using Lolita's married name instead of her title of the book name. I wonder why Nabokov did it this way? It's not something easily caught. When I was reading the novel and heard that Lolita married a man named Schiller, I didn't have an aha! moment and remember that a Mrs. Shiller was mentioned in the foreword, and I wonder how many people actually did. I also think it's intriguing that it mentions that Lolita gave birth to a stillborn girl. At the end of the novel, Humbert hopes for Lolita to have a boy. I think it's really a really powerful image, that Lolita's story ends in her death, and the death of a stillborn little girl; like maybe Lolita was really dead inside all along.

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