Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Part 1, Ch. 27: 120-122

Starting from, "Oh, what a dreamy pet!"

Wild Animal Lo
From the very beginning of this section, Humbert calls Lolita a "dreamy pet." Spots in the paragraph reference animals, but these references hardly make Lolita out to be a domesticated, docile creature. She approaches the suitcase Humbert gives her, "as if stalking it from afar" like a wild animal, such as a lion, would stalk its prey. Lo is then described as a "bemused bird-hunter," certainly not a role a passive animal (although maybe a cat) would take on. Third, Lolita handles the "slow snake of a brilliant belt," an animal that is certainly more exotic than the conventional pet. Lo is not a safe pet; she is a dangerous creature, no matter how Humbert labels her or how innocently she "creeps" (again like an animal) into Humbert's "waiting arms."

Also, Lolita is dehumanized. She is to Humbert a nymphet, not a human child, not his equal, and he takes pains to stress this fact when he talks about walking in front of her because "nota bene (mark well): never behind, she is not a lady."

Not only is the snake-belt I mentioned earlier "slow" but Nabokov talks about Lolita's "slow-motion walk" and how she "walked...with...lentor...while [Humbert] stood waiting for her," and how she speaks in "long-drawn tones." Lo is otherworldly, moving in her own time dimension, out of Humbert's sphere of command. As Krzys pointed out in class, he cannot slow her aging process but neither can he speed up her actions. She is entirely out of his control.

While Humbert certainly does not have control over Lolita, he can manipulate us, the readers.
"'What's the katter with misses?' I muttered (word control gone) into her hair
'If you must know,' she said, 'you do it the wrong way.'
'Show, wight ray.'
'All in good time,' responded the spoonerette.

In this exchange (my favorite part of the book!), it seems as though Humbert has lost control of his carefully cultivated, strategic language. He twice inverts the first letters of a pair of words, invoking the literary device called a "spoonerism" which he indicates he is aware of by calling Lolita "spoonerette." Even when Humbert's "word control [is seemingly] gone," he is still not out of control of language. He is always directing, controlling, contriving language in an attempt to manipulate the reader.

This one is a bit more minor, but every time the language gets a bit dreamier, for lack of a better adjective, he describes motion in accordance with water. He describes Lo as if she is "walking under water or in a flight dream," and later after he drugged Lolita, they "watertreaded out of the dining room."

It's interesting to note that Lo seems most comfortable in water. She likes swimming and rowing and seemingly all manner of water sports, almost as if she is at home in and belongs to--like the nymphet that she is--the dreamlike world of water.

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