Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sign of The Conch

I haven't read any of the other blogs yet because I wanted to keep my ideas fresh, so I hope no one has blogged on this passage yet. For my close reading I chose a passage more near the end, when Humbert suspects Lolita has begun to slip away from him. It starts on page 211. At the beginning of this passage, there is tons of “s” alliteration that slides softly, just like Lolita does from her father’s presence to go to the bathroom. An interesting sentence, that if longer would have been a perfect candidate for inclusion in “The Sentence Is A Lonely Place” reads, “being inclined to be lenient, I only shook my benign head…” Now THAT is what I call a well-written phrase, with the “inclined/benign” rhyme and the similar letters of inclined and lenient. To me the way the words look don’t match their meaning. “L” ‘s are straight and tall, not inclined or hinting at leniency at all. In fact they’re more like a barrier, which show that although Hum tries to be lax so as not to upset her, he really is extremely uncomfortable letting Lo from his sight.

Shifting gears, this whole passage is filled with the foreboding idea of omens, played up with words. Humbert’s referrals to different gas stations as “the sign of the Conch”, and “sign of the Pegasus” are a funny jab at American consumerism, by taking these logos and equalizing them with Zodiac symbols or Year-of –the-Rat-type ancient stuff, while also invites them to omen-like status. When H.H. says the gods have decided “here John shall always stumble, there shall Jane’s heart always break”, he brings up his belief again that everyone is susceptible to “McFate”, and that his task it to thwart him. All of these references to fate interest me, because Humbert’s writing shows that he believes you can’t escape your destiny, but he still avoids all these places “where it might catch”, as though he can. Another part of the passage I want to call attention to comes from Humbert’s description of the scene he surveys while waiting for Lolita to come return from the bathroom. He mentions the ice box, the junk, the trash, and then the music coming from the radio inside. He writes:

“because the rhythm was not synchronized with the heave and flutter and other gestures of wind-animated vegetation, one had the impression of an old scenic film living out its own life while a piano or fiddle followed a line of music quite outside the shivering flower, swaying branch. The sound of Charlotte’s last sob incongruously vibrated through me…”

I couldn’t figure out the Charlotte-shudder until I realized that she is “the old film”- staged, false, and rehearsed. Humbert on the other hand is the fiddle/piano playing out his own unsynchronized rhythm: He plotted getting to Lo through her mother while Charlotte carried on.

 The last part of the passage I want to mention is when Lo comes back from the other gas station. The book reads:

“The sign said they were proud of their home clean restrooms. These prepaid postcards, they said, had been provided for your comments. No postcards. No soap. Nothing. No comments.” In his typical fancy prose style, Humbert shows that Lolita is being sparse with her information with the “No comments”, while managing to bring in some of her childishness: of course she would find the idea of the cards worth mentioning. 

1 comment:

  1. RuthI recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.