the lapse

I am always interested when the narrator speaks to the reader, breaking the literary fourth-wall. It is such an odd technique and frequently unmotivated – the quirkiness of an author can almost always be seen in the lapse. Overused, it becomes a cheap gimmick. Badly used, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Cleverly used is rare.

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Lolita (spoilers)

Lolita is really about Quilty

The story (conflict+resolution) of Lolita boils down to the pursuit and murder of Quilty. The denouement of the novel is unquestionably the shooting. The relationship between Humbert and Quilty is the whole focus of the second half of the novel. All the terribleness we should feel for Humbert, spared by his sympathetic treatment of himself, is easily felt for Quilty – we hate him without restraint. He is, in every way, worse than Humbert. The narrator is telling us the story so we can understand and sympathize with his killing of Quilty. Take away Clare and there is no story.

While the girl/woman Lolita provides the motive/identity for the crime, the adult Lolita plays almost no role in the ending and goes off to die in circumstances wholly unrelated to the story.

One of my theories of Lolita is that the novel is about writing a novel. Lolita, the girl, is a story. In this paradigm, Quilty represents Hollywood, where all stories go to be abused and discarded. Humbert, the writer, attacks Quilty for what Quilty has done to his story. But that’s another kettle of fish.

Quilty takes center stage if we read the novel as a rewrite of Moby Dick – where Humbert is Ahab and Quilty is the whale. Lolita role is only to define the protagonist/antagonist.

Quilty is the focus of Lolita when we consider him as representing the pedophilia of Humbert – a quality much more developed and aggressive in the case of Quilty. As Lolita ages out of his fetishism, as she becomes a woman desirable as a person instead of an object to enslave, his pedophilia as represented by Quilty, must taken away. Quilty’s death is also Humbert’s death.

Anyway, just thoughts, tipping tiddles into my little literary cup.