Type: Narrative Essays
Sample donated: Rebecca Fox
Last updated: February 14, 2019
“Lolita” is a novel written in 1955 by Vladimir Nabokov, a RussianAmerican novelist.
It has a controversial subject-the protagonist, who is alsothe narrator, a literature professor called Humbert Humbert, is obsessed with atwelve years old girl, Dolores Haze-his stepdaughter, and eventually becomessexually involved with her. “Lolita” quickly gained a classic status. The novelwas adapted into a film by Stanley Kubrick in 1962, and again in 1997 by AdrianLyne.
Because the novel is afirst person narrative we are given little information about what Lolita islike a person, that she was in fact silent because she was not the narrator ofthe book. Lolita is the object of Humbert’s love, a young woman who describesthe seductive qualities of the nymph. Although she seems to like Humbert atfirst, in time, she gets irritated and defies his authority. Beautiful, it isalso vulgar, crude, and attached to folk culture. Humbert portrays Lolita atthe beginning of the novel as a 12-year-old, lively, innocent, vulnerable girlbecause she was neglected by her mother. He characterizes her as intelligentand vicious, trying to attract attention in her own way.
In the book Lolita has the terribletask of playing so many roles and not only her very young age and lack ofrelative experience are a hindrance, her mother’s unexpected death leaving heralone in the world has a wild blow. Inthe light of what is forced to pass, she should be given great marks for herperformance. Lolita’s suffering is intense and real, but is largely hiddenunder Humbert’s endless motivation. Lolita, of course, mustjuggle with many roles: the average American preadolescence unrequited byuniversity and strongly interested in movie stars, clothes and food. This isher surface role, the one who, under normal circumstances she should have beenallowed to follow it exclusively. Other roles imposed to her are the boredprostitute and helpless, despairing child.
Compared to thebook Lolita’s character undergoes significant changes in terms of bothpersonality and appearance. Much of the significance and plot is lost in themovie. In terms of comparison the similarities between the book and the movieare the characters names, some events are vaguely alike and the plot hassimilarities with the original one. But the “Lolita” that VladimirNabokov wrote as a novel and the “Lolita” he wrote to be a film,directed by Stanley Kubrick are two prominently different parts. In the first place, the characterof Lolita is not a child in the movie. Lolita is twelve in the novel andfourteen years old in the film played by an actress, Sue Lyon-a new-comer, whowas sixteen.
For an American audience 13 is the age in which a girl begins tobecome a woman. A twelve year old is too young to associate sexual thoughtswith and certainly would not have been accepted by audience of the 1960. Withthis distinction we can say she is definitely not a “nymphet.” Immediately,this eliminates the perverted desire factor that is in the book and makes thehero passion more normal and easier to understand. Also the drama is more inagreement with others we have seen.
Older men have often pined for youngerfemales. There is nothing new on the screen. Since the censors would not allow anythingclose to a suggestion of pedophilia, Lolita’s age has to be increased fromtwelve in the original novel to fourteen for the film.The age difference was just a usefultool to make the audience feel more comfortable about watching an older man lookingand seducing a young girl.
In the novel, there are several situations where Lolitais a child. There are, of course, many other situations where is it clear thatLolita is flirting and teasing Humbert. While Nabokov’s Lolita is fully awareof her sexual power over man, Kubrik’s Lolita is a brat and not consciousenough to fully use her “nymphet” skills.
Another difference we canidentify between the movie and the book is the way in which Lolita isportrayed. In the book Humbert described Lolita wearing oversized and messyclothing. Only after Charlotte’s death Humbert took Lolita from the camp and dressed her in more feminineclothing. In the movie, Lolita wears dresses and more feminine clothes in thebeginning plot. In this way,Stanley was trying to make Lolita appear morealluring. He was trying to present her in a more attractive way than Nabokovdid.
As for Lolita,Vladimir Nabokov andStanley Kubrick are completely opposed. Nabokov is poetic with words whileKubrick is blunt with his vision.