by David Hamilton
Lolita: the Seriously-Don’t-Even-Think-of-Animating-This Princess
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the first Rejected Princess ever illlustrated, and poster child for childhood sexual abuse.
Vladimir Nabokov’s book and its titular character have entered common lexicon at this point, but as a recap: the main character, Humbert Humbert (a man so nice they named him twice), is rooming at a place in New England, where he meets 12-year-old Dolores — whom he calls Lolita. He gets obsessed with her, going so far as to marry her mother so he can be close to her.
When the mom dies, Humbert starts shacking up with Lolita, and the two end up going on an incredibly long and epically uncomfortable-to-read-about road trip. Eventually she runs away from him, hooking up with a shady playwright, who later tries getting her into porn. Years later, Lolita, now abandoned, destitute, and pregnant, seeks out Humbert for help. Humbert proceeds to kill the playwright, get thrown into jail, and write the book you’ve been reading, as his memoirs.
Despite the book being named after her and her being the main character, even at the end, we don’t know much about Lolita — because the narrator, Humbert, is so incredibly unreliable. He comes across as a charming man with creepy predilections, but once you take a step back, you realize this is all coming from the viewpoint of a pedophile who is in jail for murder, and perhaps her actions, as described, should, you know, not be taken at face value.
Since it is the sort of book that requires a lot of between-the-lines interpretation, there is more written about Lolita than I could possibly hope to cover. Some of the wackier readings of the book I’ve come across:
- It’s a metaphor for Russian imperialism and tyrrany from the viewpoint of the tyrant.
- It’s a metaphor for the decay of American culture and morals.
- It’s a metaphor for the exploitative nature of capitalism.
- It’s a metaphor for the women’s liberation movement gone mad (no, seriously, I found a jackass on a webforum arguing this, despite it having been published easily ten years before the 1960s women’s lib movement — I can only presume he read a different book)
Art notes: she has gray eyes, just as described in the book. The motel number, 342, is the actual room number were she and Humbert consummated their relationship. Everything in the scene, save Lolita herself, is a purposely sickly, desaturated color, making her stand out all the more.
And yes, the placement of her flipped-up sandal in front of Humbert is intentional.
Sue Lyon by Bert Stern for Lolita
Just made this