Nabokov’s “Lolita”, Forgivness, and taboo

If you truly and fully understood someone you would find it easy to forgive anything they have done. In fact you don’t need to understand each individual for this effect; you just need to understand basic features of reality.


So recently I have been reading Nabokov’s “Lolita” and I must say I think it is an awesome piece of literature. First of all let me say something about what I think the function of literature is. Aside from pure entertainment really outstanding literature places us inside another person. Really, stupendously good literature places us in a relationship of empathy with “Monsters”. Really, really good literature – in my opinion – challenges our taboos, opinions and prejudices.


“Lolita” is one of the best examples of this. In our culture pedophiles are seen as monsters. Most people are incapable of discussing the issue with anything other than shock or extreme prejudice.


I’m not advocating pedophilia or saying that there should be a change of law concerning it. From a practical/real world perspective I believe children are vulnerable and because of that it is good that they are protected by the law. I think that pedophilia should not be expressed and if it is measures should be taken to ensure it stops. But I think it should be understood.


This is what Nabokov has done in “Lolita”. He implicitly asks the question: You didn’t choose to find mature men/women attractive, so what if you found children attractive?


There are chapters in this novel where the protagonist is asking himself just that “Why do I find children attractive? How did it come about that I find them attractive?” He seeks to give a causal narrative explanation to his sexual preference through talking about a love affair he had at the age of 6.


The interesting attempt he makes is where he just describes what he likes. I think this shows a commonalty between “normal” and “abnormal”, “retarded” and “not-retarded”. The difference is never anything objective. Everyone has a certain set of traits. You could define a person as “a set of traits”. Some traits are socially acceptable and some aren’t. Some traits allow you to function within this particular society some don’t. Some we call perverse some we call normal. The thing that people rarely acknowledge is that you do not choose the traits you have. Just as you don’t choose your family you don’t choose you.


2 thoughts on “Nabokov’s “Lolita”, Forgivness, and taboo

  1. Pingback: Thoughts inspired from backlog 1 | Subjective insights

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