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The Sympathetic Nature of Humbert Humbert in Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’

The Sympathetic Nature of Humbert Humbert in Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’

Author: Edie Christian;

Advisor: N/A

Brighton, Hove, and Sussex Sixth Form College (BHASVIC), UK


This article evaluates the portrayal of protagonist Humbert Humbert in Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’, as well as the resulting literary criticism. The purpose of the article is to demonstrate how an author’s use of language, perspective, and characterisation can make an abhorrent character likeable to the reader. Furthermore, Humbert’s solipsism portrays twelve-year-old Dolores Haze as he sees her – ‘Lolita’. His crimes are certainly more palatable when she is viewed as a mere aesthetic creation instead of an innocent child. Aspects of modernism are apparent in the novel in Humbert’s continuing search for immortality within art, as well as his continuously changing relationship with the reader. These factors, alongside his theorised double in character Clare Quilty – the very existence of whom is disputed – demonstrate in this article that it is not only possible as a reader to sympathise with such a morally corrupt protagonist, but perhaps one of Nabokov’s intentions with his seminal work.

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