Essay on Defining Lolita: the Novel and the Name

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Defining Lolita: the Novel and the Name

In his essay, "On a Novel Entitled Lolita," Vladimir Nabokov tries to answer the age-old question, "What is the objective of the novel?" He quickly replies, "...I happen to be the kind of author who in starting to work on a book has no other purpose than to get rid of that book..." (311). There is more to his response than this, however. He goes on to say that his book was not written to celebrate pornography or pedophilia, nor was it written to promote Anti-Americanism (313 - 315). What's the purpose of his novel then? Well, Nabokov writes, "For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere,
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He sees his novel in simple terms: art. Whether it be the novel Lolita or the name Lolita, a sexual meaning has been given to the word Lolita, and this is largely due to the strong sexual overtones used by the novel's main character Humbert to describe his character of obsession Lolita; thus resulting in different and confusing interpretations of the novel and the author's intentions.

To understand better the purpose of this essay, it is important for the reader to comprehend what the name Lolita has come to mean in the 1990's. This is an easily proven point; all one needs is access to the internet. By entering in the keyword "Lolita", over 13,762 internet documents are found. Under this keyword at least 40 - 50% of all Lolita web pages refer to sex and pornography access on the internet.1 By specifically typing in a URL with only the word Lolita, a web page is accessed that contains adult related sound files and pictures.2 If those two examples are not enough, The New York Times internet book forum on Lolita reads like a sex scandal. The reader can see a small sample of what other readers of this novel are saying repeatedly: "lust, erotic, dirty," etc.3 Readers do not see beyond the carnal content of the novel, rather, they see only the pervert in

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