Lolita
Lolita
by Vladimir Nabokov
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Imagery: Cinema

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Lolita is a very cinematic novel. Not only is the style highly visual, but Humbert also constantly imagines scenes unfolding as if they are up on the big screen. Lolita is also obsessed by movies, slick movie mags, and Hollywood hunks. Humbert is both compelled by Lolita's obsession and repulsed by its vulgarity. He likens himself to a virile movie actor and appreciates the comparison Lolita has drawn between himself and a "haggard lover" (1.16.7) in an ad ripped out and stuck above her bed. He is fully prepared to exploit Lolita's affection for movie-land illusions and Hollywood glamour. To Nabokov, Lolita's love of movies serves as a commentary on the larger American infatuation with movies. (And let's not forget that Quilty makes porn movies.)

The very style of the novel has a debt to the cinematic arts, as Humbert often refers to a keen awareness of being watched, referring to himself as the "glamorous lodger" with Lolita as the "modern child, an avid reader of movie magazines, an expert in dream-slow close-ups" (1.11.22). Scenes are often told in cinematic fashion with references to "Main Character […] Time […] Place […] Props" (1.13.5), when Humbert has his covert gratification on the couch.

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