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Themes

Humbert spends a lot of time talking about love, particularly when describing his feelings for Lolita. Is it even possible that he loves her? The fact that he is our narrator and controls all of the images we see makes it difficult to know if he is using love as some sort of perverse excuse for his behavior. Understanding his feelings is also complicated by the fact that he is writing the book in retrospect – reflecting and recording his story many years after the events have occurred. Part of our challenge as the reader is to try to understand the nature of his "love" for Lolita and try not to be wooed by him ourselves. Humbert prides himself on his skill in seduction and his efforts definitely extend to the reader as well. In his essay, "The Last Lover: Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita," Lionel Trilling once insisted, "Lolita is about love. Perhaps I shall be better understood if I put the statement in this form: Lolita is not about sex, but about love." Is there any way to see this novel as an American love story?

Questions About Love

  1. Are any characters loyal? Does Lolita have any actual romance in it?
  2. Is it possible that Humbert actually loves Lolita?
  3. What is the purpose of Humbert's relationship with Rita?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Humbert uses the idea of love to appeal to the romantic interests of his reader, believing that it will make his actions seem less disturbing.

Lolita's love of Quilty is one of the more inexplicable relationships of the novel.

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