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Themes

From the outset, Humbert describes Lolita as "fire of my loins" (1.1.1). To be fair, he also calls her "light of my life" (1.1.1). But the question is: which is it? Is it possible for her to be both? The book has often been referred to as porn, but the author of the Foreword insists that the sex must be kept in for moral purposes, noting that "not a single obscene term is to be found in the whole work" (Fore.4). Truth be told, there is a lot of lust in Lolita – Humbert's and Clare Quilty's, mostly. And Lolita participates in her fair share of voluntary sexual activity – at Camp Q, especially. Much of the sex in the novel is very dark and perverse, criminal even, with rape, pedophilia, and incest at the front of the line.

Questions About Sex

  1. Is any sex in the novel normal, not transgressive?
  2. Why does Nabokov make Lolita so sexual and sexually experienced?
  3. Is Humbert actually a "sex maniac," as he denies?

Chew on This

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

Humbert plays up Lolita's sexual experience in order to make his exploitation of her seem less outrageous.

Sexual attraction is the only way Humbert can relate to women.

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