Lolita. The mere mention of the name can send shivers down one’s spine, can make a father blow steam out of his ears as if he were a cartoon character, can make a mild mannered woman sick to her stomach with over-flowing disgust. Passionately filled judgments run wild through people’s minds even over 50 years later when they think of Vladimir Nabokov’s famous novel Lolita. Yet, people still read it anyway. Is it because they are curious? It’s easy to say that even before beginning to read Lolita the reader knows the basic plot of the novel. The reader then has two choices. The reader can decide to let all moral and ethical rules of their personal reality affect their judgment and interpretation of the novel. Or, the reader can decide to read the novel as if they were entering an imaginary world unknown to their own.
Nabokov believes that for one to be a “good reader” they should “notice and fondle details.” He also states “If one begins with a readymade generalization, one begins at the wrong end and travels away from the book before one has started to understand it…We should always remember that the work of art is invariably the creation of a new world, so that the first thing we should do is to study that new world as closely as possible, approaching it as something brand new, having no obvious connection with the worlds we already know.” (Nabokov 4) When someone today decides to read Lolita, it is mostly out of curiosity. They are curious to know the inner workings in the mind of a pedophile. It is only when the reader decides to be a “good reader” by Nabokov’s standards that they are able to totally immerse themselves in the new world of the novel and relay any moral or ethical implications towards the novel their personal world might have.
Shockingly so, readers on goodreads.com that gave a negative review of Lolita stated with overwhelming disgust that they could not get past the idea that they were reading a novel about pedophilia from the perspective of a pedophile. Users on goodreads.com recognized Nabokov’s skill and mastery of writing. They commended his clever wit and lyrical prose, but were teeming with anger over Humbert Humbert’s continual rape of little Dolores Haze. These readers focused solely on the basic plot of the novel and let the rules of their own world enter into the world Nabokov created in Lolita.
It is hard for anyone to dispel from their mind the immorality of pedophilia. The “good readers” on goodreads.com were able to recognize the immorality of the pedophilia depicted in Lolita, but they did not let it consume their judgments. One reader of Lolita on goodreads.com made an astute comparison of her approach to reading Lolita to the reading approach…