Kitty Corner: ‘Lolita’ epitomizes the classic anti-love story

Kitty Guo | Daily Trojan

At first, I didn’t realize that my column would be running on Valentine’s Day. And once I did, I resolved to continue right on with my predetermined schedule, amour be damned.

But in the deepest, darkest recesses of my heart, I’m secretly a sucker for these holidays — you know, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, denigrated as corporate money-making scams by cynics and promoted as joyous occasions for spreading love, cheer and goodwill by idealists. I try to play myself off as the former; really, I’m the latter.

So, in the spirit of curdled ardor, I’ve decided to write about one of the most dysfunctional love stories of all time: Lolita.

This won’t be a book review, because there is nothing I can say about Lolita that hasn’t already been said a million times — not its luxuriously undulating locution, its thicket-dense puns and jeu de mots, its structural complexity and its deliciously polarizing quality. I’m vastly underqualified to write about this artistic and literary tour de force. I’m capable only of genuflecting to Nabokov’s genius; I merely hover around the flame of his brilliance, fraught with the danger of getting scorched.

One cover edition of Lolita, featuring the bare, knobby knees and saddle shoes of a schoolgirl, also includes a Vanity Fair quote: “The only convincing love story of our century.” I disrespectfully disagree with this sentiment. Let’s get one thing straight: Lolita is not actually a love story. Lolita is the story of a depraved, manipulative, ego-tripping homicidal maniac who took advantage of the trust of a vulnerable child so he could get his rocks off. And I’m censoring myself here.

But for a good many of my formative years, like so many other pubescent girls discovering the double edged sword of sexuality, I thought it was. To be fair, Humbert’s rosy prose and duplicitous litotes have taken in many clear-headed adults who have long left those tumultuous, hormone-engulfed years behind. Precocious yet puerile, itching to shed my corporal form yet thrilled at the power it afforded me, I longed for someone older and wiser who could teach me his worldly ways. I envisioned a Humbert singling me out as special, affirming my dreams and desires as legitimate.

Thankfully, I never took the next step to turn these fantasies into reality, as some girls do to disastrous results. I’m much too shy and risk-averse for that. Perhaps I was semi-aware, paradoxically, that any man who would openly express interest in a 14-year-old would cease to be a knight in shining armor and expose himself as the slimy, perverted creep he is, so that any consummation of my imaginations would simultaneously shatter them. 

Lolita has become so entrenched in the cultural consciousness that everyone already possesses preconceived notions of the novel, whether they have read it or not. The term “Lolita” has become synonymous with an underage temptress, as ignoramuses labor under the delusion that she was the one who lured him into sin with her juvenile feminine charms. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth; Lolita is the story of a relationship between a twisted, pedophilic, abusive adult and the child he victimizes, and the sooner the heinously misguided myth that the two are in any way on equal footing is dispelled the better.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Kitty Guo is a sophomore majoring in journalism and computational linguistics.  She is also the lifestyle editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Kitty Corner,” runs every other Wednesday.