Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I know this is very overdue, I don't know what has gotten into me these past two weeks, but I have had multiple JSTOR articles sitting in my binder for quite some time, and have just not taken the time to put them on here.

A. Owen Aldridge, "'Lolita' and 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses'".

Mathew Winston, "Lolita and the Dangers of Fiction".

Hugo J. Beigel, "The Journal of Sex Research".

Nomi Tamir-Ghez, "The Art of Persuasion in Nabokov's Lolita".

Frederick Whiting, "'The Strange Particularity of the Lover's Preference': Pedophilia, Pornography, and the Anatomy of Monstrosity in Lolita".

I also have found numerous articles outside of JSTOR that I may use in my final paper, but do not have all the bibliographical information in front of me.


Dolores Haze. Dolores. Dolly. L. Lo. Lola. The daughter, the lover, the nymphet: Lolita. I must say, if my parents had chosen to name me Lolita, I would get it legally changed to Katherine, meaning pure. Since the publishing of Lolita in 1955 and the popularity that has stemmed from its controversial nature, there has been a negative connotation surrounding the name Lolita, and even Lola for that matter. Take, for example, the song “Lola” by the Kinks. Although the song does not pertain to the exact story line of Lolita and the name of the song was not admittedly influenced by Nabokov’s story, the ‘woman’ Lola in the song is a transvestite, sexually promiscuous and controversial, as is Dolores Haze (Lolita) in the novel. On nearly every baby name list I could find, Lolita means a sexually precocious young girl. But this is only the modern connotation of the name. In the past, Lolita, a name which is of Spanish origin, meant “sorrows”.

Just recently (early this February, to be exact) Woolworth’s, the chain of retail stores in Great Britain, removed bedroom furniture intended for young girls from it’s inventory because the brand name was Lolita. Angry mothers raised concerns and protested because surely their six-year old daughters would become sexually active nymphets from sleeping in, or merely coexisting in a world with, Lolita beds. Although the connection can be made between the brand name and the character in Nabokov’s novel, I found the whole thing to be a bit over the top and out of hand.

Now back to the real topic at hand, the novel itself. Many critics argue that Lolita is merely a plot device, one that Nabokov uses to create and develop the character of Humbert Humbert. But without the Lolita character, Humbert is just a middle aged pervert who sits in the park and dreams about young girls. It is not until he finds a young girl with whom he can act on his desires that his character comes full circle. Therefore I think that Lolita deserves more credit than being referred to as a plot device. She is a dynamic character, one that the reader can sympathize with, can become frustrated with, and one that can be hard to predict at times. The reader gets the opportunity to grow with her, following her from adolescence to adulthood. She starts young, prepubescent and ignorant. Then she matures throughout the novel, having multiple shifts in attitude and character, until the novel ends with her married and with child. Being able to follow her through this important part of life allows the reader to feel a connection with her that is lost with Humbert, who stays relatively the same throughout the story.

There are alternate reasons why Lolita strikes a nerve with readers, making a name for herself as a character rather than just a plot device or title. As humans, we know what is right and what is wrong. For example, in Western society murder is looked upon as wrong. And in nearly all cases, the murdered will receive more sympathy than the murdered, whether or not the murdered is equally in the wrong. Just like in Lolita, it takes an objective reader to realize, but Lolita is just as in the wrong as Humbert. Lolita is the one who brings upon the sex with Humbert, whether or not he sets up the situation in the first place. So why then, is Humbert the bad guy in nearly all eyes? Because we can read his perverted thoughts, we get an insight into his misleading plots, and we can see how he ignores his conscience. Lolita, on the other hand, is harder to understand because we cannot read her thoughts, and merely see her actions, which are often sporadic and in and out character, leaving us as confused as Humbert.

Lolita, plot device or not, makes the story what it is. She is somehow beautiful, stubborn, naïve, and rational all at the same time. She creates something for the reader to follow, fall for, and sympathize with, as she journeys around the country with her middle aged lover. She is both emotional and emotionless. She is innocent and yet sensual. She is wrong and yet right. Lolita is, in her own right, a walking paradox. (720)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My Guilty Pleasure I'm Not So Guilty About

It is bizarre to me how Vladimir Nabokov can transform something that is as taboo as pedophilia into something surprisingly poetic and engaging. While reading Lolita, I found myself sickened, and yet mesmerized at the same time. How could that be? It seems as though I have discovered my guilty pleasure. Nabokov’s novel rallies around a forbidden and perverse love affair between a twelve year old girl, Lolita, and a thirty-seven year old man, Humbert. (Disclaimer: By referring to this novel as my ‘guilty pleasure’, I am not by any means expressing approval of the relationship between Lolita and Humbert in reality, merely in theory.) Humbert Humbert, the main character, finds himself lusting over young girls, whom he refers to as ‘nymphets’. His lust is the backbone of the novel, as the reader follows him on his journey to make up for the loss of his adolescent love by trying to find new love with his favorite little nymphet, Lolita.

The novel starts with the introduction of Lolita, before the reader even knows who the narrator, Humbert, is. The then anonymous narrator introduces her as, “...Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.” From the last sentence, the reader can foreshadow a relationship of some sort, and possibly even a love affair (at least a one-way love, from the direction of Humbert), between him and Lolita. The reader then learns that this lust for Lolita stems from Humbert’s past love for Lolita’s precursor, “a certain initial girl-child”, Annabel, who suffered a premature death from typhus. Strangely, from the moment Humbert met Lolita, all I wanted was for them to be together. I put the age difference in the back of my mind, and was rooting for them throughout a majority of the story. This hopeful feeling that enveloped me stemmed from Humbert’s sharing the story his heartbreaking relationship with Annabel to the reader. He reflects on their relationship, sharing with the reader that, “The spiritual and the physical had been blended in us with a perfection that must remain incomprehensible to the matter-of-fact, crude, standard-brained youngsters of today. Long after her death I felt her thoughts floating through mine. Long before we met we had had the same dreams.” Somehow, him being certain that he would never love again, and then meeting Lolita and changing his views, allows the reader to relate in a way that helps them to forget about the perverse nature of Humbert’s lust for Lolita.

The aspects of Lolita that make it come across as disturbing and immoral are diminished by Nabokov’s writing style. His eloquent and lyrical prose could make even the most sadistic act seem acceptable, the most unattractive person appear beautiful, or the most heartbreaking tale somewhat blissful. He can make the reader feel as though they are present in 1948, in Humbert’s shoes, facing the same moral dilemmas, having the same heart wrenching feelings, and witnessing the same sights. Towards the end of the story, Nabokov allows the reader, in merely two sentences, to become Humbert’s eyes: “One could make out the geometry of the streets between blocks of red and gray roofs, and green puffs of trees, and a serpentine stream, and the rich, ore-like glitter of the city dump, and beyond the town, roads crisscrossing the crazy quilt of dark and pale fields, and behind it all, great timbered mountains. But even brighter than those quietly rejoicing colors - for there are colors and shades that seem to enjoy themselves in good company - both brighter and dreamier to the ear than they were to the eye, was that vapory vibration of accumulated sounds that never ceased for a moment, as it rose to the lip of granite where I stood wiping my foul mouth.” It is Nabokov’s beautiful writing, his dynamic characters, and ingeniously crafted suspense that makes readers, such as myself, surprised to find themselves engulfed by Lolita. (680)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part.

Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part;
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me,
And I am glad, yea, glad with all my heart
That thus so cleanly I myself can free;
Shake hands forever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love's latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies,
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes,
Now if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou mightst him yet recover.

- Michael Drayton

Michael Drayton’s poem “Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part”, written during the Elizabethan Era, is considered by some to be one of the best sonnets of all time, and undoubtedly Drayton’s best. The poem touches on the deaths of Love, Passion, Faith and Innocence, drawing out the feelings that one goes through during the ending of a relationship. Drayton creates a beautiful balance between simplicity and eloquence by combining both elementary words and complicated composition. The Elizabethan sonnet is written in form a b a b, c d c d, e f e f, g g. Because of the rhyme scheme, there tends to be three places during the poem where the poet’s thoughts are expected to change, and turn in another direction. Sometimes the poet may even end the poem with a surprising twist in lines g g, as evident in Drayton’s poem.

From reading the first two quatrains of the poem, the reader is certain that the speaker, a man who has found himself nearing the end of a relationship, is confident that he is ready for his relationship to be over. From the first line (also the title of the poem) “Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part” (1, 2), the poet has doomed the relationship. Also lines like, “And I am glad, yea, glad with all my heart” (3) and “Be it not seen in either of our brows/ That we one jot of former love retain” (7, 8) show that the speaker has little or no doubt that he is prepared for the break up, and that he is happy. In these first eight lines, the speaker uses first person, and sets up the problem that will be discussed and mulled over in the rest of the poem: whether or not the speaker is truly ready for the end of his relationship.

In the third quatrain, the speaker begins to use third person, and talks about Love as something that is dying. He personifies Love as a man who is lying on his death bed and taking his “last gasp” (9), using imagery like “his pulse failing” (10) and “closing up his eyes” (12). This change in tone shows the speakers’ reflection on his relationship and what it is like to have Love fade away, or ‘die’. Three aspects of love are also personified: Passion, Faith and Innocence. These three concepts are looked at as friends of Love, companions who are witnessing, and giving up on, Love. Although Passion, Faith and Innocence are often seen as important aspects of a relationship, during the third quatrain, they are seen as being “speechless” (10), weak, and lost. The Passion, lying “speechless” (10) next to Love, is no longer abundant and exciting, as Passion is usually thought of in relationships. Faith, “kneeling by his bed of death” (11), is seen as weak through the image of kneeling, rather than powerful, as Faith usually is. And Innocence, as often seen through the eyes of young lovers, has been lost, and closes “up his eyes” (12), dying along with Love.

The strong imagery and personification in the third quatrain leaves the reader with an almost hopeless attitude toward the relationship. Although there seems to be a small possibility that Love will not die, and that Passion, Faith and Innocence will not give up on him, it seems unlikely. But upon reading the couplet, in true Elizabethan style, Drayton surprises the reader with a new idea. The couplet, written in second person, changes the roles of the speaker and the reader. The reader becomes the woman, Love becomes the man, and the speaker is merely the narrator. The speaker, directing his words towards the woman (the reader), is saying, “Wait! Don’t give up on him. There is still a chance. Yes, Passion, Faith and Innocence have all given up on him (Love), but there’s still you! ‘If thou wouldst’ (13), Love can be saved.”

This poem draws a thin line between love and hate, and shows the reader the confusion and uncertainty that comes with the ending of a relationship. Although at the beginning of the poem, the speaker seems as though he is in control of his feelings and the status of his relationship, towards the end of the poem it becomes apparent that is not true. It turns out that it is only the woman who can save him and their relationship, and it will take him getting over his pride in order for that to happen. Despite the fact that it seems difficult for the man to yield some of his ‘power’ and tell the woman how he truly feels, it is necessary, so he allows the woman to help at the end of the poem. It becomes evident, that even when is seems like there is no solution, that there is some way in which Love can be restored back to life. One can rebuild the Passion, find a new Faith, and return to the childlike Innocence of newly born lovers. (842)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Hopi Prayer

(I found on a different webpage a slightly different version of the poem I had previously posted as "Grieve Not" by Mary Frye. I am not sure which version is the official one, so I thought I would post them both.)

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there, I did not die.

- Mary Frye

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Don't Be Plasticine. Don't Forget To Be The Way You Are.

A Doll’s House is the perfect title for Henrik Ibsen’s play. The play revolves around the relationship between Nora, a seemingly careless, yet truly cunning and thoughtful woman, and her condescending and domineering husband Torvald. At the beginning of the play the reader is tricked into believing that Nora, Torvald, and their three children live in a perfect world, only to see their true characters at the close of the play. Nora is the stereotypical housewife, both beautiful and easy going. Torvald is the model husband, hardworking and supportive. And the children are well-behaved, and have a strong relationship with their parents. The family, from the outside, is perfectly sculpted and put together. But like most dolls upon closer inspection, they are merely synthetic.

Nora Helmer has spent a large part of her married life concealing a secret, a secret that she believes she is protecting her husband by keeping to herself. So why then, if she is truly protecting her husband, does this secret lead to the deterioration of her marriage? By the end of the story, the reader realizes that Nora is not the typical housewife. She is not as playful and easy going as she seems in the beginning, but just uses these qualities to cover up the truth. When Torvald reads the letter from Krogstad uncovering Nora’s long kept secret, and Nora sees how Torvald responds to the situation, not only are her true colors showing to Torvald, but she sees Torvald’s as well. By keeping the secret and covering up her true identity, Nora is not the only fake person, but she is allowing her husband to be a fake person as well.

Early on, Torvald Helmer seems like Mr. Right. He has a great job, and is a supportive and loving husband. Although sometimes condescending, Ibsen leads the reader to believe that no matter what, Torvald will always be there for Nora. Nora also believes that Torvald loves her enough to forgive her for her mistake. She awaits the ‘miracle’ when Torvald offers to take the blame for her wrongdoing, in order to protect her. When instead, Torvald gets upset with Nora and tells her that she must take the blame for her mistake, the make-believe world that that the Helmer’s have been living in is shattered. Nora realizes that Torvald has been so blinded by his misconception of both herself and reality that he cannot see that Nora made the decision to loan the money in order to save him.

I was amazed to see Nora react as strongly as she did at the end of the story, because she had not given off the impression of being an independent and responsive person throughout the majority of the story. I was proud of her for finally realizing that her happiness had not been sincere, and that in order to find true happiness she had to not only find herself, but she had to rid herself of those things that had made her fake in the first place. One thing that I found rather disappointing was Nora’s decision to leave her children. Putting myself in her children’s shoes, I would be not only devastated but also puzzled as to why my mother left without a word. Even if it was explained to me that there were problems between her and my father, I feel as though I would blame myself for her sudden departure. Hopefully those three children can take a lesson from their mother and father, and learn that even splinter-free doll houses crumble eventually.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Bongo Bango

Bongo Bango

Do a tango

In the light fandango

With a mango

A map atap a

A mouth a rapa

Rapa tapa

Tango ringo

Bingo banga

Mango mingus

Aero lingus

Lingo langa

Tanga tingle

Mingle mangle

Dangel dingel

Bingell baangle

Bango bonga

Conga Kango

Cappa frappa

Flappa dappa

Gangsta rappa

Beat da bappa

Bango tappa

Tingo bongo

A Gongo banga

A Bango bonga

O Bongo Rappa

O Rappa tappa

O dango fango

A Mango Tango

O Bongo Bango

- Kat Caverly