Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Review of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov


“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-tah.” Humbert Humbert has fallen in love. He is head over heels with the girl of his dreams and can’t think of anything else but her. He would give anything to be with her, just the two of them alone together. So when he gets his chance, he takes it and never lets her go. They drive across the highway roads of America, stopping in motels along the way, leaving a trail of fake names and lies. He buys her all the treats she could ever ask for, gives in to her every need and want. Anything for his darling, nymphet Lolita. A love story? Not quite.

Lolita is the controversial story of a middle aged man, Humbert Humbert, who falls in love with his land-lady’s twelve-year-old daughter Dolores Haze, also known as Lolita. To stay close to the child, he marries her mother, Charlotte Haze, in the hope that he’ll one day have the opportunity to get Lolita all to himself. Sure enough, when Charlotte dies in a terrible accident, he seizes his chance and whisks Lolita away. They embark on a road trip across America together for several months before residing in a house in the town of Beardsley together.

Despite the shocking content and narrative of the story, readers will find themselves feeling sorry for Humbert. We know that what he has done to Lolita is wrong and should we hear this story on the news, we would be praying for the man to be locked up and the key thrown away. The first person perspective in this story allows us to understand Humbert’s motives and excuses behind his actions. It gives the reader a unique look into the mind-set of a paedophile, helping us to understand why he is drawn to Lolita in this way. We can see that although what he doing is undoubtedly wrong, it is being done out of love for the child. The reader begins to see him more as a sick man, rather than an evil one.

The book is written in the style of a confession from Humbert. The foreword tells us of Humbert sat in his jail cell composing his confession, presumably to be read in court. We’re reminded of this throughout the story as he addresses the reader as the jury. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number 1…” he writes. His account is honest and he admits to everything he believes was wrongful of him. But he excuses himself for actions he believes to be justified. He fully understands throughout the novel that his actions were wrong in the eyes of the law as he is persistently fearful of being caught. He doesn’t seem to understand that his actions were wrong in the eyes of Lolita too. He seems to fully believe that she is in as infatuated with him as he is with her; he is blind sighted by his own love for her.

The book is a challenging read due to couple of reasons. Firstly, and most obviously is the content. While the story might be told like a love story, it is indisputably a story of paedophilia and abuse. Readers should not be fooled by Lolita and her own lust for Humbert. While she may not be trying to escape from this man, he is still holding her captive. Her willingness to stay with him does not justify his kidnapping and abuse of her. Secondly, the book is challenging due to the poetic language. Although the language is beautiful to read, at times you may find yourself re-reading passages, trying to figure out what it is you have just read. Due to both of these reasons, I found that Lolita wasn’t a book I could fully immerse myself with and sit and read for hours on end. I took my time reading some passages to fully understand them and frequently put the book down to think about what I had just read. Despite this, I would highly recommend it to others to read. It’s a unique story, doing what very few other novels do, by telling such a harrowing account of abuse from the abuser’s perspective

Although written over 60 years ago, the story of Lolita is one that is still very much relevant today. Stories of sexual abuse and paedophilia sadly are still very present in the news and are no more acceptable now than they were at the time of Lolita’s publication. The story focuses predominantly around the mind of Humbert rather than the time that these events took place. Although it is not modern, it could very easily be a story of the 21st century.


Does Feminism Come with a Dress Code?

ad_236938443Since the release of Vanity Fair Magazine this month, Emma Watson has faced a huge backlash of negative comments over her photoshoot featuring an image of her posing semi-nude. She’s been branded a hypocrite and stripped of her feminist title by the public. Journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer tweeted, “Emma Watson: “Feminism, feminism… gender wage gap… why oh why am I not taken seriously… feminism… oh, and here are my tits!” Another questioned why it’s not okay for Page 3 models to pose naked, but it’s fine for Emma Watson to do so. These are key examples of people today still not understanding what feminism is.

Feminism is about equality. It’s about women having equal rights to men and the freedom to be who they want to be. The choice to work or not; to have children or not; to wear what they want to wear. Being photographed for a fashion magazine semi-nude should in no way undermine or disregard these rights we as women have fought for. Emma Watson’s Vanity Fair photo shoot in comparison to Page 3 models are two very different mediums of modelling and should not be considered in the same way. Page 3 Girls are photographed to be placed in a daily newspaper where they can assume they will become the objects of the Male Gaze. Emma Watson’s modelling however was part of a piece of art by a professional Fashion photographer, Tim Walker. It was placed in a Fashion Magazine for audiences to look and admire at the clothes she is modelling and the overall aesthetic of the photo. Her boobs are not the subject and it is disappointing to see such a beautiful photo degraded down to just that. She responded in a recent interview stating “I don’t know what my tits have to do with it.”

Feminism is also about de-sexualising women’s bodies. Women’s breasts are primarily there to feed children; not to be viewed by others for their own pleasure. They are a part of a women’s body and should be embraced by them, not hidden away shamefully for fear of others objectifying them. Body confidence is another huge issue in our society today with many lacking it. When women are brave enough to do shoots like this, they should be celebrated for their confidence. Girls should be taught to love their skin and be comfortable in it. Not to hide it away. The idea that Watson should be shamed for loving her body is shocking. Journalist Federica Cocco tweeted “apparently you can’t be a feminist and love your body.”

As an advocate for women’s right, Emma Watson was appointed Ambassador for UN Women in 2014. This is the organisation behind the HeForShe campaign, formed the same year. Their goal is to encourage men to take action against inequalities faced by women. They currently have over 1 million active supporters. Free The Nipple campaign was set up in 2012 by a group of women who believed that they should be allowed to show their nipples in public. On a hot sunny day, a man can walk around topless and nobody would bat an eye, but if a woman were to do the same, she could be arrested for public indecency. The campaign is fighting for equality, empowerment and freedom for all humans. These two campaigns are both globally successful suggesting that feminism is still such a big issue in today’s society. The picture of Emma Watson and the backlash around it have proved how necessary and relevant they still are today, despite how much progress has already been made.

So, does feminism come with a dress code? Absolutely not. Women are free and entitled to dress how they want and should be free to do so without criticism. The way in which a person dresses does not determine the way they think and the morals they stand for. It is small minded to devalue someone’s morals and opinions purely because of the way they are dressed. Emma Watson’s shoot in Vanity Fair should be looked at for what it is: a piece of art.