As part one of Lolita comes to a close, the story has been taking a very gradual turn downhill. Now suddenly Humbert reveals Lolita’s mother’s death. But, throughout it all Humbert maintains that he is innocent.
One thing about Humbert’s claim to innocence that I’ve noticed is that he acknowledges that his passion is dark and unacceptable. Even in the act of taking advantage of Lolita while she is knocked out Humbert sees that his lust could make Lolita “explode in screams if I touched her with any part of my wretchedness.” Maybe this is why he finds it easier to pretend he is her daughter.
Humbert first admits to the reader that he is truly like any “sex [offender] that hanker[s] for some throbbing, sweet-moaning, physical but not necessarily coital, relation with a girl-child,” in chapter 20. It seems that Humbert simply doesn’t care what people define him as because the “gentle and dreamy regions through which I crept were the patrimonies of poets — not crime’s prowling ground.” In fact, he claims Lolita seduced him. The fact that Humbert blatantly ignores his part in spoiling Lolita’s innocence suggests to me that he uses a constructed image of Lolita to build her character. It’s also kind of unsettling for me that Lolita is portrayed as being compliant with many of the things Humbert does.
J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace describes what seems to me to be a more realistic version of pedophilia. In his novel, the main character is a divorced English professor with a strong sexual appetite. After running out of other options he starts to prey on his students. In one section, the sexual relationship he develops with one of his favorite students degenerates quickly into rape, but, like Humbert, the character maintains that he is being a true romantic and that his actions are justified by some carnal law that he believes rules most humans. Although in Disgrace the girl subjected to rape is a college student, it seems like Lolita should be having some sort of more serious reaction to what has gone on so far despite being not-so-innocent as she seems.