In Vladimir Nabokov Lolita, the narrator, Humbert, often fantasizes about a young girl name Lolita, whom he dubs as a “nymphet.” In these “magical” passages the reader sees several key features of style that are also present at in several other passages in the story. Humbert Humbert essentially creates a new reality in which he rules and Lolita is his subject. In these passages Nabakov uses a combination of tone,style, imagery, diction, syntax, and pattern in interrelated ways to create this “world within a world” and create this involution in his writing.
Nabokov really digs into the imagery and is very distinct with these images so he can allow the reader to view Lolita as Humbert Humbert does. To the reader it’s almost like a dream because certain images like “enchanted mist,” “flight dream,” “flaming wings,” are very descriptive. “…lunged into the same enchanted mist? She stepped to it…walked through dilating space with the lentor of one walking water or in a flight dream. Then she raised by the armlets a copper-colored, charming and quite expensive vest… as if she were a bemused bird-hunter holding her breath over the incredible bird he spreads out by the tips of its flaming wings (Nabokov 120). In this passage, as well as many others, Nabokov starts to politicize Lolita in a way that he does nowhere else. The diction he uses is very continuous. Words such as “enchanted, dream, flight” create a magical atmosphere. As soon as this passage begins the reader is plunged into a whole new world where Humbert leaves reality and takes a few moments to describe to the reader her brilliance. He compares her to a bird hunter, holding her breath before an incredible catch. He specifically describes her physical features with great detail, which makes sense because as he says, only he knows what a true “nymphet” physically looks like. This imagery used here reinforces what Appel commented on as the “work within the work. Essentially Humbert creates his own reality within the one he is already in.
Continuity and pattern between passages help to create this second plot for the reader. The pattern of Humbert physically describing Lolita continues in this passage”… and she smelt almost exactly like the other one, the Riviera one, but more intensely so, w
ith the rougher overtones- a torrid odor that at once sent my manhood astir- but she had already yanked out of me the coveted section and retreated to her mat near phocine mamma. There, my beauty lay on her stomach, showing me , showing the thousand eyes wide open in my eyed blood, her slightly raised shoulder blade, and the bloom along the incurvation of her spine, and the swellings of her tense narrow nates clothed in black, and the seaside of her schoolgirl thighs” (Nabokov 42). As usual Humbert describes her physical posture to the reader, such as her “raised shoulder blades,” “bloom along the incurvation of her spine,” “seaside of her schoolgirl thighs.” This obsession Humbert has with “nymphets” is something that he realizes may be hard for the reader to understand. Therefore, he uses these instances to try to convince the reader in some way why he has this obsession. He uses this “magical” and dream like descriptions to in order to get the reader to see what he sees so great. This continuity in style between passages is a pattern. Humbert repeatedly creates this dream world and throws the reader directly into it. It can therefore reasonably be inferred that Nabokov is creating two plots in this novel. The outer plot is Humbert’s general life with Lolita and her mother. The plot within the plot begins when he starts fantasizing and brings up this new fictive reality.
In this fictive world Humbert creates, he and Lolita are the subjects. “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was 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” (Nabokov 9). In this passage Humbert tells us a little about Lolita, that she is very young and small. We can conclude that Lolita is not her real name, but a name given by Humbert. He describes the movements of the mouth when saying Lo-lee-ta in syllables. The key phrases in this passage are the first couple of metaphors where he says that Lolita is basically what he lives for, everything bad and everything good. Through these words, it gives the reader an initial feeling that Humbert has “special” feelings for her though it may not be obvious until latter paragraphs. This passages establishes a base for many other where Humbert politicizes her. As he describes Lolita like in this passage and others, the double plot involution is a little more evident. This obsession that Humbert has may merely be a a complicated fictive world created by the language and imagery on Nabokov.
Many of the inversions created in this novel by the use of style, diction, imagery, and patterning provide the basis for Nabokov’s use for a intricate involution. There may essentially be a world within a world. Humbert’s actual reality is to posses Lolita, but often creates this second world where he falls deep into a a dream like fantasy. The patterns and continuity and how he describes this world allow the reader to conclude that Nabokov’s purpose was to create intricacy in the novel. Allusions to Poe’s Anabel Lee suggest that Humbert solipsized a reality just as the speaker had done in Anabel Lee.