I want you to come live with me, and die with me, and everything with me.
+ NYT - Reading Lolita in Moscow: "A work of art has no importance whatever to society,” Vladimir Nabokov insisted. “It is only important to the individual, and only the individual reader is important to me.” Nabokov was in fact notoriously averse to groups or “movements” of any sort, whether political, artistic or social.
Humbert's association with a game is important, because Nabokov plays countless games with language. Humbert Humbert, of course, has a double name. John Ray, Jr. also has a double name of sorts (his initials are similar to his junior status). Nabokov parodies the German-influenced Doppelgänger tale throughout Lolita. The Doppelgänger tale pits one character against some kind of doubled version of himself; Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde is the premier example (and one greatly admired by Nabokov, who otherwise had great disdain for the Doppelgänger, calling it a "frightful bore"). One of his gripes is that the Doppelgänger makes moral divisions between the doubled pair absolutely clear; already we are subversively informed that the hero of Lolita is an immoral man.
summary and analysis
Why might Nabokov have chosen to name his protagonist “Humbert Humbert”? Does the name’s parodic double rumble end up distancing us from its owner’s depravity? Is it harder to take evil seriously when it goes under an outlandish name? What uses, comic and poetic, does Nabokov make of this name in the course of Lolita? reading group guide