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What is the tone and mood of the novel Lolita?

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adorkablex3 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 25, 2010 at 9:14 AM via web

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What is the tone and mood of the novel Lolita?

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akasha124 | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted April 26, 2010 at 12:39 AM (Answer #1)

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The tone and mood for this novel is actually very complex. On one hand, due to the nature of the story (the antihero HH is both a pedophile and a murderer and not all that stable), there is certainly a mood and tone of it being a cautionary tale and that it is morally wrong for HH to do what he did. He married a woman he was not in love with to be closer to her barely adolescent daughter and after she dies, he starts a relationship with Lolita. He eventually murders the man who took Lolita away from him. He then dies in prison, waiting for trial. But at the same time, there is a rich, seductive tone to the novel itself. HH is a professor and the tone of his narration is also filled with intelligence, cleverness, and a rich, heady tone for his misdeeds. So the tone/mood to Lolita are directly contriditary which is part of why people continue to be so scandalized by it today, because on one hand, it's morally wrong and despicable, on the other, it's told in a sexy, smart way.
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William Delaney | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 5, 2013 at 12:47 AM (Answer #2)

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Nabokov seems to have borrowed the idea of using a crazy narrator from Edgar Allan Poe, who used such a narrator in "The Tell-Tale Heart." Humbert must be crazy if he takes such reckless chances with an underage girl. He is violating the Mann Act outrageously. Instead of transporting a female across a state line for immoral purposes, Humbert is transporting Lolita all over the United States. His prose style is deliberately intended to give the impression that he is able to function but not completely sane. He uses puns, jokes, plays on words, digressions, all kinds of allusions, free associations, quotations, phrases in foreign languages, and other devices to create the effect of being mentally abnormal. He had to be psychologically unbalanced to act the way he does in the novel. His murder of Quilty is described in a surrealistic fashion. He does not care about being arrested or even executed for his crime. Humbert makes many disparaging remarks about Sigmund Freud, suggesting that he does not believe he is psychotic. One of Nabokov's favorite books was James Joyce's novel Ulysses, which is also full of fragments, puns, flashbacks, and other stylistic eccentricities. Edgar Allan Poe and James Joyce both served as models for Nabokov to draw upon in writing Lolita.

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