One critic suggests that it is ironic that Humbert in Lolita claims to be a champion of freedom of the individual. In what ways is Humbert hypocritical?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is important to recognise that the freedom of the individual that Humbert supposedly champions is freedom only as long as nobody else uses their freedom to act in a way contrary to Humbert's own desires and wishes. This is of course the hypocrisy that is so essential to the story. Humbert likes to present himself as an easy-going individual who champions freedom of the individual. Yet, when others exert their own freedom to act in ways that he does not approve of or interfere with Humbert's own plans and happiness, it is obvious that he does not approve. The biggest example is of course Humbert's feelings towards Quilty. Quilty himself, when Humbert tracks him down, is aware of the irony of Humbert judging him for what Humbert has already done:

We are men of the world, in everything—sex, free verse, marksmanship. If you bear me a grudge, I am ready to make unusual amends... but really, my dear Mr. Humbert, you were not an ideal stepfather.

The irony in the phrase "ideal stepfather" is clear, as it is hardly possibly by anyone's standards to describe Humbert's relationship with Lolita as being "ideal," and to describe Humbert as a "stepfather" is to highlight the way he abused her. Humbert is therefore hypocritical in the way that he adopts one set of standards for himself but takes the liberty of judging others by a different set of standards. This is most clearly shown through his murder of Quilty for exactly the same crime that Humbert himself has already committed.

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