Humbert's obsession with Lolita, lust vs. love in "Lolita" by Nabakov

Essay by junglegrl2002 February 2003

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The relationship between Humbert Humbert and Lolita, is highly undefined. Many readers who have read Lolita find it to be based on "lust", while others find Humbert to truly be in "love" with his Lolita. However, there is evidence that Humbert's desire for Lolita is based on some obsessive-compulsive behavior which he cannot control, and therefore keeps returning for her. Humbert's obsessions can be clearly recognized in his behaviors when looked upon in H. R. Beech's Obsessional States and Andrew Brink's Obsession and Culture: A Study of Sexual Obsession in Modern Fiction's perception of what obsession is. Humbert's obsessional tendencies are displayed in many passages through his descriptive word choices and his over bearing personality, such as when he describes Lolita after returning from camp to be, "...all rose and honey, ressed in her brightest gingham, with a pattern of little red apples,...with scratches like tiny dotted lines of coagulated rubies, and the ribbed cuffs of her white socks were turned down."

Obsession can be a difficult subject because there is not a finite definition of what obsession really is. Who determines what obsession is? When does deep admiration pass and obsession begin? According to S. Jack Rachman "an obsession is an intrusive, repetitive thought, image, or impulse that is unacceptable or unwanted and gives rise to subjective resistance" (2). Furthermore, Andrew Brink states that "...the popular meaning of the term obsession, including the new verb 'to obsess,' which means to be persistently preoccupied about something, usually in an unsatisfactory relationship" (195). These similar definitions are important when looking at Humbert's actions because his actions are perceived by these qualities.

First, Brink argues that most people have an obsessional defense, and this defense is brought out of men due to their fear of women. More specifically, this defense mechanism is...