Distortions of Reality

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Distortions of Reality

In both Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita, and Thomas Pynchon's novel The Crying of Lot 49, the protagonist is consumed by an obsession. These obsessions affect the characters' behavior, actions, and interaction with the world. Most importantly, however, both authors reveal that obsession distorts a person's perception of reality.

In Lolita, the protagonist and narrator, Humbert Humbert, has an obsessive lust for nymphets which warps his view of the world, ultimately driving him to paranoia. His sexual fixation for nymphets is projected on all that he sees. It prevents him from seeing the world clearly, void of nymphet-sexual overtones. His interactions and perceptions of girls are consumed with sexual fantasy, which obstructs their true nature. He becomes delusional due to paranoia, causing his imagination to take hold of his notions of reality.

Humbert writes the following accounts from a prison cell, where he is able to use his retrospect to narrate the novel. He describes his obsession with nymphets at great lengths. Whenever he comes into contact with them he is overcome with sexual lust and yearning. He tells the reader, "I was consumed by a hell furnace of localized lust for every passing nymphet" (18). His obsession is intensified by the agony and frustration he feels due to his inability to act on his desires. Humbert even convinces himself that there is nothing wrong with being infatuated with girl-children, justifying it as, "a question of attitude" (19). This rationale is further justified through his numerous references to man-nymphet sexual relationships throughout history. He has done thorough research on the topic because of his utter fascination with girl-children. This fascination has also led him to pursue the detailed study of the pubescent stages of female development.

Humbert describes the feelings that his obsessive lust evokes. He says that his random infrequent interactions with girls on the metro or in the park created "a revelation of axillary russet...[that] remained in my blood for weeks" (20). Whenever nymphets are near him he feels euphoric and becomes enraptured in his fantasies. The world around him stops, and he dreams of being left "alone in my pubescent park, in my mossy garden. Let them play around me forever. Never grow up" (20). He uses imagery of a mossy garden to emphasize his forbidden desire of young girls. Moss is green, which symbolizes youth or something that is unripe, while the garden refers to Eden, where Eve was forbidden to eat from the tree of knowledge.

Nabokov similarly uses imagery to reveal Humbert's misconceptions of reality. His obsessive lust for young girls is reflected in the world that he sees, which is expressed through images of a mirror. While he is with a nymphet prostitute he notices his reflection "that distorted my mouth" (22). This mirrors his distorted view of young girls that he projects throughout the novel. He cannot see himself clearly in the mirror, just as he cannot see young girls clearly. His inability to see outside of his world, which is consumed by thoughts and feelings of obsessive lust, is also seen through imagery of a window. The prostitute is wrapped in the gauze of the window curtain, which symbolizes that Humbert's obstructed view of reality is just like the obstructed view that a curtain provides a window.
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Similar imagery is seen during Humbert's life with his first wife Valeria. Humbert and Valeria, who resembles a little girl, live in an apartment that has a "hazy view in one window, a brick wall in the other" (26). Humbert cannot see outside the box within he lives. He cannot see past his warped sense of women. His mind has slipped into a world confined by his sexual desire. While living in this apartment he is driven mad by the shadow of the grocer's little daughter (26). This image reveals that his picture of girls is only a ...

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