The novel Lolita is a masterpiece of Vladimir Nabokov, a famous Russian American writer. So far, the novel has been still controversial as a result of its special storyline and the bizarre interpersonal relationship. A large number of scholars believe that Lolita is of high literary value for it opens a new perspective of male-and-female ethic for modern literature, impacts and weakens the traditional morality and achieves the fable “Young America succeeds in seducing old Europe” (Nabokov, 1989). On the contrary, a majority of opponents argue that the novel beautifies incest and lust by means of literature. No matter how many disputes the book has given rise to, there is no doubt that Lolita is a classic which describes human’s inner world.
There are so many profound details in the novel that I am not able to analyze them one by one. Therefore, this essay aims to inquire into the hero in Lolita- Humbert’s personality to demonstrate the convergence between Nabokov and Freud, the great Austrian psychoanalyst and psychologist, reflecting Nabokov’s deep insight into human’s spiritual world.
This essay analyses Humbert’s personality from three aspects-his id, his ego and his superego. In the three parts, the theoretical knowledge on mind and psychology will be combined with the concrete details in Lolita. At last, this article draws a conclusion that only when a person correctly deals with the relationship among his id, ego, superego and the outside world, will he upgrade his personality and approach closer to perfect human dignity.
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2. Humbert’s id in Lolita
According to Freud (1990), id is the most primitive part of personality as well as the storage depot of creatures’ lust and sex drive. Id functions unconditionally in line with “pleasure principle”, that is to say, it seeks for pleasure and satisfaction desperately, especially for sex, physic-pleasure and emotional happiness. Id is composed of a variety of living things’ instincts; as a result, it is in a completely unconscious state.
Humbert, the hero in Lolita, originated from European intellectual class and was well-educated. Though he has an enviable deal of money and handsome appearance, he is abnormally addicted to little girls, which derived from the death of Annabel-his first love when he was young. Since then, he has payed attention to those teenage girls all the time. His id leads to his weird love for young girls and is so strong that he is not able to break away from it. As far as Humbert is concerned, Lolita, his stepdaughter, fits all his conditions and reminds him of his first love. To him, Lolita is everything and his only desire or meaning of life is to live with Lolita forever. “She is mine, she is mine, the key is in my hand and my hand is in my pocket, she is mine” (Nabokov, 1989). At last, Humbert’s id is powerful enough to drive him to commit the most vicious and immoral crime-rape or incest. In fact, his madness about Lolita has never declined in spite of her departure and he doesn’t expect her to grow up. Even after he spends 3 years in looking for Lolita and finds that she has been married and pregnant, he still begs her to come back to him. However, as Lolita grows up, she is gradually tired of Humbert and falls in love with Quilty, an evil, bizarre and ridiculous director. Quilty plays with Lolita and forces her to shoot child pornography, but finally he drives her away for she refuses to be obedient. When Humbert finds that Quilty carries Lolita away from him, he falls into rage for his obsession with Lolita has become his monopoly and exclusive of her. In order to revenge Quilty for Lolita as well as himself, at Quilty’s Humbert shoots him several times and kills him.
Humbert’s quenchless id stands for the biological inner world and it completely ignores the outside world. His id lacks of morality and doesn’t care about right or wrong. Therefore, he unscrupulously aspires to get the maximum content by instinct and tries his best to eradicate the pressure the social ethics imposes on him. On such occasion, his irresistible id inevitably results in his fatal destruction as well as the collapse of his superego (Green, 1988).
3. Humbert’s ego in Lolita
Ego is also an element of personality, especially the rational part. Ego is always affected by id’s pursuit of interests, the actual requests of social life and superego’s pursuit of ethics, and it tends to reconcile contradictions on the basis of reality principle (Freud, 1990). In other words, ego is inclined to work out expediency as far as possible and it regulates id and conforms to superego on occasion.
Humbert is seen as a demonian character by a large number of readers for his unlimited and strange id seems to be unforgivable, however, actually he is always being tortured by inner conflicts as well as condictations-whether he should comply with the code of conduct of id or ego. From Humbert’s monologues in the novel, it is safe to say that he takes pains to be a good man. Despite his rich learning, excellent gift for language and attractive looks, the death of Annabel has great influence on the formation of his pedophilia when he grows up. When others are enjoying their happy life, he has to disguise his weird desire because he knows that he will be certain to be rejected by the whole world if his madness about teenage girls is revealed. In order to get close to Lolita, he doesn’t mind getting married to Lolita’s mother-Mrs Haze. Even though he always conspires to murder Mrs Haze to achieve a two-person world made up of him and Lolita, he isn’t malicious enough to carry out his perfect plan. He even believes that Mrs Haze’s accidental death is also caused by his evil desire (Bader, 1972). Furthermore, he tries his best to fulfill Lolita’s material requirements at any price not only because he hopes to control Lolita but also he does want to be a qualified stepfather.
Humbert is liable to keep on drifting between the uncontrolled id and the ego which aims to save face, leaving him high mental pressure and on the verge of breakdown. He has ever tries to adjust his needs of id to live up to the moral standards in the real world and get over the conflicts between his id and his superego (Clancy, 1984).
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4. Humbert’s superego in Lolita
Superego is the moralization of ego and stands for the generally conscience and rationality. It is the supreme supervisory and punishing system of personality, which helps ego get off id and perform acts in accordance with social norms. As a result, superego’s standard of behavior is morality principle (Freud, 1990). The major mission of superego is to instruct ego to limit id.
Ironically, Humbert is arrested not for that he has committed the most immoral crimes-rape and murder but for his improper driving-his car rushes out of the road to dodge the cars in his way. He confesses to what he has done and gets his due punishment. Humbert knows well that what he intends to occupy isn’t Lolita but his own creature or another Lolita in his dreams. Humbert’s cruelty consists in not only making himself be enchanted by his dreams but also seducing Lolita into the image he makes for her (Nabokov, 1989).
Id seeks after pleasure and ego is limited by the reality. However, superego measures the good and evil and distinguishes the right from the wrong. Therefore, it represents ideals instead of reality, pursues perfection instead of pleasure. Humbert acknowledges that he has committed the crime of rape, which indicates that his superego has been superior to his id and he has realized his uncontrolled id should be punished and condemned by the society (Connolly, 2009).
In Lolita, the author puts forward the theme of infatuation, lust and love to show human’s id and the nature of soul. Humbert, the hero of the novel, commits rape and bloody murder as a result of that his id becomes out of control. He tries his best to protect his ego, but his superego fails to hold back his strong id. Though he can’t be immune to the crimes that he should be guilty of, at last his assumption of the responsibility for taking away the young girl’s life indicates that he is always making progress towards the code of ethics in terms of his own understanding.
The imbalance of the three systems of Humbert’s personality-his id, ego and superego leads to his abnormal behavior and ideas. Having known that personality is complex, we draw a conclusion that in order to set up the wholesome personality, a person’s ego has to coordinate the society and the outside world. In addition, he is supposed to inhibit the impulses that can’t be accepted by superego and restrain over his own desires. Furthermore, those conducts which run counter to the moral standards should be punished. Only by this, will human substitute the goals which conform to standards for those vulgar goals, raise his personality and approach close to perfect human dignity.
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