Analysis Of Humbert’s Character Through Psychoanalysis Theory

It is of disgusting brilliance on how Vladimir Nabokov was able to pull off a novel that exposed not just the vigor of men but also the inner battles men face as resembled by Humbert Humbert. Lolita is a novel which evolves on the character of a man who sees himself superior on almost everything and a man who constantly encounters inner conflicts. Because Humbert is a man who urges to be master of his own domain, he believes that all of the torments he inflicted upon himself can still be vindicated if it is a manifestation of his own will. 

In order to fully take a grasp on how Humbert is deemed to be such, it begins with a plot that discloses a young man who used to have a serene upbringing during his youth and fell in love with Annabel Leigh. Unfortunately, due to tragic circumstances, the death of Annabel affected the psychological condition of Humbert. Such tragedy shaped and sucked the life out of him. Despite being privileged to have studied in high end schools and garnering attractive looks, the death of Annabel has great influence on the formation of his pedophilia when he grows up. As an aftershock of the tragedy, he was diagnosed with psychological traumas and was continuously brought to mental institutions in order to improve his condition. However, despite such intervention and despite the fact that he got married to a woman, he still turned into a man who had an obsession with nymphets – young girls – with whom he sees his lost first love, Annabel Leigh, in them. When he got to the United States, he rented a room wherein the widowed Charlotte Haze owned. He instantly ogled with Haze’s daughter, Lolita. His infatuation for the twelve year-old lass was trailed with consistent flirting and pedophiliac confessions in his journal. So much for his obsession for Lolita, despite the fact that he detests Charlotte, he decided to marry her in order to keep himself close to Lolita. As a matter of fact, Humbert even tried to toy with the possibility of killing Charlotte so he could take full charge of Lolita. Sooner, the Humbert’s secret was made known to Charlotte. With both having an intense fight, she asked him to leave, yet, Charlotte ended up being hit by a car. Humbert picked up Lolita and told her about the incident when they got into the motel. It was in this moment that Lolita had sexual dominance for Humbert. To distract Lolita from the loss of her own mother, Humbert induces her by taking road trips for almost a year and in that year, Humbert has increasingly obsessed himself with Lolita. With such occurrence, Humbert then learns how he can already manipulate her such as threatening her to be put in an orphanage if Lolita does not seem to cooperate. During those times, it was divulged that there was a strange man who seemed to be interested with the two and appears to have been following them in their travels. 

As soon as the academic year has begun, Humbert was assigned with a teaching job in Beardsley College while Lolita enrolls herself to school. With the fact that Lolita engages herself with schoolmates who are in the opposite sex, it caused a strain in her relationship with Humbert. Such occurrence caused Humbert to become more paranoid and jealous, thus causing him to restrict Lolita more. When things did not go pretty well between the two, Humbert then again bribed Lolita to another road trip, but this time, he accuses her of being unfaithful to him. Sooner, Lolita became ill and was brought to the hospital. When Humbert left for a while, he was devastated to find out that Lolita was already picked up by her Uncle. 

Humbert did not stop his quest for his search for Lolita and later on, he finds Lolita pregnant and poor at seventeen. He then finds out that the man whom he thought who kidnapped her from the hospital was the one whom she married, turned out to be Claire Quilty, a guy who picked Lolita just to be part of a child pornography orgy and later on, detested Lolita for refusing his request. Despite the fact that he is still in love with Lolita, he offered her four thousand dollars and asked her to run away. With that, Humbert was left with the task to hunt down Quilty and soon enough, he was able to track him down and shot him multiple times in his house. With Quilty dead, Humbert was arrested and put into trial for the crime he has done. The autobiographical memoir he submitted to the author at the start of the story was created when he was in prison. While he was being charged for the crime he has done, he found out sooner that Lolita died during child birth. Unfortunately, Humbert was not able to redeem himself alive for after the mishap, he died from heart failure. 

With the aforementioned plot, it can be depicted that Humbert is a man whose ego led to his downfall. In the novel, Humbert is sought to be a man who seems to have this superseding force in which he will never get satisfied without him dominating his desires, actions, fate and even people. All throughout the novel, Humbert manifested his most extreme emotions and actions not because of his physical desires but because of his urge to manipulate, win and possess. It is so stereotypical and racist for him to believe that “women are to be possessed, and men should compete for the possession of women”. At the end of the novel, it was manifested that Humbert’s hunger for power suppressed his strange characteristics and led to be the real reason for his afflictions. 

One manifestation of what has been aforementioned is the fact that he consistently emphasizes his potency in numerous implied situations through this line “I was, and still am, despite mes malheurs, an exceptionally handsome male… I could attain any adult female I chose”. 

Such line suggests the fact that he is able to become the alpha of the pack once more by seducing any woman he wants despite his very eccentric reasons for wanting them. Thus, it manifests a point of desperation to win in that kind of egotistical competition. Take for example, the fact that he married Valeria for unconventional reasons, “It occurred to me that…all the conventions of marriage…might help me, if not to purge myself of my degrading and dangerous desires, at least to keep them under pacific control. A mounting fury was suffocating me — not because I had any particular fondness for that figure of fun, Mme Humbert, but because matters of legal and illegal conjunction were for me alone to decide, and here she was, Valeria, the comedy wife, brazenly preparing to dispose in her own way of my comfort and fate. I demanded her lover’s name.” Such lines suggest that Humbert was indeed a man who was manipulative. He controls women for the sake of being able to control his own fate. If all else fails, such as the line depicted below: 

“But no matter. I had my revenge in due time” it turns him into an entirely aggressive man pinning for revenge in order to make himself completely fulfilling. 

Furthermore, the whole novel is considered to take a Psychoanalytic Approach. Humbert’s long term desire for nymphets was caused by his loss for his first love, Annabel Leigh. However, before the two young children were ever able to consummate their relationship, Annabel died. To further elaborate such, Humbert admitted that because of that loss and their inability to consummate their relationship, it prompted Humbert to subconsciously have these sexual desires for the young nymphets. 

Such incidence can be supported by Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalysis Theory. In relation to the novel, Freud says that most adult problems/issues are due to issues that happened to them when they were children. With the untimely demise of Annabel Leigh and their inability to have sex, it caused an internal conflict that Humbert had a hard time dealing with. Due to the reason that his desires to express his love for Annabel Leigh in a sexual manner was suppressed because of her death, it forever affected him. If Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory would be the basis of such, Humbert will forever be attracted to younger girls, since the object of his original desire was a young girl and he was never able to fulfill that desire. 

Moreover, the occurrences to Humbert Humbert in the novel suggests the idea of the “id”, “super ego” and “ego”. To integrate Freud’s theory to the novel, the “super ego” describes the internal desires and wants of the human being, regardless of whether they are morally right or wrong. If they are morally wrong, Freud claims the subject will try to either rationalize their desires or be in denial of them. This has been physically evident when Humbert is arrested not for that he has committed the most immoral crimes such as 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 is not 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. Next, 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'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. 

Lastly, Freud’s ego is 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). A lot of readers consider Humbert as a malicious character because of his unforgivable id. However, there were several instances in the novel that suggests that he is having inner conflicts between his id and ego. His monologues in the novel suggests that he takes pains to be a good man. One very notable part was when he tries to disguise his weird desires else the world will judge him for his madness when his cravings become known. Also, the fact that he tries his best to provide Lolita's material requirements at any price is not only because of the hopes to control Lolita but he also wishes to appear as a stepfather figure to her. 

Consequently, the novel tells how men may appear to choose to be dominant above anything else, but the truth is they also encounter inner conflicts which have rooted from experiences in the past. All the events that occurred – both in their vigor and most suppressed times – as embodied by Humbert Humbert was formed because of traumatic experiences that have affected their psychological well-being. Indeed, Nabokov’s Lolita is one that could stir the mind of the readers to see two sides of the coin and take into full understanding the context of the character being portrayed. 

16 December 2021
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