This article presents a Lacanian reading of Lolita, a novel in which desire and cruelty occupy a key role. Humbert's perversion is not so much pedophilia as narcissism: he seeks not to obtain love objects proper but docile providers of sexual gratification. Being incapable of loving anybody but himself, not even Lolita at first, he cannot be loved by anyone either. His acts of cruelty against Lolita as he tries to keep her for his sexual needs and to fan his waning desire work havoc upon him. When he meets her again after their separation, he discovers that what he desires most from her is not sex but love. As a narrator, he does his utmost to transmute his sexual desire into an aesthetic one in an attempt to gain our understanding as well as Lolita's forgiveness beyond the grave.


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pp. 19-46
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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