It´s All Relative: Time and Space in Nabokov´s Lolita
This essay offers a deconstructive approach to Nabokov´s Lolita. Critics have tended to treat space and time as distinct concepts in the novel: choosing to analyse the role of either one or the other, and even when considering both, examining them in isolation. It´s narrator, Humbert Humbert, however, implies that "time" and "spatial" terms are interchangeable in a way reminiscent of Einstein´s Theory of Relativity in which space-time is a continuum that is experienced relative to the individual observer´s own position in the universe. This essay therefore explores the possibility that Nabokov may have used Einstein´s concept of space-time relativity as a metaphor in Lolita.
The essay looks first at the various ways in which the idea of relativity surfaces throughout the novel not just in relation to space and time, but also in its moral, cultural and historic forms. The roles of the Hour Glass Lake, Lolita´s sunglasses and Humbert´s car, three of the novel´s chief symbols, are then discussed in relation to its key elements: the notion of time dilation, the place of the observer and Humbert´s space-time bubble. It next concentrates on how the characters in the novel exemplify the roles of both observer and observed in a modern, self-centred and morally relativistic world. The final section argues that Humbert’s "madness" represents the most extreme consequence of his living in his own solipsistic bubble of space-time, or "dream vacuum" as he calls it.
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