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Lolita, part 2, chapters 4-11 
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Post Lolita, part 2, chapters 4-11
Lolita, part 2, chapters 4-11


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Ophelia.


Tue Oct 07, 2008 12:31 pm
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Humbert meets with Miss Pratt in these chapter to discuss Dolly's progress at school. Miss Pratt is worried that Dolly does not have the 'normal' sexual curiosity in boys and thinks that Humbert is an overprotective father. I guess he is only in a different manner and for different reasons than she assumes. He has to control Dolly in fear of losing her, he has to own her.
During this year at school Humbert and Dolly lead a semblance of a normal life, Dolly attending school, Humbert carefully making sure she doesn't get into trouble. Miss Pratt and others sensed some problems with Dolly, but could not imagine how enormous the problem was.
One of the most appalling behaviors comes right at the end of Chapter 11 after Humbert has spoken with Miss Pratt and agreed to let Dolly participate in the play and he goes to tell Dolly where she is in a classroom with another student.
Quote:
I sat beside Dolly just behind that neck [school mate reading with 'very naked, porcelin-white neck'] and that hair, and unbuttoned my overcoat and for sixty-five cents plus the permission to participate in the school play, had Dolly put her inky, chalky, red-knuckled hand under the desk.


I can't imagine what Dolly's warped opinion of men must be at this point.



Fri Nov 14, 2008 12:35 pm
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Realiz quoted:

Quote:
I sat beside Dolly just behind that neck [school mate reading with 'very naked, porcelin-white neck'] and that hair, and unbuttoned my overcoat and for sixty-five cents plus the permission to participate in the school play, had Dolly put her inky, chalky, red-knuckled hand under the desk.


I think I had missed that quote in the book, you did well to mention it.

It's once of those instances when the narrator shows us how low he can sink, here engaging in sexual activities in places that should be protected , like schools, and when surrounded by by Dolly's classmates.

Quote:
for sixty-five cents plus the permission to participate in the school play
.
This reminds us of the fact that Lolita bargains for her sexual favours. It shows she is quick to adapt, and it also shows that life with Humbert teaches her another sort of depravity, because she needs to survive.

I wondered about "sixty five cents"-- it's one of those realistic details that in one or two words suggests what their life is like. Is this figure a compromise, the result of bargaining? (she asked for a dollar, he offered 50 cents, they settled for 65?)


I remember a TV interview of a man who was part of an action against pedophile priests in Ireland. He said that while he was a pupil in a Catholic boarding school a priest abused him, and that the relationship continued for a while. What had particularly struck me is that he said that one of the worst aspects of this for him to remember was how quickly he learnt to take advantage of the situation and obtain favours from the priest--I think he said that was the real loss of innocence for him.


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Sat Nov 15, 2008 2:09 pm
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Chapter 11: "Parent " conference with Miss Pratt.

To me this is one of the most striking moments in the book.

I remembered it as surrealistic madness, and now that I've re-read it, it's an explosive mixture of sensible parts and things you would never hear from an Educator.
I wondered why Nabokov had made Miss Pratt say such crazy things, and after a little thinking and googling I have some suggestions.

First, the crazy elements:

Quote:
Well, we all wonder if anybody in the family has instructed Dolly in the process of mammalian reproduction. The general is that fifteen-year-old Dolly remains morbidly uninterested in sexual matters (...)
You see, Mr Haze, Beardley School does not believe in bees and blossoms, and storks and love birds, but it does believe strongly in preparing its students for mutually satisfactory mating...


Of all the things teachers can complain about when referring to their students, too little interest in the opposite sex as a reason to worry is a first (and I can't say we're in the business of worrying about "too much" either).

Now, I think that, among all those scenes of degradation and Humbert sinking ever lower, the author wanted to include one more grotesque thing, in the form of his being (almost) told to see to it that Lolita got sex education.
Then, from the point of view of the plot, the writer needed the interview to be a shock for Humbert, so that he would agree to Lolita's taking a part in the school play, which was necessary for her to meet Clare Quilty.

There are a few other gems in this chapter:

Quote:
"What on earth I wrong with that child?"
(disaster coming at last? was I found out? had they got some hypnotist?) (...)
"And if things do not improve, we might have Dr Cutler analyze her."


So here, with hypnosis and psychoanalysis, things become terrifying for Humbert (and by the way, we get one more jibe from Nabokov at psychoanalysis).

When not talking nonsense, Miss Pratt actually gives us some very worthwhile information about Lolita. This is the only time, I think, when Lolita is not described from Humbert's point of view. Actually, for once, it's about her, instead of being about him.


Quote:
When we questioned her about her troubles, Dolly refused to discuss the home situation (...) Both teachers and schoolmates find Dolly antagonistic, dissatisfied, cagey.


Next, here is an extract from an article which mentions Miss Pratt and her methods:

[quote]The Myth of Science and Female Sexuality

An alternative to Humbert's interpretation of Lolita as a fallen woman is offered by a pseudo-scientific perspective of female sexuality, expressed in [End Page 96] several places in the novel. While purely scientific understandings of the sexuality of the modern woman are consciously parodied by Humbert and Nabokov, it is the reductionist science of John Ray, Jr. and, later, Miss Pratt, that is ridiculed, not the scientific study of female sexuality per se. Nabokov's affinities with Alfred Kinsey, who published the most disturbing scientific expose of female sexuality of his time, just as Nabokov published the most disturbing literary study of female sexuality of that decade, have been duly noted in recent criticism.9 That Nabokov was aware of the type of studies Kinsey conducted, if not the studies themselves, is made clear by his parodic references to scientific statistics about American sexuality: Humbert's wry citations of sexology statistics evoke the kind of statistical analysis typical of contemporary scientific studies of female sexuality. John Ray, Jr., PhD (the fictional academic who introduces the novel) invokes science and sexology less ironically. At one point, for example, Ray suggests that Humbert, had he sought appropriate psychiatric help, could have averted his fate. Ray even cites statistics about percentages of the population subject to Humbert's disorder, noting that "at least 12% of American adult males


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Quote:
wondered about "sixty five cents"-- it's one of those realistic details that in one or two words suggests what their life is like. Is this figure a compromise, the result of bargaining? (she asked for a dollar, he offered 50 cents, they settled for 65?)


I think you are right here and this point is mentioned earlier in the book, or at some other point, I can't remember where, when Humbert worries about her having enough money to run away.

I is so true about how quickly kids can adapt to even the most horrifying situations and figure out how to survive and even make the best of it.



Mon Nov 17, 2008 12:06 pm
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