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:
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:
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
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