The immorality of Lolita

Do you ever wish you could read people’s mind? I do, multiple times. Isn’t it all so exciting to know what secrets are harboured in another person’s head, especially a very handsome, artistic, literary genius. I’d surely want to read that guys mind. But the truth is being in anyone’s mind is a horrible place to be, even if it is your own. And if that handsome, genius, adorably shy guy is a paedophile, we have no idea what’s in store for us. That’s exactly what reading Lolita is like.

Lolita is not a love story. It’s not a lust story, it’s not Fifty Shades of Grey. Lolita is a story about a guy called Humbert Humbert, who is a paedophile. He cannot contain his sexual attraction and obsession with girls aged between 9-13 (who he calls nymphets). And when he coincidentally meets Lolita, all hell breaks loose. Reading this book is like being in H. H.’s head, it all seems so beautiful but when you look a little closer you can see how dark, twisted, sickening and repulsive that place is. One thing we know from the start is that H. H. is not a reliable narrator. We have no idea what is true, and what is a lie. We don’t know how exactly Lolita was, all we can see are the fragments of his reality which he has created in his head and what he calls seduction is actually horrific abuse, gas-lighting, manipulation, isolation, and what not.

I have never read anything that has left me so conflicted. You either like a book or you don’t, it is that simple. But that is not the case with Lolita. When everything is written in a beautiful prose even when it is all so sickening how do you take it? Do you applaud the person for being so deep and complex, that posses this rare talent to make a despicable reality so poetic? Or do you simply hate and incriminate the person? How do you remove the art from the artist and look at it without any filters? We all experienced that when #metoo movement was in full swing, and this was the base of the conflict, getting rid of the art from the artist and making that person accountable for their actions towards another human being. All my life I read about Lolita in our pop culture as something- Oh! so scandalous, controversial, it’s basically porn. Lolita, a 13 year old girl, became this vile, sinister, wasted girl who has an affair with her step-father. She suddenly emerged as this sex symbol, who had to be kept hidden from children, adults, everyone, and the book has been banned multiple times. Even though the book is clearly about a paedophile confessing his crimes, the victim is sexually glorified and romanticised, what does that say about our society? I’ll leave you to think about that.

The author of this book Vladimir Nabokov wanted to create a reality and show the world how easy it is for an abuser to find his victims. And that is his literary genius, to leave the reader with several conflicting emotions at a time. It amazes me that Nabakov being a Russian wrote one of the best English literature, he wrote in English the way even English authors don’t. No doubt this book is a classic, it transcends every rule in the history of literature and creates a masterpiece that will be read, maybe sometimes misunderstood, but will never be forgotten.

To conclude with Oscar Wilde’s famous quote-

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

And, Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov is an excellent example of an immensely well-written book that, unfortunately, has mostly been entitled as an immoral one.

If Shakespeare had a sister

If you go back around the time of Elizabeth you’ll realise every other man was very much capable of writing brilliant sonnets and songs. It took several decades for a woman (Aphra Behn) in English literature to come forward and start earning professionally from her writing (it was her only means of survival because all men in her family were dead). If you read about history of women you will hardly find anything till 18th century, excluding the royalties. Only historic mentions about middle class women are that that she should be tamed, protected, can be beaten by her father or husband if she is hostile, and should follow millions of rules to be an ideal woman. Isn’t it ironic that she is of the highest importance in fiction, but practically she was completely insignificant until last few centuries! She is the prose, dominates kings and their lives, some of the most poetic and inspiring words are written for her in the oldest of our litreature, but in real life she is absent from the history, she was slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring on her, and she could hardly read, was a property of her husband.

I find it a little absurd, that how were there no women capable of writing poems back then? What if, hypothetically Shakespeare had a sister, equally talented, equally creative and equally genius, could she have been the next Shakespeare? Lets see- On one hand Shakespeare was given the best of education, logic, grammar, litreature, languages, history, sent to the best of schools. He travelled places, explored his passion, joined a theatre where he held horses at the stage door and very soon got to work in the theatre, became a successful actor and writer. He had the time of his life, he met everyone, knew everyone, could go on streets or could go to the queen. On the other hand, his extraordinarily gifted sister stayed at home. She wasn’t allowed to go to school, there was no one who would give her the best of education, she cannot possibly go out without a male company. Even if she tried writing she was told to focus her attention on cooking or stitching. And even she wrote something she had to hide it or may be burn it because if they were found it will be nothing less than wreaking havoc. And as soon as she came of age she would’ve got married. But lets assume she was rebellious, and knew she could make something of herself in theatre. She had to run away to join theatre and nobody let her in, women were not supposed to be actors back then. Men laughed on her face, rejected, used, abused and ridiculed her. She had nowhere to go, no means to earn, nothing to live for. Her life would end as every Shakespeare tragedy does.

Women cannot write the plays of Shakespeare, they say. And I think that’s very much true. No women could possibly write like Shakespeare at the time of Shakespeare. To write something so masterfully, women need that specific state of mind and opportunity, financial independence, that most men already had and the worst men had to face was indifference. It was not the same for women, with time they get bitter not because of the indifference but with the hostility they were constantly surrounded by, even their mind was not free to think for themselves. So when they wrote you could see the bitterness. Even though men could write things about women like incapable, inferior, weaker, dumb, shameless etc. if women wrote things about the other sex which are true but not complementary they were (and are still) called the arrant feminists. Society always did put more emphasis on which book has more importance, the book on war and politics is more significant than a book about woman refusing to marry.

Virginia Woolf’s essay “A room of one’s own” proves her thesis that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction (or any art really)”. The freedom to think intellectually comes from financial independence, it gives you liberty to call a spade a spade, it gives one the power to contemplate and a room to lock outside world gives you the power to think of oneself. If there’s anything I’ve read that best explains the situation of women through out the history it is this essay. Virginia Woolf wonders throughout her essay why there were more books written by men than women, she wonders how her female counterparts would have written differently if they had their own writing desk, and equal opportunities to go in to the world by themselves, she created a fictional character- Shakespeare’s sister to show us what women had to deal with back then. And there by she has created a beautiful and vital piece of art that would help everyone to understand what feminism really is and why we need it.

Few things in the essay that made my mouth drop are how women were not allowed to inherit any wealth, their income was solely the property of their husband. They were not allowed to walk on turf but only on gravel. There’s even an incident where the author herself is not allowed in the library without a male companion or a letter from the superiors (obviously men). Can you believe the audacity to tell one of the most prolific writer of our age that she’s not allowed in the library because of her gender? I cannot!

Although it’s been a century since this essay was written, several laws have been passed, lot of work has been going on towards betterment of women in our society, we are still not there yet. We’ll get there sooner or later. And till then Virginia Woolf advices women to stop giving excuses. She tells us that now is a different time, women are very much capable of carving their own path, earning their own money. The excuse of lack of opportunity, training, encouragement, leisure, and money no longer holds good.

And may be then when Shakespeare’s sister is born again, and she will find it possible to live and write her poetry again. But she would come only if we work for her, in poverty and obscurity, it will all be worthwhile.

And to conclude this post with Virginia Woolf’s piercing wisdom:

Anything may happen when womanhood has ceased to be a protected occupation.

The Obscurity of Ophelia

Ophelia is one of the prominent characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. She was in love with Hamlet who was heir to the throne of Denmark, and in certain situations Hamlet reciprocated. Nonetheless, Ophelia’s father and brother warned her to stay away of Hamlet in order to guard her childlike innocence. Eventually, Hamlet takes Ophelia’s virginity and kills her father, leading her to take her own life despite the fact her family claims she “fell off of a willow branch”. Her death is considered one of the most poetic in play history as even though the entirety of her life was dictated by the men around her, her own suicide was her one chance to have a say in her own life, even though it meant ending it.

Some critics say that Ophelia was a innocent girl, taken advantage of by those around her, but fail to take into account situations in the play where she displayed cleverness and wits. On the other hand, some consider her a conniving harlot, only taking into account her cleverness but neglecting the many times she was naive and innocent. In either interpretation, the audience is dictating who Ophelia is to them, just as the men in the play did.

In the end, Ophelia will forever remain one of the most tragic and neutral character of plays, doomed to never find love and forever controlled by others, an amazing symbolization of femininity.

The song Ophelia by The Lumineers states very well “Heaven help a fool who falls in love”.

A children’s book written for adults

The first time I read ‘The little prince’ was when I was a teenager and I loved it how much it resonated with me. Of course, I hated each and evey adult at that time and of course I never thought I would turn out to be that exact adult I feared the most.

I recently re-read this book and it dawned on me that I’ve became the accurate representation of a dull adult, stuck in a rut, running on a hamster wheel, who can’t see anything beyond numbers and anything ahead of results. And if you see that’s what our lives revolve around right now- numbers. The number on our paycheck, number on our weighing machine, number of friends we have, the number of our age that decides when we should do certain things, number of things we possess, number of likes, followers, etc., you get the gist of it.

This book gave me the much needed introspection to make some very crucial changes in my life, the curiousity, the wonder, and the open mindedness my inner-child still craves. 

Some books are not meant to be judged and this is one of the finest example. It’s one of the easiest read and most profound book that you’ll cherish all your life.