Why Is Lolita Banned

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Jana Pretorius 300253266 Reading Report 3 Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is often tested for its literary and moral value, raising questions of censorship. Previously, Lolita was banned in a number of countries due its questionable content. The sympathetic portrayal of a paedophile saw Lolita being shown as the seductress and Humbert as the victim, an uncomfortable representation for many readers. Michelle Baker’s paper titled From The Butcher Shop to The Peaceful Pill: A history of book censorship in New Zealand discusses the fact that Lolita was banned by New Zealand Customs “on the grounds that the book ‘placed undue emphasis on matters of sex’” (6). This censorship has since been denounced by the Indecent Publications Tribunal (IPT), though…show more content…
The official decision by the IPT to reclassify Lolita as “not indecent” discusses the likelihood of any person to be corrupted while reading this book. The Chairman of the tribunal, A.P. Blair, takes the view “that some minors and indeed some adults would be likely to be corrupted by the book” (5). The novel contains content that is perverse and with young people being “at an age of experiment, an age of indiscretion and an age of increasing sexual impulse”, this perversion can be wholly corrupting (Blair 5). Blair notes that Humbert is a “criminal by legal standards and an evil man by moral standards” but also notes that he is “represented as a pitiable, remorseful creature” (2). Indeed, we find ourselves empathising with Humbert and it is in part due to his narration of the novel that we feel this way. Humbert’s eloquent manner in which he narrates Lolita affects the way we receive and respond to the text. It is in this way that the censorship of the novel can be justified. Arguably, even the availability of this…show more content…
Sarah Herbold in her article "(I have camouflaged everything, my love)": Lolita and the Woman Reader suggests that the novel advocates for less oppressive distinctions between men and women. The article explains that critics such as Blum and Kennedy often view Lolita as pornographic and degenerative of women; however Herbold suggests that this argument falls short as Nabokov actually portrays women as sophisticated and powerful. Lolita is often wrongly viewed as “a naïve pre-teen who only engages in sex with Humbert under duress or the spell of pubescent illusion about romance” (Herbold 80). Though Herbold subverts this notion by suggesting that Lolita is “not only a sexy creature but also as sophisticated and wily as Humbert, and perhaps more so” (Herbold 80). In fact, Nabokov himself notes the difference between pornography and sex in his afterword, describing pornography as banal. It follows strict riles of narration so that patient can have the same “security of satisfaction” every time (Nabokov 356). The sex in Lolita is different however, following a “crescendo line” and engaging us with the text (Nabokov

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