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Lolita and a Clockwork Orange

The novels under scrutiny namely Lolita and A Clockwork Orange have some binding factors. A case in point is the fact that the narration for both is from the first person point of view. However, the fact that one narrator is an Elite scholar and to be specific he is a professor while the other is a teenage boy who seems to be at the discovery stage of life (Burgess, 34) makes all the difference. Humbert (Lolita) and Alex (A Clockwork Orange) are in different phases of their lives (Silverberg, 45). While Humbert is in his middle age, Alex is in his teenage years of development. Both are in critical stages of their lives. Humbert is undergoing a midlife crisis while Alex is in the rebellious stage of life (Rabinovitz, 46). Therefore, the reader can decipher various aspects in each of the characters narration (Ljunggren, 201). For instance while the Professor is apologetic for all his actions (especially manipulation of Lolita), Alex does not show any remorse for all the crimes he has committed.


Manipulation refers to the ability to make others do what one wants. It is achieved through coercion, trickery and threats. Manipulators often pretend that they are not imposing their will on anyone rather they are doing somebody a favor. Manipulation is common at all levels of the society. Manipulators often get to have things go their way at the expense of their victims. Vladimir Nabokov in Lolita and Anthony Burgess in A Clockwork Orange have employed use of manipulation in the two novels. This has greatly contributed to the development of the novels though in different measures. The first time Humbert presents his affection at the beginning of the novel, he employs very stirring language, which is very much poetic to the reader. He talks about Lolita and how she is the light of his life and soul and even reduces the name Lolita to a pattern of syllables as quoted below. I have analyzed the outcomes of the use of manipulation and its contribution to development of the novel.

The Novel Lolita

The novel, Lolita, was first published in 1955. Humbert who is the main character narrates the story.  He is a Professor, an English and French scholar. From the onset, we learn of his obsession in young girls who he refers to as nymphets. He is a self-acclaimed paedophile (Genette, 134). He shamelessly describes the nymphets that he prefers. In fact, I would have the reader see "nine" and "fourteen" as the boundaries - the mirrory beaches.” He attributes this obsession to the loss of his childhood sweetheart Annabel Leigh. This obsession makes him fall in love with a twelve-year-old girl Dolores who is not as innocent as he assumes. Humbert fondly refers to Dolores as Lolita. His love (or is it lust?) makes him follow her and his attempts to start affairs with other women in order to forget her are fruitless (Ljunggren, 212). There are numerous turns and twists in the novel which arouse the reader’s suspense.

At first, the reader sympathizes with Dolores. One cannot help but view her as the victim of Humberts deception. This is especially true after her mother’s demise. However, the reader realizes that she is not as helpless as depicted (Silverberg, 45). She is a seductress who hides behind her innocence. This is brought to light at the inn when she seduces Humbert and ends up sleeping with him. This manipulation introduces us to the hidden persona of Lolita that initially remained mysterious. This helps the reader feel the deep emotions that Humbert has towards the girl, the love he has towards her. In this part of the novel, the reader is convinced of how Humbert is enthralled with this young girl, irrespective of their age difference (Mulready 1). Humbert also says that one is able to know of a murderer because of the prose style one has. This is an indication that he knows very well about his changing voice. He admits that he uses fancy language, which may look appealing in the eyes of the reader. The author intends to cover the disturbing information of having sexual relationship with a minor. In the story, every moment when Humbert is obsessed with Lolita or when pedophilia is mentioned, the character uses a rich and elaborate language that appeals to the reader instead of reciting facts. It is suggested that the changing voice of Humbert shows how unreliable he is to narrate the story. He can be seen as a deceiving person (Moore 1). By using the two voices, the character is able to win the sense of maturity and reality towards the end of story.

Manipulation in Lolita

Manipulation in Lolita is evident from the onset and it continues throughout the text. Charlotte manipulates Humbert to marry her by threatening to kick him out. He agrees since he does not want to move out, as he wants to be near Lolita. Unfortunately, the story takes a tragic turn as a speeding vehicle kills Charlotte. Hubert takes the opportunity to manipulate Dolores to accept his care rather than go to a foster home. Humbert is often able to mask the most unsettling moments of the memoir. For example, when Lolita places her legs on his lap and makes him aroused, he makes the reader engaged in the artistic and complex prose to read the part in a cool tone. He even describes the appearance of Lolita in detail saying that she is wearing a nice pink dress with short sleeves and she has colored her lips to match the pink dress (Mulready 1). Furthermore, Humbert urges Lolita to keep their illicit affair secret by telling her that if found and he is arrested she will become a beggar with no one to take care of her (Genette, 139).

Humbert uses manipulation to exploit Dolores sexually by making her think that he is doing her favors (Tamir-Ghez, 169). Lolita undergoes manipulation and the reader cannot help but sympathize with her at some point. Claire Quilty (a playwright) further manipulates her to star in pornographic films. Her refusal makes him to kick her out of his house. Humbert also manipulates Jean Fallow to believe that Lolita is his daughter a product of an earlier affair with Charlotte. He does this to avert any suspicions that Jean might have regarding his affair with Lolita.

Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess was first published in 1962. It is an intriguing novel based on the life of rebellious teenage boys. They call themselves the droogs. The droogs seem to derive pleasure from committing numerous social evils (Rabinovitz, 48). They are violent robbers, murderers, drug addicts and rapists. The droogs do not have any apologies for their actions. They depict the life of young rebellious people. However, just like in any gang they have several differences that lead to the breaking up of the group. The destiny of each member of the group takes a different turn but fate has a way of reuniting them again. However, this reunion is not pleasant at all. In essence, Burgess tries to bring to light the question of what is better between chosen evil and forced righteousness (Rabinovitz, 49). Should those in authority manipulate human beings or should each person choose their own destiny? Incidences of manipulation are clearly illustrated in the novel.

The novel A Clockwork Orange depicts modern day issues of rowdy youth. The youth are so rebellious that they do not listen to advice given to them. However, the young people are unable to cope with the consequences of their actions. When they have completed messed up their lives they view suicide as the last option to solve their problems. The lives of the young people are characteristic of having a do not care attitude. The story is like a confession of the main character. The fact that the narrator passed away while in jail may make the reader think that Humbert is confessing for a crime done. It is not mentioned in the story why and how the narrator was put in jail. The novel only talks of Humbert as a pedophile, even though the reader is able to note later in the novel that Humbert was tried for murder. The confession was concerned with the love affair between Lolita and the narrator. The title of the novel also suggests that apart from the narrator, there is another character in the story. The novel is written in the form of Humbert’s confession, through which the reader learns about Lolita and her life. The writer also uses double words and names of characters, like Humbert Humbert.

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Alex is the protagonist and narrator in the novel. At fifteen years old, his life is meaningless and his disillusionment is quite evident (Rabinovitz, 44). As the leader of the droogs, Alex seems to have immense control over them. They are always at his disposal. However, his manipulation over them is short-lived as self-awareness dawns on them and they become rebellious. He is the gang’s leader by design and nobody can question him (Genette, 146). Alex has the power to punish and this is evident as he inflicts punishment on Dim for behaving crudely. Alex slashes Dims hand and fights George when they demanded for equal chances of leadership in the group. Alex is obviously a dictator who does not like being questioned.  This seems to strain the relationship between them. George and Dim harness a plan to get Alex arrested in order to teach him a lesson.

Alex faces imprisonment for the murder of an old woman he had killed during a robbery incidence. To garner his release he is manipulated to undergo an experiment labeled the Ludivico Technique. Dr. Bronam and Dr. Brodsky developed the Ludivico technique. Alex receives an injection aimed to repulse him from engaging in violent activities. Ludivico technique aim is to make rebellious individuals behave in a socially accepted manner. The results of the experiment are fulfilling to the initiators and thus Alex gets back his freedom (Genette, 149). The minister of interior is ecstatic about the results without caring about the side effects it might have on the victims. The reader is warned of the persuasive character of Humbert. The character confirms this when he starts with a plea to the reader. He has what the writer calls unrepentant lust for girls and the language of a gentleman ready to narrate a story (Nabokov ch1). Humbert mentions that Lolita was not the first girl he had met in life and talks of a certain girl whom he named “exhibit number 1.” He gives a list of names he uses to call his love, which are, for example, Lo, Dolly, Dolores, and Lolita. This emphasis on the language keeps Nabokov’s novel apart as compared with other novels written during that time. He uses certain elements of words like word games, patterns, and puns. The reader is actually absorbed by the beauty of the words and in the game, hence, follows the narrative. The involvement happens, though the reader seems to be repulsed by pedophilia. Humbert uses elegant language, which seems very persuasive, but does not earn sympathy from the readers and, therefore, acts monstrously. This is because the treatment will be used to control more people thus reducing crime rates.

Manipulation in Clockwork Orange

F. Alexander and his associates Dolin, Rubinstein and D.B da Silva manipulate Alex. They aim at using Alex to achieve their political ambitions (Rabinovitz, 49). The four hatch a plan to make Alex commit suicide. Humbert tries to link his love for nymphets with practices of figures in faraway cultures. The nymphet is a symbol of lost youth and pure love that is not attainable for men even with her romantic qualities. Humbert continues to have many prostitutes, though he wonders what happens to nymphets when they become women. He later decides to settle with marriage and marries Valeria, a doctor’s daughter (Nabokov ch8). This is because Alexander wants the government blamed for making Alex undergo Ludivico technique. However, Alex attempts to commit suicide but he survives. Once again, the state manipulates Alex to clear them from any foul play. In exchange, he is restored back to his old self.

Alex and his gang manipulate girls and women through rape. This is because the rape victims are at their mercy.  They do not show any remorse for this wicked act. Examples of women who succumbed to this inhuman act include Marty, Sonnieta and Alexander’s late wife who died from the rape ordeal.

Development of a good novel entails the growth of characters in all aspects (Foucault, 264). This is actually the characteristic that distinguishes a novel from a short story. In this case, the novel Lolita by Vladimir demonstrates how manipulation aids in development of the novel. For instance, at the onset of the novel we see an incidence of manipulation by Charlotte to Humbert. This is when she threatens to evict him from her rental house unless he marries her. Humbert succumbs to her desire (Field, 247). He marries her in order to be near Dolores (Lolita). This incidence of manipulation leads to development of the novel. If he had refused to accept her proposal, he would have left her house and we would not get a chance to see him get entangled in a messy affair with Dolores.

The fact that Lolita is able to ask for gifts from Humbert in exchange with sexual favors depicts her growth (Ljunggren, 206). She is increasingly becoming aware of the fact that she knows Humberts greatest weakness. She uses this knowledge to her advantage. As the novel progresses, one cannot help but notice that she is no longer the naïve girl who was Humberts victim. Humbert in a way has forced her to grow up before her time and he must bear the consequences (Tamir-Ghez, 172).

Dolores is able to keep her affair with Humbert a secret for a very long time. As a victim of his manipulation, she has numerous chances to report him to other close adults like her teachers. However, she goes ahead to entertain him. This insinuates that she had to endure his manipulation in order for the novel to develop. Furthermore, the fact that Lolita gives in to his demands is shocking. She seems to have a strategy aimed at keeping him closer to her. She is vulnerable and feels insecure as Humbert continuously reminds her that if their illicit affair is discovered she will be all alone.

The presence of symbolism in literature is very crucial. Portrayal of symbolism in the novel is brought to light because of manipulation. For example, Lolita depicts the girl child who suffers in silence as a victim of peadophiles. This issue of paedophiles is quite phenomenal currently. She is meek and easy to manipulate. As for Humbert, his depiction is that of an educated man who manipulates the very child he is supposed to protect. He is viewed as an educated man, but his education does not benefit him. His reasoning ability when it comes to self-control is utterly poor. Humbert is a symbol of child molesters in society. By highlighting this issue, Nabokov fulfils one of the objectives of the author, which is to educate the readers on societal issues (Foucault, 268).

Focus for Lolita has been both on the male and female aspect as pertains to manipulation. Nabokov has been able to look at the issue of manipulation from the point of view of both genders (Tamir-Ghez, 174). However, the story is narrated by a male narrator and is not free of bias. Humbert makes himself appear as the victim of circumstance rather than the monster he really is. Humbert in a way begs for the reader’s empathy and understanding.

In most cases, Humbert is largely portrayed as the manipulator in the novel. However, Lolita is also a manipulative girl who is not as innocent as the reader might think (Greetham, 101). Her innocence is taken away from her at a young age. This results from her fantasy life that she tries to emulate at any given chance. She lives in a world of her own as envisioned in the magazines she loves to read. Therefore, it is not surprising that she makes no effort to get away from Humbert’s grasp.

As the novel progresses, Lolita growth is evident. She settles down in marriage and starts her family. As for Humbert, his lust is greater than before. He tries locating Lolita (she had eloped and gotten married to another man). By luck Humbert is able to locate her and his animosity aroused when he learns that she had eloped with Quilty. Humbert searches for Quilty and kills him in cold blood. He claims that Quilty had taken something very precious from him. Humbert grieves when he learns that Lolita had moved on with her life. That is why he takes out his frustration on Quilty. Humbert is later arrested and charged with overdriving.

In the novel Lolita’s manipulation has brought out several themes and issues (Foucault, 271). For instance, the theme of obsession is evident. Humberts manipulative tendencies towards Lolita ultimately turn into obsession.  This leads to further development of the novel. This is because as Humbert and Lolita are entangled in their illicit affair, several turns and twists emerge. A case in point is Quilty’s murder by Humbert. Humbert manipulated Lolita by giving her money to reveal her abductor (Appel, 152). He knew that she desperately needed the money and would have no choice but give him the information he needed.


Another theme as brought out by manipulation is that of rivalry. This is evident between charlotte and her daughter Dolores. Charlotte is agitated when she discovers that Humbert has a liking for her daughter. She hatches a ploy to send Lolita to boarding school in order to keep Humbert to herself (Field, 247). Charlotte imposes her will on her daughter by sending her to boarding school without her consent.

The development of Lolita greatly depends on manipulation. For instance, as a manipulator Humbers ego is massaged to some extent. However, feelings of guilt engulf him after manipulating Lolita. Humberts past with Annabel is something he cannot forget much as he tries to forget. Being in a relationship with Lolita is a constant reminder that he is a peodophile. This realization keeps haunting him and he almost becomes psycho. As a scholar and professor, it is so unbecoming of Humbert to lose control of his emotions.

The development of Lolita as a character is shown by the fact that through all this manipulation Lolita finally matures. Her marriage to Richard Schiller is a stepping-stone to her new life. As a wife and a mother to be, she becomes responsible. Even when Humbert urges her to neglect her husband and get back with her, she dismisses him. This shows that she has come of age. She is no longer the scared little girl who was afraid of being alone. She is now an assertive woman capable of making her own decisions and sticking by them (Field, 245).

The rejection by Lolita has Humbert almost lose his mind. He is in denial and cannot fathom how she could ever live without him. Humbert is distraught now that his manipulations no longer work with Lolita (Appel, 160). She is now in control and this seems to scare him. The novel has a tragic end as Lolita dies while giving birth to her first-born while Humbert dies from candiasis thrombosis. As a reader, one cannot help but sympathize with the two characters. Their end is tragic. They undergo numerous tribulations.

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