Wednesday, 17 May 2017

A theory about Quilty and Lo

On the internet, I’ve come across a (crazy?) theory about Lolita: Quilty is Lo’s biological father. 
Exhibit number 1 is this conversation, after Charlotte’s death: 
“That day John had to see a customer, and Jean had to feed her dogs, and so I was to be deprived temporarily of my friends’ company. The dear people were afraid I might commit suicide if left alone […] In a moment of superb inspiration I showed the kind and credulous Farlows (we were waiting for Leslie to come for his paid tryst with Louise) a little photograph of Charlotte I had found among her affairs. From a boulder she smiled through blown hair. It had been taken in April 1934, a memorable spring. While on a business visit to the States, I had had occasion to spend several months in Pisky. We met — and had a mad love affair. I was married, alas, and she was engaged to Haze, but after I returned to Europe, we corresponded through a friend, now dead. Jean whispered she had heard some rumors and looked at the snapshot, and, still looking, handed it to John, and John removed his pipe and looked at lovely and fast Charlotte Becker, and handed it back to me. Then they left for a few hours. Happy Louise was gurgling and scolding her swain in the basement.” 
Jean later says to her husband “John, she is his child, not Harold Haze’s. Don’t you understand? Humbert is Dolly’s real father.” 
The key point is that Jean has heard some rumours.
Exhibit number 2 is this line, when Humbert Humbert is pursuing Quilty and Lo: 
“The gruesome “Harold Haze, Tombstone, Arizona” (which at another time would have appealed to my sense of humor) implied a familiarity with the girl’s past that in nightmare fashion suggested for a moment that my quarry was an old friend of the family, maybe an old flame of Charlotte’s, maybe a redresser of wrongs (“Donald Quix, Sierra, Nev.”).” 
You can argue that in desperation, the man starts to imagine things, but what if he has a point? 
Exhibit number 3 is the resemblance: 
“And as I looked at his oval nut-brown face, it dawned upon me that what I had recognized him by was the reflection of my daughter’s countenance—the same beatitude and grimace but made hideous by his maleness.” 
Somebody has tried to refute it, saying that Lo and Quilty don’t look the same, they only have the same facial expression. I’m not so sure. 
Exhibition number 4 is that Quilty has a play called Fatherly Love. All of his other plays have a meaning or some kind of significance: The Little Nymph evokes the concept of nymphets—Lo is, in Humbert Humbert’s eyes, a nymphet and Quilty is also a paedophile; The Lady Who Loved Lightning is alluded to later in the book when Lo says “I am not a lady and do not like lightning”; Dark Age makes me think of his evil; The Strange Mushroom is a euphemism for penis, as explained in the notes (Nabokov himself said “Somewhere, in a collection of “cases”, I found a little girl who referred to her uncle’s organ as “his mushroom”.”); The Enchanted Hunters is named after the hotel, etc. so it’s hard to believe Fatherly Love is an exception. 
If it’s true though, that Nabokov intends Quilty to be Lo’s biological father, that would make him a lot worse than he already is.

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