I think the most misinterpreted character in literature is Lolita.
The story was told from the perspective of Humbert Humbert, a pedophile rapist, an abuser, a sexual predator. Of course in his mind, it was Lolita who seduced him with all her short shorts and dancing around in the house. It was Lolita who manipulated him into having sex and used him to get money and gifts. It is Lolita, being so coldhearted and so ungrateful, who had left him for someone else and have the audacity to ask for money 3 years later. Humbert Humbert was an innocent victim, a hopeless romantic who was consumed by the fire of his desire.
I suggest that his lust was fueled by the love of power, and the pleasure of abusing someone weaker than himself. Protestations of ‘love’ being an obvious nonsense, as his actions only illustrate contempt of the girl, a hatred of the weak and vulnerable, using them for the pleasure of the strong and powerful.
God despises such things: men, who are made in His image, are not to blaspheme His name by doing such wickedness.
Humbert Humbert is a pathetic unreliable narrator. And very few people seem to understand that when reading the story or watching the movie.
I never liked the story or the movie. Even before I learned about the concept of the unreliable narrator, something had always seemed off.
But the horror of Lolita didn’t fully set in with me until I read another book: 房思琪的初恋乐园 (or The First Love Paradise of Fang Siqi). It’s a Lolita story, told from the perspective of “Lolita”. And it is one of the most difficult reads in my recent memory. It’s difficult not because the language is hard or the structure is confusing. It’s difficult because the narrative was painful to the point of unbearable. The story was based on the author’s own personal experience being molested for years by her middle-aged tutor. This is what actually happens to children when they’re being sexually abused for years. It’s difficult because as I read it, I knew it happened. I knew I’m reading someone’s story written with their tears and blood.
She wrote about the first time they had sex, and she said: “He’s the one who pushed in, and I’m the one who apologized”. “I couldn’t even see his face, I was too short. All I could see was his nipples”. As a visual reader, I couldn’t help but visualize the scene in my head: lying in bed, looking up, seeing a pair of middle-aged saggy nipples moving back and forth. And you realized that’s the scene the author must have experienced herself. It’s horrifying to imagine how tiny she must be compared to her abuser.
The story was beautifully written. The language is a bit flashy, in a way that high school kids often enjoy using big words and cite profound quotes. And it’s intentional. The protagonist specifically adopted this flamboyant writing style because the subject matter is so ugly and disgusting. She had to make it look pretty or she just couldn’t bear it.
Our Chinese “Lolita” had gone through something very similar to the western Lolita. The sexual abuse started around the same age, Fang was 13 while Lolita was 14. Except Lolita had escaped Humbert Humbert after a few months, while Fang had endured for years. We saw the psychological damage it caused to the girl, her shame, her guilt, her self-loath, and her desperate struggle against the abuse by pretending that she really indeed loved her abuser. because that’s the only way she could go on living. She had to believe that this is love. All the suffering and pain would then mean something.
I was heartbroken when I read that part, how she had created her own reality, the love she had for her tutor. She even introduced her tutor to her friends as her boyfriend.
Sounds familiar? How Lolita actually seemingly wanted to have a “relationship” with Humbert Humbert, and how she actually “initiated” sex.
All the romance and love and desire, all of it… are disgusting sexual abuse of a defenseless child who had just lost her mother.
There’s nothing romantic or beautiful about it. Lolita was a child. She was a victim of sexual abuse, and yet for decades, she was presented as a sex symbol.
I wish Fang Siqi’s story could be translated into English. A Lolita’s story told from Lolita’s perspective. And people might start to see how ugly and disgusting Humbert Humbert was and how Lolita’s life was a tragedy not because she left Humbert Humbert, but because Humbert Humbert entered her life in the first place and destroyed her.
The author of the book, Lin Yi Han, had battled depression for years. She and her family had fought to bring her abuser to justice, but couldn’t. (Specifically, because Lin had no way to prove sexual conduct before she reached legal age, and she had introduced her tutor as her boyfriend, which make things from “statutory rape” to “he said/she said”).
Eventually, Lin took her own life. Her abuser Chen Guo Xing was still teaching children.
Suicide as a Deceptive Escape Hatch
Suicide is no escape from pain, physical or psychic. But it is a declaration of rebellion, that you have the right to end your own life, even if God wants you to live.
God had better things planned for you, Lin. Your life belonged to Him, and you were supposed to represent God as you lived with the pain.
(As God sides with the victims, and stands against the aggressors, the thieves, the rapists, the murderers, the liars.)
Your family loved you Lin, and they also wanted you to live.
Nothing more can be done for Lin. But it’s quite likely that some of my readers are going through serious pain, right now.
(Or will in the future.)
You need to learn the lesson.
Don’t curse God and die. Fight with God, not against Him, and live.
And let the damned enemy of Christ die and burn, all on his own.