Childhood is a time of freedom, excitement, new sensations, and joy. The sensations of childhood are experiences everyone on the planet goes through, and naturally some people find themselves wishfully reminiscing on these feelings. Such sensations are examined in depth in Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita. The provided passage poignantly addresses this issue. While on its surface it appears to be merely a mellifluously worded memoir, it is actually a cleverly disguised commentary on the desire for the childhood experience. Though this is not immediately obvious, close examination of the diction of the passage reveals the central message. Nabokov includes words that accomplish several things, including evoking the magical, beautiful nature of childhood, making emotional sensations such as desire more tangible, and implying the finality of events past. Ultimately, Nabokov shows that although the sensations of childhood might be desirable, they are trapped inaccessibly in the past, no matter what one’s feelings might be.
The first thing Nabokov sets out to do is establish the fantastical, magical, exciting, wonderful nature of childhood. He achieves this most notably through his careful word choice. The passage is sprinkled with words that call to mind innocence, magic, and excitement. Some words and sections, such as “nervous,” “low stone wall,” “tender,” “slender,” and “playing cards,” serve merely to establish a tone of a childish nature. “Nervous” calls to mind the tentative, curious nature of a child, while “tender,” and “slender,” both describe certain aspects of childhood that are relatively omnipresent throughout society. “Low stone wall,” and “playing cards,” each serve as examples of those things which children might enjoy. This idea of childhood is evolved further through the use of such words as “magic,” “glitter,” “fateful,” “complex,” “boundless,” “arabesques,” and “colored inks.” These words imply the fantastic, beautiful, and wondrous world a child experiences. The combination of these two related categories serves to demonstrate the breathtaking, brilliant set of experiences that childhood comprises of.
In addition to describing childhood’s emotional makeup, Nabokov also characterizes more adult emotions such as regret, longing, and desire bordering on lust. He does this also through his diction. The eventual effect of this is a perception of the desire Nabokov’s narrator has for childhood, those ephemeral, magnificent, awesome years of everyone’s life. Significant words used to achieve this are “miserable,” “desire,” “cravings,” “motives,” “actions,” “visualized,” and “sensitive.” The words “desire” and “cravings” both serve to almost literally describe the emotional attachment Nabokov’s narrator has to childhood, while “miserable,” “sensitive,” and “visualized” tend to bring to mind a feeling of dejection and regret. In essence, the combination of these words implies the desire the narrator feels for childhood and its sensations; it is deep, longing, and regretful. Indeed, the regret stems from the sensation that it is something lost, locked away in the past; this is the final major connection Nabokov uses diction to communicate.
To complete the statement of his message, Nabokov, through his diction, also evokes knowledge of the sensation of something that is irrevocably, impossibly, inaccessibly in the past. The ultimate effect of this final metaphorical revelation is the communication of Nabokov’s true message; that although the sensations of childhood may be good and desirable, they are forever locked in the past, inaccessible to those in the present. The words Nabokov uses to demonstrate this include “memories,” “remote,” “retrospective,” “past,” and “memory.” All of these words, particularly when taken together, rather vividly demonstrate the inaccessibility of the past. “Memories” are that which we know but are in some fundamental way lost forever, always “remote” and viewed only as “retrospective.” They are locked in the “past.” When this image is combined with the other two Nabokov so clearly integrates into the passage, we obtain the final, big picture; that although one might experience desire for their or others’ childhood, the past is gone and ultimately cannot be regained.
Childhood represents a time in every person’s life when they can be carefree and happy. Nabokov has made childhood and the desire for such sensations the central theme of his novel Lolita. This is particularly apparent in the passage provided through his use of diction to imply sensations such as childhood at its base, the magical, fantastic nature of childhood, desire and longing, and the inaccessibility of the past. His central message is simple, but sad; although one might desire the sensations of childhood, childhood is ultimately past; forgone and totally, completely inaccessible.
Courtney from Study Moose
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