The use of hypallagus in Nabokov’s Lolita,a literary adventure in the wilderness of LolitAmerica
is one of the most interesting literary devices in Lolita is the hypallagus
( /ha??pæl?d?i?/, from the Greek: ????????:interchange
exhange -cum- transfer also known as
a transferred epithet, is the trope or rhetorical device in which a modifier, usually an adjective is applied to the “wrong” word in the sentence.It suits the purpose of a journey: a literary and geographical one and its mental representation and adpatation as a transfer of manners, cultures and viewpoints. It is a trans-lation of usual connections into unusual ones: a literary daring experience.
Highly used in Greek and Latin and English literature,
« With rainy walking in the painful field. »
Shakespeare, Henry V
it enables the author to literally transfer usual associations to create an effect of surprise to give an upside-down-disturbing and questioning view of things to introduce the notion of subversion, to highlight the upheaval between things seen or imagined and things presented
It is the literary style of dis-rapture,dis-rupture a rupture of/in the ordinary order of description.It is the coup de maître used by Nabokov the painter to create an illusional feeling , the equivalent of a fake perspective in paintings.It belongs to the art of illusionists who want to seduce and succeed in doing so by separating traditional associations, tearing them apart to suit their purposes.
The reader cannot but embark on a mirage land and cannot but be stunned by the uncanniness of the effect which compels her/him to stop, re-read, ponder before going further.It can fucntion as an omen announcing something to look forward to or something to worry about. It has a futuristic stance and rhythm and a proleptic raison d’être.
Foreboding the plot itself :
…what became of those nymphets later? Beg chapter 6 part One
In his wrought-iron world of criss-cross cause and effect
The adjective “wrought-iron” is usually associated with railings or gates and conveys an image more than an idea. Here the painter is using his painting brush and easel to deliver a painting more than a concept. The touch of repetitive colours is suggested by the “w” of wrought and world. The accumulation of “c” in the second part acts as the mouvement of the brush of a Pissaro or Van Gogh. The visuality of the scene is thus created. Its kaleidoscopic effect will guide the reader as the labyrinth of emotions and emotions is unfolding.
Announcing Lolita’s belated letter and the dashing of Humbert’s last hopes
Mes fenêtres ! Hanging over blotched sunset and welling night
A throbbing balcony
In the apricot and black humid evening Chapter 27 Part two
“Blotched” means discoloured and irregular in shape and stands as a strange description for what sunsets usually are: glorious and majestic. All the same, tears, anger or blood can be welling. Here the transfer is operating on the word “night” giving us an insight of the outcome: Humbert will soon be receiving the letter announcing the disastrous ending : his visit to Lolita, his gift and her refusal to follow him. Echoes are resounding just as in a painting some colours would be handy to enhance others hues or be repeated to create a certain halo. “Apricot” is used for its colour as a parallel to that of the sunset and the shape of the sun itself. It is both an enchanted and deceptive hue given the way it is used here.
“Throbbing balcony” may have humorous Shakespearian overtones but is nevertheless a mind-catcher image, both visually and orally.
Different order of expected values pointing to the murder:
or America edgeways
In my horrible careful English
Insomnia Lodge , 10 Killer Street
These associations are most unlikely to be linked. A driver is or should be careful, Humbert should be careful… but his “careful English” is just here as a make believe of the well-brought-up person he is, the eloquent European who is “literally” “horrible” in his intentions (killing Quilty). How does the polished European compare with the uncivilized, uncultivated, unread and deprived of culture average American? Here is the question raised here.
Likewise, the attribution of a physical state “insomnia” to a buiding rather than a person not only triggers off laughters but also pervades the very reality of the horror of the crime. The same is true of “Killer Street”.
It is as if the outer world was excusing the narrator’s final act and even inviting him to commit a crime. It also has very strong contemporary overtones. It is a manipulation of the reader-cum-jury:. “See, Readers, I did my duty!” is or could be the translation into words of the images given to us. The transfer is a necessary device to get the out-of-the-norm feeling which then becomes the social norm, that of the Lodge and the Street. No doubt about it. It cannot but bring to the contemporary reader visons of
violence playing rife in many big American cities. And it is a subdued version of a criticism of this aspect of society the author probably wanted to point at.
Last but not least: sensuality in the most unexpected places or objects:
the “breathless” garden, her dear dirty jeans, innocent cotton frock innocent forest, the executed sweater
Somehow, the reader cannot but think that it literally reeks of treacherous artefacts of seduction and self-pity for the trial to come. Innocent the American forset in its primeval beauty. Thwarted the forest with the arrival of European settlers. Personal private history and general history are resounding leaving us with a question Claude Lévi-Strauss raised in his writings: that of natural beauty and cultures being displaced and destroyed. On a subliminal level, the arrival of European settlers is the equivalent of the rape of a twleve year and seven month old girl. Pristine in looks. One piece of the puzzle is missing though as LolitAmerica -the character- cannot stands as a native American. Nevertheless the thought and taste are implicitly given for us to expand the metaphor given the history of the making of the 13 original and 48 states of the “crazy quilt” at its début.
Innocent were those being killed, innocent were the patches of land taken.
Innocent, LolitAmerica? She is innocent in her total lack of knowledge and culture as opposed to Humbert’s over-wrought style and manners.
She stands as the tabula rasa : the land in its primeval form and shape before the intrusion of unnecessary “civilized” settlers with no knowledge and understanding of the nobleness of warcraft, coarse barbarians with a varnish of culture.
You must be logged in to post a comment.