Degree Granting Department
Phillip Sipiora, Ph.D.
Pat Rogers, Ph.D.
Victor Peppard, Ph.D.
Silvio Gaggi, Ph.D.
Law and Literature, Ford Maddox Ford, Vladimir Nabokov
This dissertation will apply the structure of a legal trial’s procedures to two
Modernist novels: Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier (1915) and Vladimir
Nabokov’s Lolita (1955). These novels position themselves as renderings of legal
proceedings, the written memoriam of metaphorical trials conducted by first person
narrators who alternatively and simultaneously function as Plaintiff’s counsel, Defense
Counsel and finally as witnesses to the events of the story. All of these personae reveal
evidence and testimony presented in the forum of a trial of the central characters who
recollect legal events and whose narrations develop moral questions. Thus these
narrations are the court record, from which there is no appeal, culminating in not only
persuasive arguments about guilt and innocence of the central characters, but also
demanding that a verdict or moral judgment be rendered by the reader of these behaviors
and values of the individuals as well as the societies which these authors critique in their
Ford Madox Ford in The Good Soldier (1915) and Vladimir Nabokov in Lolita
(1955) create fictional artifacts which instill impressions of human life and present
specific revelations of human nature in their art. Their narratives explain certain events in
a temporal order, which communicate to readers a fictional world, its participants, and
especially their emotions. These particular novels are early and late examples of
Modernism, and are very different from one another, yet both illustrate the characteristics
that so clearly define the Modern novel: art’s ability to engage not just the mind but the
senses; the reader does not just read, but rather becomes immersed in the feelings of the
characters in the story. The reader feels the dynamics between the characters through the
narrative presentation as closely as possible to his or her being actually present in the
fictionally created world of the novel.
Both novels present their stories in a thrice-told frame that allows the
character/narrators to explore epistemology and justifications for their acts or inaction.
These stories are recollections, so that each character/narrator is remembering his
respective narrative after the facts; these novels are unique for this timing.
Scholar Commons Citation
Holmes, Constance Elizabeth, "Trials and Verdicts: Narratives of Recollection in The Good Soldier and Lolita" (2010). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.