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Doly, Lolita, Lola, Lo and L
,,Instead, she initiates sex the next morning. He
discovers that he is not her first lover, that she had sex
with a boy at Col ege..
Copyright © 2011 - 2015 Heinz Duthel
Al rights reserved.
Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, first written in
English and published in 1955 in Paris and 1958 in New
York, and later translated by its Russian-native author
into Russian. The novel is notable for its controversial
subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, middle-
aged literature professor Humbert Humbert, is obsessed
with the 12-year-old Dolores Haze, with whom he
becomes sexual y involved after she becomes his
stepdaughter. His private nickname for Dolores is Lolita.
The book is also notable for its writing style. The
narrative is highly subjective as Humbert draws on his
fragmented memories, employing a sophisticated prose
style, while attempting to gain the reader's sympathy
through his sincerity and melancholy, although near the
end of the story Humbert refers to himself as a "maniac"
who "deprived" Dolores "of her childhood", and he
shortly thereafter states "the most miserable of family
lives was better than the parody of incest" in which they
After its publication, Lolita attained a classic status,
becoming one of the best-known and most controversial
examples of 20th century literature. The name "Lolita"
has entered pop culture to describe a sexual y
precocious girl. The novel was adapted to film by Stanley
Kubrick in 1962, and again in 1997 by Adrian Lyne. It has
also been adapted several times for stage and has been
the subject of two operas, two bal ets, and an acclaimed
but failed Broadway musical.
Lolita is included on Time's list of the 100 best English-
language novels from 1923 to 2005. It is fourth on the
Modern Library's 1998 list of the 100 Best Novels of the
20th century. It also made the World Library's list of one
of The 100 Best Books of Al Time.
Lolita is divided into two parts and 69 chapters. It is
narrated by Humbert Humbert, a literary scholar born in
1910 to a Swiss father and an English mother in Paris,
who is obsessed with young girls, whom he refers to as
"nymphets". Humbert suggests that this obsession
results from the death of a childhood sweetheart,
Annabel Leigh (a deliberate play by Nabokov on the
poem "Annabel Lee", by Humbert's favorite poet Edgar
Al an Poe, which also involves a dead girl and her left
behind lover). After an unsuccessful marriage to a Polish
doctor's adult daughter, Valeria, Humbert moves to
Ramsdale, a smal New England town, in 1947 to write.
He rents a room in the house of Charlotte Haze, a
widow. While Charlotte tours him around the house, he
meets her 12-year-old daughter, Dolores (also known as
Dol y, Lolita, Lola, Lo and L), with whom—partial y due to
her uncanny resemblance to Annabel — he immediately
becomes infatuated. Humbert stays at the house only to
remain near her. While he is obsessed with Lolita, he
disdains her crassness and preoccupation with
contemporary American popular culture, such as teen
movies and comic books.
While Lolita is away at summer camp, Charlotte, who
has fal en in love with Humbert, tel s him that he must
either marry her or move out. Humbert agrees to marry
Charlotte in order to continue living near Lolita. Charlotte
is oblivious to Humbert's distaste for her, as wel as his
lust for Lolita, until she reads his diary. Upon learning of
Humbert's true feelings and intentions, Charlotte plans to
flee with Lolita and threatens to expose Humbert as a
"detestable, abominable, criminal fraud." Fate intervenes
on Humbert's behalf, however; as she runs across the
street in a state of shock, Charlotte is struck and kil ed by
a passing car.
Humbert picks Lolita up from camp, pretending that
Charlotte is il at an invented hospital. Rather than return
to Charlotte's home (out of fear that the neighbors will be
suspicious), he takes Lolita to a hotel. Humbert gives her
sleeping pil s (which he names Vitamin X) and leaves
her in their room, tel ing her to go to bed. As he waits for
the pil s to work, he wanders through the hotel and
meets a man (later revealed to be Clare Quilty), who
seems to know who he is. Humbert excuses himself from
the strange conversation and returns to the room. There,
he attempts to molest Lolita (climbing into her bed as
there were no spare cots available at the hotel), but the
sedative is too mild, his "security...a sham one." Instead,
she initiates sex the next morning. He discovers that he
is not her first lover, that she had sex with a boy at Camp
Q. Later, Humbert reveals to Lolita that Charlotte is
actual y dead; Lolita now has no choice but to accept her
stepfather into her life on his terms for she has
"absolutely nowhere else to go." Further to this, Humbert
points out that if he was to go to jail, Lolita would
probably end up in care.
Lolita and Humbert drive around the country, moving
from state to state and motel to motel. He sees the
necessity of maintaining a common base of guilt to keep
their relations secret and wants denial to become second
nature for Lolita; he tel s her if he is arrested, she will
"become a ward of the Department of Public Welfare,"
losing al her clothes and presents. Later he bribes her
for sexual favors, though he knows that she does not
reciprocate his love and shares none of his interests.
After a year touring North America, the two settle down
in another New England town, where Lolita is enrol ed in
Beardsley School for girls. Humbert is very possessive
and strict, forbidding Lolita to take part in after-school
activities or to associate with boys; most of the
townspeople, however, see this as the action of a loving
and concerned, while old-fashioned parent.
Lolita begs to be al owed to take part in the school play;
Humbert reluctantly grants his permission in exchange
for more sexual favors. The play is written by Clare
Quilty. He is said to have attended a rehearsal and been
impressed by Lolita's acting. Just before opening night,
Lolita and Humbert have a ferocious argument; Lolita
runs away while Humbert assures the neighbors
everything is fine. He searches frantical y until he finds
her exiting a phone booth. She is in a bright, pleasant
mood, saying she tried to reach him at home and that a
"great decision has been made." They go to buy drinks
and Lolita tel s Humbert she doesn't care about the play,
rather, wants to leave town and resume their travels.
As Lolita and Humbert drive westward again, Humbert
gets the feeling that their car is being tailed and he
becomes increasingly paranoid, suspecting that Lolita is
conspiring with others in order to escape. She fal s il and
must convalesce in a hospital; Humbert stays in a
nearby motel, without Lolita for the first time in years.
One night, Lolita disappears from the hospital; the staff
tel Humbert that Lolita's "uncle" checked her out.
Humbert embarks upon a frantic search to find Lolita and
her abductor, but eventual y he gives up. During this
time, Humbert has a two year relationship (ending in
1952) with an adult named Rita, who he describes as a
"kind, good sport." She "solemnly approve[s]" of his
search for Lolita. Rita figuratively dies when Humbert
receives a letter from Lolita, now 17, who tel s him that
she is married, pregnant and in desperate need of
money. Humbert goes to see Lolita, giving her money in
exchange for the name of the man who abducted her.
She reveals the truth: Clare Quilty, an acquaintance of
Charlotte's and the writer of the school play, checked her
out of the hospital and attempted to make her star in one
of his pornographic films; when she refused, he threw
her out. She worked odd jobs before meeting and
marrying her husband, who knows nothing about her
past. Humbert asks Lolita to leave her husband, Dick,
and live with him, to which she refuses. He gives her a
large sum of money anyway, which secures her future.
As he leaves she smiles and shouts good bye in a
"sweet, American" way.
Humbert finds Quilty at his mansion; he intends to kil
him, but first wants him to understand why he must die;
he took advantage of a sinner (Humbert), he took
advantage of a disadvantage. Eventual y, Humbert
shoots him several times (throughout which Quilty is
bargaining for his life in a witty, though bizarre, manner).
Once Quilty has died, Humbert exits the house. Shortly
after, he is arrested for driving on the wrong side of the
road and swerving. The narrative closes with Humbert's
final words to Lolita in which he wishes her well, and
reveals the novel in its metafiction to be the memoirs of
his life, only to be published after he and Lolita have both
According to the novel's fictional "Foreword", Humbert
dies of coronary thrombosis upon finishing his
manuscript. Lolita dies giving birth to a stil born girl on
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