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About the Author: Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov, in full Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (born April 22, 1899, St.
Petersburg, Russiadied July 2, 1977, Montreux, Switzerland), Russian-born American novelist
and critic, the foremost of the post-1917 migr authors. He wrote in both Russian and English,
and his best works, including Lolita (1955), feature stylish, intricate literary effects.
He was influenced by Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, Edgar Allan Poe, Gustav
Flaubert, Ivan Turgenev, Leo Tolstoy, James Joyce, Franz Kafka and Marcel Proust with his
Nabokov was born into an old aristocratic family. His father, V.D. Nabokov, was a leader
of the pre-Revolutionary liberal Constitutional Democratic Party (Kadets) in Russia and was the
author of numerous books and articles on criminal law and politics, among them The Provisional
Government (1922), which was one of the primary sources on the downfall of the Kerensky
regime. In 1922, after the family had settled in Berlin, the elder Nabokov was assassinated by a
reactionary rightist while shielding another man at a public meeting; although his novelist son
disclaimed any influence of this event upon his art, the theme of assassination by mistake has
figured prominently in Nabokovs novels. Nabokovs enormous affection for his father and for
the milieu in which he was raised is evident in his autobiography Speak, Memory (revised
version, 1967).
Between 1922 and 1940 Nabokov lived in Germany and France, and, while continuing to
write poetry, he experimented with drama and even collaborated on several unproduced motionpicture scenarios. A five-act play written 192324, Tragediya gospodina Morna (The Tragedy of
Mr. Morn), was published posthumously, first in 1997 in a Russian literary journal and then in
2008 as a stand-alone volume. By 1925 he settled upon prose as his main genre. His first short
story had already been published in Berlin in 1924. His first novel, Mashenka (Mary), appeared
in 1926; it was avowedly autobiographical and contains descriptions of the young Nabokovs
first serious romance as well as of the Nabokov family estate, both of which are also described in
Speak, Memory. Nabokov did not again draw so heavily upon his personal experience as he had
in Mashenka until his episodic novel about an migr professor of entomology in the United
States, Pnin (1957), which is to some extent based on his experiences while teaching (194858)
Russian and European literature at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
His second novel, King, Queen, Knave, which appeared in 1928, marked his turn to a
highly stylized form that characterized his art thereafter. His chess novel, The Defense, followed
two years later and won him recognition as the best of the younger Russian migr writers. In the
next five years he produced four novels and a novella. Of these, Despair and Invitation to a
Beheading was his first works of importance and foreshadowed his later fame.
During his years of European emigration, Nabokov lived in a state of happy and
continual semi penury. All his Russian novels were published in very small editions in Berlin and
Paris. His first two novels had German translations, and the money he obtained for them he used
for butterfly-hunting expeditions (he eventually published 18 scientific papers on entomology).
But until his best seller Lolita, no book he wrote in Russian or English produced more than a few
hundred dollars. During the period in which he wrote his first eight novels, he made his living in
Berlin and later in Paris by giving lessons in tennis, Russian, and English and from occasional

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walk-on parts in films (now forgotten). His wife, the former Vra Evseyevna Slonim, whom he
married in 1925, worked as a translator. From the time of the loss of his home in Russia,
Nabokovs only attachment was to what he termed the unreal estate of memory and art. He
never purchased a house, preferring instead to live in houses rented from other professors on
sabbatical leave. Even after great wealth came to him with the success of Lolita and the
subsequent interest in his previous work, Nabokov and his family (he and his wife had one son,
Dmitri) chose to live (from 1959) in genteelly shabby quarters in a Swiss hotel.
The subject matter of Nabokovs novels is principally the problem of art itself presented
in various figurative disguises. Thus, The Defense seemingly is about chess, Despair about
murder, and Invitation to a Beheading a political story, but all three works make statements about
art that are central to understanding the book as a whole. The same may be said of his plays,
Sobytiye (The Event), published in 1938, and The Waltz Invention. The problem of art again
appears in Nabokovs best novel in Russian, The Gift, the story of a young artists development
in the spectral world of post-World War I Berlin. This novel, with its reliance on literary parody,
was a turning point: serious use of parody thereafter became a key device in Nabokovs art. His
first novels in English, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941) and Bend Sinister (1947), do
not rank with his best Russian work. Pale Fire (1962), however, a novel consisting of a long
poem and a commentary on it by a mad literary pedant, extends and completes Nabokovs
mastery of unorthodox structure, first shown in The Gift and present also in Solus Rex, a Russian
novel that began to appear serially in 1940 but was never completed. Lolita (1955), with its
antihero, Humbert Humbert, who is possessed by an overpowering desire for very young girls, is
yet another of Nabokovs subtle allegories: love examined in the light of its seeming opposite,
lechery. Ada (1969), Nabokovs 17th and longest novel, is a parody of the family chronicle form.
All his earlier themes come into play in the novel, and, because the work is a medley of Russian,
French, and English, it is his most difficult work. (He also wrote a number of short stories and
novellas, mostly written in Russian and translated into English.)
Nabokovs major critical works are an irreverent book about Nikolay Gogol (1944) and a
monumental four-volume translation of, and commentary on, Pushkins Eugene Onegin (1964).
What he called the present, final version of the autobiographical Speak, Memory, concerning
his European years, was published in 1967, after which he began work on a sequel, Speak On,
Memory, concerning the American years.
As Nabokovs reputation grew in the 1930s so did the ferocity of the attacks made upon
him. His idiosyncratic, somewhat aloof style and unusual novelistic concerns were interpreted as
snobbery by his detractorsalthough his best Russian critic, Vladislav Khodasevich, insisted
that Nabokovs aristocratic view was appropriate to his subject matters: problems of art masked
by allegory.
Nabokovs reputation varies greatly from country to country. Until 1986 he was not
published in the Soviet Union, not only because he was a White Russian migr (he became a
U.S. citizen in 1945) but also because he practiced literary snobbism. Critics of strong social
convictions in the West also generally hold him in low esteem. But within the intellectual migr
community in Paris and Berlin between 1919 and 1939, V. Sirin (the literary pseudonym used by
Nabokov in those years) was credited with being on a level with the most significant artists in
contemporary European literature and occupying a place held by no one else in Russian
literature. His reputation after 1940, when he changed from Russian to English after emigrating
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to the United States, mounted steadily until the 1970s, when he was acclaimed by a leading
literary critic as king over that battered mass society called contemporary fiction.
When Nabokov died in 1977, he left behind a stack of index cards filled with the text of
what was to become his final novel, The Original of Laura. On his deathbed, he instructed his
wife, Vra, to burn the unfinished work. She instead placed it in a Swiss bank vault, where it
remained the object of much speculation for three decades. With Vras death in 1991,
responsibility for the final work fell to the Nabokovs son, Dmitri. In 2008 he announced his
decision to allow its publication. The Original of Laura, which the younger Nabokov referred to
as the most concentrated distillation of his fathers creativity, was released in 2009. Though it
proved to be in a highly incomplete state, the text was nevertheless marked by Nabokovs
celebrated facility with allusion and wordplay. The story revolves around an obese intellectual,
Philip, and his young, wild wife, Flora, who is the seeming subject of a scandalous novel written
by one of her former lovers. The work also offers a view of Nabokovs final writings on the
theme of mortality, as Philip courts his own end via an act of auto-dissolution, a kind of willed

Setting of Lolita
The main events of the story take place in America from 1947 to 1952, but there are
several other settings that are worth mentioning. Setting is critical to identify in the Lolita, as
Humbert is very aware of having come from Europe, where he lived in his father's luxury hotel
on the Riviera and received a top-notch education in France. Humbert refers to the first half of
his life as "the European period of my existence". Though he grows to despise Europe for all of
its musty old history, the fact that he is from there is integral to his personality and outlook on
America. His European past is also tied up with how people like bourgeois Charlotte see him as a
cosmopolitan and elegant gentleman with "old-world" manners. Likewise, Lolita's image is very
tied in to America, with all of its implications of youth, shallowness, and endless consumer
Ramsdale "the gem of an eastern state" sits in stark contrast to Europe. At Lawn Street,
the Haze house, where Humbert falls in love with Lolita is " white-frame horror, appeared,
looking dingy and old, more gray than white the kind of place you know will have a rubber tube
affixable to the tub faucet in lieu of shower". That the story takes place in North America with
travels through dozens of states with all of their sights and tourist traps, motels and alluring
giftshops is much more important than the smaller settings of Ramsdale and Beardsley, a town
much like Ramsdale where their house bears a "dejected resemblance to the Haze home".
In their two trips around the U.S., Humbert and Lolita become all too familiar with the
"Sunset Motels, U-Beam Cottages, Hillcrest Courts, Pine View Courts, Mountain View Courts,
Skyline Courts, Park Plaza Courts, Green Acres, Mae's Courts"all of which are dramatically
different from his father's palatial hotel on the Riviera. American motels, all interchangeable,
lowbrow, and equally kitsch which provide the setting for their illicit relationship.
Above all the setting of the events is in Humbert's head. So much of what he describes is
infused with his imagination. And because the story is told as a memoir through his point of

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view, we must realize that he filters all of the information through a perverse and yet sometimes
romantic lens. As example, The Enchanted Hunters hotel is one "micro" setting that requires
mentioning because of the way Humbert presents it to us. Of course, it is the setting of the
"seduction" where Humbert and Lolita first have sex. As described by Humbert, Somehow, in
connection with that quiet poetical afternoon of fastidious shopping, I recalled the hotel or inn
with the seductive name of The Enchanted Hunters with Charlotte had happened to mention
shortly before my liberation. With the help of a guidebook I located it in the secluded town of
Briceland, a four-hour drive from Lo's camp. I could have telephoned but fearing my voice might
go out of control and lapse into coy croaks of broken English, I decided to send a wire ordering a
room with twin beds for the next night. What a comic, clumsy, wavering Prince Charming I was!
() and The Park was as black as the sins it concealed but soon after falling under the smooth
spell of a nicely graded curve, the travelers became aware of a diamond glow through the mist,
then a gleam of lakewater appearedand there it was, marvelously and inexorably, under spectral
trees, at the top of a graveled drivethe pale palace of the Enchanted Hunters.
Now, how much do we actually learn about the appearance of the hotel and how much is
a muddled and fairy-tale infused fantasy on Humbert's part? The point is: when Humbert
describes a settingand here he is anticipating getting Lolita drugged and under his spellwhat
he "sees" is colored by desire, fantasy, paranoia, and expectation. How much of the true setting
do we get to know? Its limited to what Humbert tells us. And what he tells, we should believe.

Characters of Lolita
Humbert Humbert - The narrator and protagonist of Lolita. Humbert is an erudite European
intellectual with an obsessive love for nymphets and a history of mental illness. He manages to
seduce the reader with his gift for beautiful language, but he is nonetheless capable of rape and
murder. Humbert, despite his knowledge of the world, becomes self-aware only toward the end
of the novel, when he realizes he has ruined Lolitas childhood. He writes the story of Lolita
from his prison cell, where he awaits trial for murder. However, he dies of heart failure soon after
Lolitas death.
He uses language to seduce the readers of his memoir, and he almost succeeds in making
himself a sympathetic pedophile. He criticizes the vulgarity of American culture, establishing
himself as an intellectual. His ironic, self-mocking tone and his complicated word games divert
readers attention from the horrors he describes. His skill with language makes him a persuasive
narrator, often able to convince readers to see his perspective. These linguistic skills, along with
his distinguished appearance, erudition, and European roots, enable him to seduce the women
around him as well. Humbert has never wanted for love.
As a young boy, Humbert embarks on a short-lived, unconsummated, and ultimately
tragic romance with Annabel Leigh, a nymphet (a prepubescent girl between the ages of about
nine and fourteen). Since then, he has been obsessed with the particular type of girl Annabel
represents. He marries adult women in an effort to overcome his craving for nymphets, but the
marriages always dissolve, and the longings remain. Despite his failed marriages, his mental
problems, and his irregular employment, Humbert still attracts attention consistently from the

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opposite sex, though he usually disdains this attention. He claims to have loved only Lolita, and
his obsession eventually consumes him.
Humbert is a completely unreliable narrator, and his myopic self-delusion and need for
sympathy make many of his statements suspect. He claims Lolita seduced him and that she was
in complete control of the relationship. However, Humbert, as the adult, clearly has the upper
hand. He controls the money and Lolitas freedom, and he often repeats that Lolita has nowhere
to go if she leaves him. When Lolita occasionally shrinks from his touch, he views her reluctance
as an example of her impulsive nature, rather than as a childs abhorrence at an adults sexual
advances. Humbert claims that his feelings for Lolita are rooted in love, not lust, but his selfdelusion prevents him from making this case convincingly. Alternately mindless and
domineering, Humbert has little control over his feelings and impulses. He never considers the
morality of his actions, and he refuses to acknowledge that Lolita may not share his feelings. As
his relationship with Lolita deteriorates, Humbert becomes more and more controlling of her and
less and less in control of himself. He considers Quiltys love for Lolita deviant and corrupting,
and he murders Quilty to avenge Lolitas lost innocence, a seemingly drastic act of denial of his
own complicity in that loss. Only near the end of the novel, when he admits that he himself stole
Lolitas childhood, does Humbert allow the truth to break through his solipsism. He writes the
story of Lolita from his prison cell, where he awaits trial for murder. However, he dies of heart
failure soon after Lolitas death.
Dolores (Lolita) Haze - The novels eponymous nymphet. An adolescent, she is seductive,
flirtatious, and impulsive, and she initially finds herself attracted to Humbert, competing with her
mother for his affections. However, when his demands become more pressing, and as she spends
more time with children her own age, she begins to get tired of him. Humbert attempts to educate
her, but she remains attached to American popular culture and unimpressed with his cultured
ideas. Eventually, she runs off with Clare Quilty, but he abandons her after she refuses to
participate in child pornography. She eventually marries Dick Schiller and dies in childbirth.
Although the name Lolita has become synonymous with underage sex, Nabokovs Lolita
is simply a stubborn child. She is neither very beautiful nor particularly charming, and Humbert
often remarks on her skinny arms, freckles, vulgar language, and unladylike behavior. Lolita
attracts the depraved Humbert not because she is intelligent or beautiful, but because she is a
nymphet, Humberts ideal combination of childishness and the first waves of womanhood. To
nonpedophiles, Lolita would be a rather ordinary twelve-year-old girl. Her ordinariness is a
constant source of frustration for Humbert, and she consistently frustrates his attempts to educate
her and make her more sophisticated. She adores popular culture, enjoys mingling freely with
other people, and, like most prepubescent girls, and has a tendency toward the dramatic.
However, when she shouts and rebels against Humbert, she exhibits more than the frustration of
an ordinary adolescent. She clearly feels trapped by her arrangement with Humbert, but she is
powerless to free herself.
Lolita changes drastically throughout the novel, despite aging only about six years. At the
beginning, she is an innocent, though sexually experienced child of twelve. Humbert forces her
transition into a more fully sexual being, but she never seems to acknowledge that her sexual
activities with Humbert are very different from her fooling around with Charlie in the bushes at
summer camp. By the end of the novel, she has become a worn-out, pregnant wife of a laborer.
Throughout her life, Lolita sustains an almost complete lack of self-awareness. As an adult, she
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recollects her time with Humbert dispassionately and doesnt seem to hold a grudge against
either him or Quilty for ruining her childhood. Her attitude suggests that as a child she had
nothing for them to steal, nothing important enough to value. Her refusal to look too deeply
within herself, and her tendency to look forward rather than backward, might represent typically
American traits, but Humbert also deserves part of the blame. Humbert objectifies Lolita, and he
robs her of any sense of self. Lolita exists only as the object of his obsession, never as an
individual. The lack of self-awareness in a child is typical and often charming. In the adult
Lolita, the absence of self-awareness seems tragic.
Clare Quilty - Mysterious, manipulative, and utterly corrupt, Quilty is Humberts doppelgnger.
He serves as a kind of mirror image of Humbert, reflecting similar traits and thoughts but
embodying a darker side of those characteristics that Humbert persuasively rejects. Quilty and
Humbert both adore nymphets, but they act on their adoration in very different ways. While
Humbert slavishly worships and idealizes Lolita, Quilty takes her for granted and wishes to
depreciate her through pornography. Humbert paints himself as a man in love, while Quilty is, in
many ways, a more typical pedophile. Both Quilty and Humbert are men of letters, well read and
very persuasive, but Quilty has a much more successful career. Quilty is also far less subtle than
Humbert about his nymphet obsession. Quiltys professional success and reputation perhaps
allow him to get away with his deviant behavior, though he is well known for his fondness for
young girls and has already faced charges. At his final encounter with Humbert, Quiltys
exaggerated speech, haughty attitude, and persistent game-playing imply that he, like Humbert,
is not quite sane. He dies in the middle of an attempt to bribe Humbert with a variety of obstinate
Physically, Quilty appears infrequently in the novel, but his presence asserts itself
through a relentless series of hidden clues. These clues, which include initials, place names,
titles, and many other references and suggestions, build and intensify, creating a dense cloud
above the actual story that eventually bursts when Lolita identifies Quilty as her lover. The clues
reinforce the idea that Quilty is Humberts double, since he exists more as a shadow than as a
living human being. That Lolita adores the intangible Quilty and remains unmoved by solid,
present Humbert represents one of the novels crueler twists, and suggests that Lolita may indeed
have had her eye on a future outside of Humberts control.
Charlotte Haze - Lolitas mother and Humberts wife. A middle-class woman who aspires to be
cultured and sophisticated, Charlotte never manages to be much more than a bourgeois
housewife. Her relationship with Lolita is strained throughout the novel. Charlotte is not
particularly fond of Lolita. Although Lolitas adolescent tantrums certainly dont make her a very
likeable child, Charlottes distain signals a greater lack of motherly concern than normal.
Charlotte seems to see Lolita as a threat, almost as competition, and she sends Lolita to camp to
keep her from hindering her romantic plans for Humbert. Humbert, of course, sees Charlotte
only as an obstacle to his romantic plans for Lolita. Though Charlotte is not an overtly kind and
wonderful mother, her presence does protect Lolitawhen Charlotte dies, Humbert is free to
kidnap Lolita and change her life forever.
Annabel Leigh She is Humberts childhood love. Annabel and her family visit Humberts
fathers hotel as tourists. Despite having many physical encounters, Humbert and Annabel are
unable to proceed to their adolescent love. She later dies of typhus in Corfu. Humbert remains
obsessed with her memory until he meets Lolita.
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Valeria - Humberts first wife, whom he married to cure himself of his addiction to nymphets.
Humbert finds Valeria intellectually inferior and often bullies her. When he plans to move to
America, Valeria leaves him to marry a Russian taxi driver. Valeria and her husband die in
California years later.
Jean Farlow - A friend of Charlottes and the wife of John Farlow. John and Jean Farlow are
among Charlotte and Humberts few friends. After Charlottes death, she secretly kisses
Humbert. She eventually dies of cancer.
John Farlow - A friend of Charlottes, married to Jean. He handles the Haze estate after
Charlotte dies, but he eventually relegates his duties to a lawyer because of the complicated
nature of the case. After Jean dies, he marries someone else and lives an adventurous life in
South America.
Dick Schiller - Lolitas husband. Dick is a simple, good-natured working man who is deaf in one
ear, Dick has no idea about the sexual relationship between Humbert and Lolita, believing
Humbert to simply be Lolitas father. Dick receives a job offer in Alaska, where he plans to take
Lolita whom he calls Dolly.
Rita - An alcoholic whom Humbert lives with after he loses Lolita. Toward the end of their
affair, Rita has many encounters with the law and becomes paranoid that Humbert will leave her.
Humbert finds her comforting but regards her as simple-minded.
Mona - Lolitas favorite friend at the Beardsley School for Girls. Mona has already had an affair
with a marine and appears to be flirting with Humbert. However, she refuses to reveal any of
Lolitas secrets. She helps Lolita lie to Humbert when Humbert discovers that Lolita has been
missing her piano lessons.
Gaston Grodin - A plump, beloved French professor at Beardsley College. Gaston is popular in
the community and helps Humbert find his house and settle into Beardsley. They often play
chess together, but Humbert thinks him a poor scholar and not very smart. Gaston also has a
predilection for young boys, which no one in Beardsley seems to notice.
Mrs. Pratt - The headmistress of the Beardsley School for Girls. Humbert is unimpressed with
Pratts emphasis on social skills and her resistance to traditional academic approaches. She calls
Humbert to her office to discuss Lolitas disciplinary problems and expresses concern that Lolita
is not developing sexually.
Ivor Quilty - Clare Quiltys uncle, a dentist. Dreamy and well liked, he thinks of his nephew
with understanding. He has been friends with the Haze family all his life. Humbert finds Clare
Quilty by visiting Ivor at his office.
Monique - A French nymphet prostitute. Initially, Humbert is attracted to her nymphet qualities
and begins an affair with her. However, he becomes disillusioned by her maturation and abruptly
ends the affair.
John Ray, Jr., Ph.D. - The author of the foreword and the editor of Humberts memoir.
Shirley Holmes - Lolitas summer-camp director.

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Charlie - Shirley Holmess son, who also works at the camp. Lolita has her first sexual
experiences with him, but she is unimpressed by his manners. Later Humbert discovers that he
has been killed in Korea.
Barbara - Lolitas friend at camp. Barbara has sex with Charlie in the bushes while Lolita stands
guard. Finally, Barbara convinces Lolita to try it, which she does.
Vivian Darkbloom - Clare Quiltys female writing partner. Lolita confuses Humbert by telling
him that Vivian is a man and Clare is a woman. After Quiltys death, Vivian writes Quiltys
biography. Vivian Darkbloom is an anagram for Vladimir Nabokov.
John (Jack) Windmuller - The lawyer to whom John Farlow entrusts the Haze estate. He
handles the estate but wants nothing to do with the sordidness surrounding the impending trial.
Frederick Beale, Jr. - The driver of the car that kills Charlotte.

Conflicts of Lolita
Humbert Humbert and society (man vs society), which disapproves of both incest and
pedophilia. On the story, Humbert is a self-denial pedophile and even though he tries to
overcome the condition by marrying adult women, the marriage fails and his interest towards
nymphets remains. He wrote Now I wish to introduce the following idea. Between the age
limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travelers, twice or
many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is,
demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as "nymphets." As you can notice
with his genius and alluring choice of words, you can infer that Humbert is fascinated with
nymphets. However in the story, although the society disapproves of their relationship for it is
viewed as immoral, they still continued what they have not until another man stole Lolita from
Humbert Humbert and Clare Quilty (man vs man), who competes with Humbert for Lolitas
affections. Quilty has been on the story the whole time but his presence is not seen but felt. Only
on the part when Lolita was admitted in the hospital, he took action. He stole her away from
Humbert and tries to engage her in child pornography. On the latter, Lolita favored running away
with Quilty because she wants to escape Humbert. After two years of Humbert looking for
Lolita, she sends him a note saying that shes married and pregnant and ultimately, asking for
money. Assuming that Lolita has married the man who had followed them on their travels,
Humbert becomes determined to kill him. He finds Lolita, poor and pregnant at seventeen.
Humbert realizes that Lolitas husband is not the man who kidnapped her from the hospital.
When pressed, Lolita admits that Clare Quilty, a playwright whose presence has been felt from
the beginning of the book, had taken her from the hospital. Lolita loved Quilty, but he kicked her
out when she refused to participate in a child pornography orgy. Still devoted to Lolita, Humbert
begs her to return to him. Lolita gently refuses. Humbert gives her 4,000 dollars and then
departs. He tracks down Quilty at his house and shoots him multiple times, killing him.
Humbert Humbert and Dolores Lolita Haze (man vs man), by which she struggles to get out
of his life. Lolita was also fond of Humbert at first until she grew tired of his domineering
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attitude towards her. Supporting that fact is Lolitas line towards Humbert at Chapter 1 wherein
she says, But we are lovers, aren't we? even before Humbert makes his first real move. She
found her escape from Humbert through Quilty but she didnt know that her imagined escape is
putting herself into hell. As mentioned earlier, she was asked to engage in child pornography and
hesitated. She then asked Humbert for help but he also takes avenge towards Quilty. He tracks
down Quilty at his house and shoots him multiple times, killing him. He is later arrested and put
in jail.

Plot Structure of Lolita

Beginning - the fictional John Ray, Jr., Ph.D., explains the strange story that will follow.
Conlict Lolita escapes from the hospital and also from Humbert Humbert with Clare Quilty
Climax Humbert Humbert finds Lolita, pregnant and married to Quilty which is nowhere to be
Denoument Humbert Humbert finds and kills Quilty as a form of revenge for Lolita
Ending Lolita died after giving birth and Humbert Humbert dies of heart failure in jail while
waiting for his trial

Point of View
In the novels foreword, the fictional John Ray, Jr., Ph.D., explains the strange
story that will follow. According to Ray, he received the manuscript, entitled Lolita, or
the Confession of a White Widowed Male, from the authors lawyer. The author himself,
known by the pseudonym of Humbert Humbert (or H. H.), died in jail of coronary
thrombosis while awaiting a trial. Ray states that while the authors actions are
despicable, his writing remains beautiful and persuasive. He also indicates that the novel
will become a favorite in psychiatric circles as well as encourage parents to raise better
children in a better world.
First Person (Central Narrator)
With the exception of John Ray, Jr.'s academic and self-important prologue to the
memoir, the novel offers one point of view, one voice, and one side of the story: that of Humbert
the victimizer, whose skill with language surpasses just about any reader who comes across the
novel. Humbert's superiority to Lolita, to everyone, to the "jury" he dramatically addresses from
time to time, and to us is something that Humbert holds on.
Humbert is about as far from a reliable narrator as can be. He has had numerous stints in
psychiatric clinics. One example: "A dreadful breakdown sent me to a sanitarium for more than a
year; I went back to my workonly to be hospitalized again". The reasons he gives for his four
recorded "bouts of insanity" are "melancholia and a sense of insufferable oppression", a "sexual

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predicament", and "losing contact with reality". These are what we call narrative red flags: the
guy is crazy.
Still, Humbert the narrator is the ultimate manipulator and seducer, extending his skills to
his storytelling techniques. He teases the reader with hints - "a bad accident is to happen quite
soon" - and makes constant direct addresses to the reader, saying such things as, "Ladies and
gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one" and "I want my learned readers to participate in the
scene I am about to replay". He also provokes the readers: "Let readers imagine", wanting them
to enter his mind, which itself does a lot of imagining. "Imagine me," he says, "I shall not exist if
you do not imagine me". He wants the reader to visualize, create, participate, approve, and
speculate. Keep in mind that his lawyer has prompted him to write this account, which explains
as a strange combination of self-incrimination and self-defense.
The bottom line is we cannot trust a word he says.

The Alienation Caused by Exile
Humbert and Lolita are both exiles, and, alienated from the societies with which they are
familiar, they find themselves in ambiguous moral territory where the old rules seem not to
apply. Humbert chooses exile and comes willingly from Europe to America, while Lolita is
forced into exile when Charlotte dies. She becomes detached from her familiar community of
Ramsdale and goes on the road with Humbert. Together, they move constantly and belong to no
single fixed place. The tourists Humbert and Lolita meet on the road are similarly transient,
belonging to a generic America rather than to a specific place. In open, unfamiliar territory,
Humbert and Lolita form their own set of rules, where normal sexual and familial relationships
become twisted and corrupt. Both Humbert and Lolita have become so disconnected from
ordinary society that neither can fully recognize how morally depraved their actions are.
Humbert cannot see his own monstrosity, and Lolita shows only occasional awareness of herself
of a victim.
Though Humbert sweeps Lolita away so that they can find a measure of freedom, their
exile ultimately traps them. Lolita is bound to Humbert because she has nowhere else to go, and
though Humbert dreams of leaving America with Lolita, he eventually accepts that he will stay in
America until he dies. Though each of them undergoes one final exile, Lolita to Dick Schiller
and Humbert to prison, it is clear that they are first and foremost exiled from their own selves, an
exile so total that they could never return to their original places in the worlds they once left.
Exile in Lolita is tragic and permanent.

Psychoanalytic approach on Vladimir Nabokov

Russelle Mae Z. Martinez // BSE IV-English

Before this criticism proceeds, I would like to say, from my readings and gathered
information, Nabokov despises Freud and his Psychoanalytic approach. Nabokov once said in an
interview at Strong Opinions, Freudism and all it has tainted with its grotesque implications and
methods appears to me to be one of the vilest deceits practiced by people on themselves and on
others. I reject it utterly, along with a few other medieval items still adored by the ignorant, the
conventional, or the very sick. In addition to that is when another interviewer tries to press
Nabokov into admitting that his parodies of Freud in Lolita and Pale Fire suggest a wider
familiarity with the good doctor than you have ever publicly granted, he objects by referring the
questioner back to his works retorts that Let the credulous and the vulgar continue to believe
that all mental woes can be cured by a daily application of old Greek myths to their private parts.
I really do not care.
In Lolita, Nabokovs novel, Humbert states "sometimes I attempt to kill in my dreams.
But do you know what happens? For instance I hold a gun. For instance I aim at a bland, quietly
interested enemy. Oh, I press the trigger all right, but one bullet after another feebly drops on the
floor from the sheepish muzzle. In those dreams, my only thought is to conceal the fiasco from
my foe, who is slowly growing annoyed. Later in the novel, Humbert warns, "We must
remember that a pistol is the Freudian symbol of the Ur-father's central forelimb". In this and
many other instances in the novel, Lolita tends to provokes ever more dynamically toward Freud.
In some other readings that I obtained, I figured that his novels were used to mock Freud and the
Freudan grotesque.
The cited evidence in his novel proves to me more that Nabokov dislikes Freud and his
Psychoanalytic approach. But the question is: Why?
He answered in an interview conducted by The New York Times, I think he's crude, I
think he's medieval, and I don't want an elderly gentleman from Vienna with an umbrella
inflicting his dreams upon me. I don't have the dreams that he discusses in his books. I don't see
umbrellas in my dreams. Or balloons. I think that the creative artist is an exile in his study, in his
bedroom, in the circle of his lamplight. He's quite alone there; he's the lone wolf. As soon as he's
together with somebody else he shares his secret, he shares his mystery, he shares his God with
somebody else.
I could infer from his answer that he wishes, as an artist to not be viewed as a symbol.
That he exists as he is. His works exist like a lone wolf. Nothing is derived from anything but
himselfhis words. No more and no less.

Formalistic Approach on Lolita

First, an outline of the book: started by a foreword written by a fictitious editor, John Ray,
Jr. Ph.D., the novel is composed of two parts. The first consists of thirty-three chapters and can
be divided into three subparts: ten chapters corresponding to a movement from discussion of
Annabel, Humberts first love, to Lolita; twelve chapters tackling the transition from Charlotte
Haze, Lolitas mother, to Lolita; and a final group of eleven chapters climaxing in Humberts
having sex with Lolita. Two events stand out in this first part: the Annabel episode situated in the

Russelle Mae Z. Martinez // BSE IV-English

summer of 1923 when Humbert and Annabels first sexual experience on the beach is interrupted
by two bathers coming out of the sea and Humberts encounter with Lolita in the spring of 1947.
As can be seen, female figures interrupt the unfolding of events and create a pattern of
oppositions and substitutions as Lolita appears as the reincarnation of Annabel. Time is either
shortened or prolonged. The more Lolita is present, the more detailed and apparently accurate the
narrative becomes. Days become as long as weeks in terms of the length of the corresponding
parts of text. Therefore, the first twenty-four chapters cover twenty-four years, the final nine
(from Chapter 25 to Chapter 33) cover only two days, or rather two nights, when Humbert and
Lolita have sex for the first and second times.
In Part One, we move from France to America and witness the beginning of a journey
across the United States. The second part of the novel is composed of thirty-six chapters, it ends
in the murder of Lolitas lover, Clare Quilty, in the second to last chapter. As in the first part,
climactic events appear in a pattern. (Such as Lolitas escape from the hospital on the fourth of
July, 1949 or Quiltys murder in September 1952.) With the series of rhythmic pattern of
climaxes, approaching the denouement, I can say that the end of the novel is near.
As I have read, I noticed the symmetry of the novels two parts. They are amplified by
devices of repetition, duplication, inversion and reversion. Thus, the prologue (Chapter 1) echoes
the epilogue (Chapter 36). The sections of each part stand in a mirror like relationship to each
other. The first ten chapters of the first part, for instance, reflect the last ten chapters of the
second. In both sections, Humbert is without Lolita: he sees Lolita for the first time Chapter 10
and he loses her when she escapes in Chapter 22 of Part Two, approximately ten chapters before
the end of the book. Rita, the woman Humbert meets and lives with in the second subdivision of
Part Two is a reflection of Humberts wives, with whom he lives in Part One. Moreover, the
movement tending toward denouement mentioned above is countered by a deteriorating one as
characters in Part Two tend to go backwards, to return in space and time. Thus, Humbert goes
back to Beardsley from Elphinstone on his quest to find the escaped Lolita. Similarly, just as
Humbert was first followed by Quilty, it is he who hunts Quilty in Part Two. Reminiscence
eventually characterizes the temporal trend as Humbert projects himself and his story towards
the past, trying to recapture, in his experience of the encounter with Lolita in 1947, the memory
of his relationship with Annabel in 1923 when he was thirteen.
There is therefore evidence of at least two different structural patterns in the novel, the
first characterized by a linear series of climaxes and the second by reflection, repetition, and

Criticism on Elements
Defamiliarization in Lolita
When Humbert describes the physical appearances of nymphets. For example, after
declaring that he was perfectly capable of intercourse with Eve . . . it was Lilith he longed for ,
he continues with asserting that the bud stage of breast development appears early (10.7 years)
in the sequence of somatic changes accompanying pubescence. This rephrasing of something
already known to us is a form of defamiliarizing known as retardation of the narrative.
Russelle Mae Z. Martinez // BSE IV-English

Additionally, Humbert plays a sort of language game regarding the activeness and
passivity of these carefully defined nymphets: In Massachusetts, U.S., on the other hand, a
wayward child is, technically, one between seven and seventeen years of age (who, moreover,
habitually associates with vicious or immoral persons). In this, I discovered that the state
government has defined a wayward child, leaving her no agency of her own. Therefore, this
sentence suggests two very different understandings of a young girl. At first, she has no will and
no part in her identity, being too young to act and then, the state must provide her with a
definition and a limited amount of accountability. In the parenthesis, we see a definition noted by
actions or the latter meaning of being a nymphet. In my readings, the state recognizes that the
girl between the ages of seven and seventeen must act in a certain way to be deemed a wayward
child by which Humbert does not provide this in the sentence, but leaves it in his own words.
Through this, Nabokov forces the reader to wander between various understandings of the
On the later part of the novel, after Nabokov portrays Humbert as a decent father figure,
Nabokov reintroduces the other side of Humbert: Apart from the psychological comfort this
general arrangement [the location of the new house near the school] should afford me by keeping
Dolly's day adjacent to mine, I immediately foresaw the pleasure I would have in distinguishing
from my study-bedroom, by means of a powerful binoculars, the statistically inevitable percent
of nymphets among the other girl-children. With this, Nabokov disrupts the usual story cycle
by moving from Dolores to another, Lolita. Which Dolores and Lolita is just one person but their
image inside Humberts head is different.
Another thing about Lolita is the sexual scene that the readers anticipate but never
observe. This brings me to another method through which Nabokov creates frustrated
anticipation. While the missing sex scene remains the most effective, Nabokov employs other
ways of upsetting expectancy. Similar to a cliffhanger but not really. It was like I experienced
delayed gratification.

Russelle Mae Z. Martinez // BSE IV-English