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Lolita | Study Guide

Vladimir Nabokov

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Course Hero, "Lolita Study Guide," August 25, 2016, accessed December 13, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Lolita/.

Lolita | Part 1, Chapters 10–11 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 10

Humbert looks for and finds a place in New England conducive to working, in which he has renewed interest. He agrees to rent space in a family's home with a 12-year-old daughter (a "perfectly perfect" situation), though when their home burns down the night before his arrival he agrees, unhappily, to stay in the home of Charlotte Haze instead. He offers a portrait of Mrs. Haze to illustrate to readers why he would not stay there, but then she takes him outside to the garden where he first sees Lolita. She strikes him like a revelation, a truth, and he forgets his need to leave. Lolita, he says, is the same child as Annabel but will completely eclipse her. He says that all the time that has passed since he knew Annabel "tapered to a palpitating point, and vanished."

Chapter 11

Humbert shares his diary entries (from memory) from his first June with Charlotte and Lolita. He describes developments in his interactions with Lolita, including a near kiss and hand fondling. In the chapter's final scene she approaches and touches him (covering his eyes with her hands), to which he reacts by sweeping his hand "over her agile giggling legs."

Analysis

Humbert's portrait of Charlotte Haze is biting; he condemns her for her home, physical appearance, economic class, and pretention. He is so contemptuous that he wants to get his description of her over with as soon as possible: she is humorless, affected, and has poor taste.

In describing Lolita Humbert writes with the detail of a poet, what he suggests is a long, slow seduction in which both he and Lolita are active agents. As Chapter 11 progresses Humbert sees Lolita as increasingly responsive to him, if not actually seducing him.

Being near Lolita is like repeating his incomplete trysts with Annabel over and over. He describes encounter after encounter in which he is both aroused and frustrated by her presence; she is forever coming and going.

Humbert watches Lolita like a scientist, though with a lover's instinct to idealize. His poetry holds a magnifying glass both to how he sees her and how what he sees affects him. He describes how her skin, her ankle bone, and other such details cause him "agony." Even her "slangy speech ... her harsh high voice" affect him physically. Humbert suggests that he is, on the one hand, lured by Lolita; but he also presents himself in the chapter's last scene as an aggressor, as "Humbert the Wounded Spider" who creeps up behind her. Their final encounter in the chapter, however, as Humbert Humbert sees it, has Lolita as initiator. In this chapter readers see another example of Humbert blaming the victim. Furthermore almost all of his descriptions of Lolita are of her body. There is very little speculation over what she makes of their situation.

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