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Literature Study GuidesLolitaPart 1 Chapters 12 13 Summary

Lolita | Study Guide

Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita | Part 1, Chapters 12–13 | Summary



Chapter 12

Humbert now blames the devil for the pattern of temptation and frustration. He adds that he was practiced at achieving surreptitious climax, but Mrs. Haze repeatedly thwarted even that level of success. He shifts subjects to fate's role in the events of the day and in bringing him to Lolita.

Chapter 13

Humbert begins his story of a particular day by noting that bad weather and an argument between mother and daughter left Lolita and him alone in the house, while Charlotte went to church. He interrupts his story to draw attention to its role as part of his defense, and then lays out the scene. Lolita enters with an apple, which initiates a sexual encounter. As Lolita leans over Humbert to see a picture in a book he is reading, he manages to achieve a prolonged orgasm.


Humbert blames the devil and Charlotte ("the Haze woman") for tempting and thwarting him. He claims his "passion" for Lolita "would have certainly landed me again in a sanatorium"—others would judge it as insane—had the devil not been involved.

But what he most blames the devil for is keeping Lolita at a distance. If the devil is Charlotte, the reader might deduce, Humbert may have just indicated a motive for murder. In any case he is clear that he intends to get his claws on Lolita—once the devil isn't in his life. His shift in subject to fate and particularly to its role in bringing him to Ramsdale may be a way of saying he thinks he has luck on his side.

Humbert wants the reader not to miss that Lolita is meant to represent Eve at this point. Her lips and her apple are "Eden-red." However, his telling of what happens obscures the analogy a bit. Many readers hear the suggestion that Lolita is actively tempting Humbert, Eve-like. But the language is purposefully ambiguous about whether she is behaving like an innocent or a more knowing child.

In any case Humbert describes how he proceeds when she leans over him, and he suggests no responsibility or awareness on Lolita's part. He puts her under a kind of "spell," reciting words from a song. While he pursues sexual pleasure she twitches, "lulls," sings, devours her apple, scratches her foot. Even her dress is "innocent" and her body "shameless," and she is wholly "unaware" of his delight.

His drawn-out approach to orgasm gives him a tremendous sense of power, as it converts him from a "sad-eyed degenerate cur" to "a radiant and robust Turk." As said Turk, Humbert massages and "slowly enveloped" her thigh until it is possible to penetrate her with his thumb. Whether he does so is overtly ambiguous. Lolita wiggles and squirms, throws her head back, and bites her lip in something resembling an orgasm. When she jumps up to answer the phone however, it seems as if she was unaware of what just happened. "Lolita had been safely solipsized," he says.

Humbert's emphasis on Lolita's innocence seems like a confession of his guilt, but the indication that he has not violated that innocence—that her chastity is intact—sounds more like a defense of his own innocence.

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