HomeLiterature Study GuidesLolitaPart 1 Chapters 2 3 Summary

Lolita | Study Guide

Vladimir Nabokov

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Course Hero. "Lolita Study Guide." August 25, 2016. Accessed May 27, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Lolita/.

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Course Hero, "Lolita Study Guide," August 25, 2016, accessed May 27, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Lolita/.

Lolita | Part 1, Chapters 2–3 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 2

Humbert describes his privileged childhood in Europe. After his mother's and then his aunt's deaths, his wealthy father raised him in the luxurious Hotel Mirana on the Riviera. His limited sexual education came from an American teenager at private school, followed by a brief talk with his "delightful debonair" father. But that particular summer, when he was 13, he had "nobody to consult."

Chapter 3

Humbert introduces Annabel, his first love. He describes their falling in love and their intense flirtation. He observes that if he and Annabel were "slum children" they would have found opportunities "to mate," but their social status meant they were also constantly watched over. He describes a thwarted sexual encounter at the beach, with Humbert on his knees "on the point of possessing my darling" when they are interrupted by a couple of crass bathers; shortly after, Annabel dies from typhus.

Analysis

Humbert highlights both the privileges and consequences of a seemingly idyllic childhood in Europe. He indicates multiple early benefits of his family's wealth, including being raised in a "splendid" hotel where he is spoiled and tutored, formally and informally, by the likes of Russian princesses and his charming, womanizing father. (The reader may also see in this luxurious childhood the seeds of Humbert's elitism made plain in his observations elsewhere in the novel.)

However, he also suggests that his father's tendency to be absent with "various lady-friends" and the early deaths of the women in his life left him vulnerable. Hence at 13 (just before he meets Annabel), which he hints is partly responsible for what happens next, he presents himself as an orphan of sorts, a victim of neglect.

Humbert continues his defense by describing his precedent-setting relationship with Annabel when both of them were children. The relationship was marked by a sustained and intense sexual frustration, which Humbert implies led him to become a pedophile. He blames the prudish atmosphere in which he and Annabel were raised for the sexual frustration that led to their increasing efforts to "thwart fate" and consummate their sexual desire. In the same sentence that describes the near consummation of their love, as if one were the cause of the other, he announces Annabel's death.

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