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Literature Study GuidesLolitaPart 1 Chapters 22 23 Summary

Lolita | Study Guide

Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita | Part 1, Chapters 22–23 | Summary



Chapter 22

Anticipating Lolita's arrival home from Camp Q, Humbert visits the doctor and convinces him to provide medicine to make Charlotte and Lolita sleep soundly (he says it is for himself). The doctor gives him medicine and Humbert comes home cheerfully to find Charlotte writing a letter. When he enters the room Charlotte quotes cruel things he has written about her in the diary that Humbert had kept locked up. Angrily Charlotte tells Humbert to leave. Soon after a neighbor tells Humbert that Charlotte has been run over by a car.

Chapter 23

Outside Humbert sees that Charlotte has been killed by a car driven by Frederick Beale, who was avoiding hitting a dog. Humbert learns that she was hit as she crossed the street to mail three letters; Humbert is given those letters, which he claws to pieces in his pocket. Three doctors and the Farlows appear and they take over, putting "the widower," Humbert, to bed. The next morning Humbert tries to put the letters from his pocket together. One is to Lolita, another to a boarding school, and a final is to Humbert himself. Humbert convinces the Farlows that he is Lolita's real father, and that she's on a hike and so they cannot speak to her. When Frederick Beale offers to pay for Charlotte's funeral Humbert surprises him by accepting the offer.


In his typical condescending manner Humbert describes the doctor whom he tricks into giving him strong sleeping pills so that he can carry out his plan of drugging his wife and stepdaughter. His description of the way Charlotte, "a great taker of pills," reacts to the pills he has given her—sleeping through a blasting radio, a flashlight on her face, but waking when he kisses her—is just one example of the way the novel often references fairy tales, in this case the Prince's kiss in Sleeping Beauty.

Some critics have pointed out that the second book of Lolita is a road story; they also suggest that the car, with its freedom, is an important symbolic aspect of the book, representing the freedom of the young United States as opposed to the rule-bound old Europe that Humbert comes from. In the crash and death of Charlotte we see a car going off its course, which can be taken as a foreshadowing of the journey of Lolita and Humbert to come. Another way of seeing the crash is that fate has once again played a hand in Humbert's life, changing the story in unexpected, surprising, and, in this case for him, positive ways.

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