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Literature Study GuidesLolitaPart 1 Chapters 28 29 Summary

Lolita | Study Guide

Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita | Part 1, Chapters 28–29 | Summary



Chapter 28

Humbert wanders around the hotel as he anticipates his first real sexual experience with Lolita. He justifies his actions by saying he will keep her pure by having sex with her only once she is asleep. He questions the idea of the normal child and admits knowing little about children. Out on the porch he has a conversation with someone in the dark.

Chapter 29

The hotel is noisy and Humbert cannot sleep, nor can he bring himself to rape Lolita, who is only partly asleep—the sleeping pill has not really worked. He has heartburn, gets up, and burns with "desire and dyspepsia" as he watches Lolita sleep. When Lolita wakes in Humbert's telling, she seduces him, asking Humbert about his sexual experience and showing him what she learned at camp.


As he walks through the hotel Humbert fingers the key to room 342. Note that a key can be a sexual symbol: Humbert anticipates opening Lolita's door with that key. Humbert feels increasingly guilty about what he plans to do to Lolita. In retrospect he both justifies his actions and—knowing all the trouble that came from his act with Lolita—wishes he had given the key back and walked away.

Humbert meets and talks to the playwright Clare Quilty for the first time, although neither Humbert nor the reader knows that it is Quilty he talks to. Quilty is hidden in the darkness, sitting on a chair on the porch, and says he's drunk. Humbert hears him saying accusatory things like "Where the devil did you get her?" and "You lie—she's not" when Humbert calls Lolita his daughter. It's unclear from the conversation whether Quilty is really saying these things or whether Humbert, in his guilt and paranoia, is mishearing the stranger.

Back in the room with Lolita Humbert is frustrated waiting to "launch upon my enchanted voyage." Sometimes he thinks Lolita is as interested in sex as he is, the prey meeting the hunter halfway.

When Lolita wakes up she kisses Humbert, perhaps a French kiss, which surprises him. She then whispers to him about a "game" she has played with a boy named Charlie, but in spite of her tough talk she seems taken aback by what follows. Humbert suggests Lolita was not prepared for full penetration and that the experience was painful for her. He also says the sex itself is not as important as his "greater endeavor": "to fix once for all the perilous magic of nymphets," echoing his earlier reference to pinned butterflies.

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