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Lolita | Study Guide

Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita | Part 1, Chapters 32–33 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 32

Humbert explains how Lolita had sex with Charlie Holmes, the camp mistress's son, at Camp Q. They get ready to leave the hotel, and Humbert, increasingly anxious, notices a "fellow of my age in tweeds" watching Lolita. Back in the car again Lolita calls Humbert a rapist, and says she wants to call her mother. Humbert then tells Lolita that her mother is dead.

Chapter 33

Humbert and Lolita come to "the gay town of Lepingville," where he buys her books, candy, sodas, sanitary pads, a tennis racket, sunglasses, and many other things. They stay in separate rooms but she comes sobbing into Humbert's room at night, and he tells his readers: "You see, she had absolutely nowhere else to go."

Analysis

Lolita tells Humbert that she and a girl named Barbara took turns having sex with Charlie Holmes. Humbert, in his telling us this story, uses his imagination to make the story an aesthetically pleasing one, adding pastoral or natural details that almost certainly weren't part of Lolita's account.

As she goes down to the lobby Humbert reminds Lolita not to talk to strangers—this is an example of situational irony because Humbert himself is someone she should fear, and he is not a stranger. And yet there are strangers to fear: the man staring at Lolita in the hotel lobby, we later learn, is Clare Quilty.

Lolita accuses Humbert of raping her and says she wants to call her mother. Humbert shows no empathy, and with his words "your mother is dead" the chapter ends. We're provided no response, only silence, and the next chapter begins cheerfully, describing the "gay" town they enter. Humbert, for all his claims of love for Lolita, shows no care for the child he has kidnapped, Dolly Haze.

The place name Lepingville is a play on the slang word lepping, which butterfly hunters—lepidopterists, like Nabokov—use to mean the act of chasing butterflies. In Lolita—beautiful, chased by Humbert, and then hopelessly trapped by him—we can see similarities to a butterfly. Humbert is trying to freeze Lolita in time, keep her always young, as butterflies are kept beautiful when they are pinned to a lepidopterist's cork board.

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