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Lolita | Study Guide

Vladimir Nabokov

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Course Hero. "Lolita Study Guide." August 25, 2016. Accessed December 15, 2017. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Lolita/.

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Course Hero, "Lolita Study Guide," August 25, 2016, accessed December 15, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Lolita/.

Lolita | Part 1, Chapters 8–9 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 8

Humbert describes Valeria's initial appeal as well as what makes her ultimately repulsive to him. He gets through his first night with her by asking her to wear pajamas that he stole from an orphanage. Despite his disgust with the adult woman he has married, they stay together for four years. Luckily and unluckily for him however, Valeria's own feelings change just as they are to depart for America, where Humbert has inherited money from his uncle and gotten a job in his business. Though he loathes his "fat Valeria," when she tells him she's met another man he responds with rage. He hits her and demands she tell him who the man is. The man, it turns out, is a taxi driver, and the three of them go up to the flat where she packs her things. The story concludes in a happy epilogue of "revenge," where Valeria dies in childbirth after participating with her new husband in an ethnological experiment. Humbert says he hopes to see the results of the experiment published and added to the prison library. As he's describing the holdings of that library he recalls stumbling upon "one of those dazzling coincidences that logicians loathe and poets love." In a recent Who's Who in the Limelight he finds two listings, one for "Quilty, Clare," and one for "Quine, Dolores."

Chapter 9

In New York Humbert writes and edits perfume ads and an academic text when not watching nymphets in Central Park. He then joins an expedition to Canada from which he hopes to gain peace of mind. Instead he has a nervous breakdown and "cures" himself by "trifling with psychiatrists."

Analysis

Humbert makes plain that he is attracted to Valeria because of her seeming youth. However, the woman whose legs, instep, pout, and dimple he initially appreciated soon becomes a "large, puffy, short-legged, big-breasted and practically brainless baba" who resembles her "toadlike" mother. Humbert's pathological misogyny becomes increasingly explicit at this stage.

Humbert's absurd reaction to Valeria's betrayal highlights his need for control in all circumstances, even when those circumstances obviously favor him. Humbert debates whether to kill Valeria or Maximovich, but he decides he will hurt her "very horribly" when they are alone, even while he's "dying of hate and boredom" at the whole thing. When he finally musters enough rage to act against the pair, he finds them gone. He's ultimately satisfied, however, when he learns of the absurd and humiliating experiment she and her new husband participated in and her death in childbirth (which foreshadows Lolita's). He ridicules all the scene's players, including himself, suggesting that they are enacting a farce.

Humbert introduces readers to his "insanity," though he doesn't use it in his defense. Instead he reveals the pleasure he took in toying with psychiatrists, inventing dreams for them to psychoanalyze. Readers might wonder whether Humbert is treating them similarly.

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