Literature Study GuidesLolitaPart 2 Chapters 1 2 Summary

Lolita | Study Guide

Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita | Part 2, Chapters 1–2 | Summary



Chapter 1

Lolita and Humbert drive all over the United States, from the East to the South and then the West and then to Beardsley. They stay in motor courts and hotels and cabins, which Humbert makes fun of. He's learning more about Lolita, beginning to see the 12-year-old as "a most exasperating brat" and "a disgustingly conventional little girl"; he disdains the way she is suckered by advertisements. He bribes her and threatens to send her to a reformatory school if she doesn't behave, increasingly isolating and controlling her while at the same time trying to give her the impression that they are "going places."

Chapter 2

Humbert describes some of the places he and Lolita travel—to see the largest stalagmite in the world, to see the cabin where Lincoln was born, to Arkansas and New Orleans. Humbert tries to teach Lolita tennis and is frightened when he sees her walking off into the woods with an older man. Humbert allows Lolita to occasionally play with children and to go swimming, where he enjoys comparing her to the other young girls. He is questioned by a conventioneer who has heard Humbert moaning through the thin hotel walls. Humbert enjoys sitting in their hotel room naked, while Lolita, sitting on his lap, reads magazines, one of which provides ways that children can get away from sex criminals.


At this point Lolita becomes a true road novel, like Jack Kerouac's On the Road, which was published in 1957 right before Lolita's first edition. At this point in Lolita the narrative changes. In Part 1 readers saw everything through Humbert's eyes; Humbert had control of the narrative and readers were encouraged to accept his view of reality. In Part 2 Humbert's perspective becomes more limited, and readers begin to glimpse other characters' motivations.

Lolita provides a picture of Eisenhower-era America, with its new highway system that crisscrossed states. This travel also provides a sense of flight from reality into imagination (Humbert's usual mode) and a sense of exile and alienation as the couple drive from town to town, from anonymous motel to hotel. Nabokov's descriptions of the American landscape are appealing. For Humbert the European émigré, parts of the United States are familiar, and he sees them "with a shock of amused recognition" based on mass-produced prints that made their way to Europe. He remembers seeing the same rural scenes in these prints; the American landscape is already a work of art in his European memory. But the actual landscape is more strangely beautiful than the imitations he remembers. This situation connects thematically to the reality of Lolita versus Humbert's image of her, as well as to his preference for fantasy over reality.

Humbert says, "I did everything in my power to give my Lolita a really good time" but also hints at violent interactions in motel rooms. A woman in passing asks Lolita, "Whose cat has scratched poor you?" reminding readers that Humbert is molesting the young girl at every stopover.

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