HomeLiterature Study GuidesLolitaPart 2 Chapters 1516 Summary

Lolita | Study Guide

Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita | Part 2, Chapters 15–16 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 15

Lolita and Humbert once again set out on the road with Lolita in charge now, tracing the route. Humbert wonders if it's the theater that has made her change. A car pulls up beside them and the driver, one of Lolita's classmates, tells her that the author of The Enchanted Hunter raved about her after rehearsal. Humbert asks Lolita who wrote the play and she says "Some old woman. Clare Something." Humbert tells Lolita she should be nicer to him and that her thighs should be only 17-and-a-half inches around. "More might be fatal (I was kidding, of course)." He starts to tell Lolita about something he remembers, and the next chapter begins with that memory.

Chapter 16

The chapter begins with Humbert recounting his disappointment when Appalachia failed to match his image of it based on an old map. Driving through various states and staying in hotels, Humbert begins to worry that Lolita is contacting someone; he loses her briefly in a gas station. In Kasbeam Humbert gets a haircut and wonders, when he comes back to the motel room, if Lolita has slept with someone else. He takes her violently.

Analysis

Again in this second road trip readers see the anonymous, commercial aspect of life in the United States where you can stay at hotels anonymously, under made-up names. In these chapters Humbert's language becomes wilder and funnier. On this second road trip Lolita is in charge: for example, she deliberately confuses Humbert when he asks who "concocted" the play she was in. Lolita knows perfectly well that Clare Quilty, the author of The Enchanted Hunters, is a man. Humbert's comment about the diameter of her thigh shows his anxiety about Lolita's maturing. It reveals he is more concerned about her beauty than her health and that he wishes to stop time—in fact, he creepily kids about using murder to do so.

Humbert's disappointment with Appalachia reflects one of Lolita's ongoing themes: reality is no match for the imagination. Humbert hopes for a mythical mountain range in which his imagination could play; he finds the real Appalachian Mountains disappointingly small and seedy.

In this section Nabokov parodies signs he probably saw at motels he visited on his drives out West, signs with their odd mixture of hospitality and threat: "We wish you to feel at home while here. All equipment was carefully checked upon your arrival. Your license number is on record here ..." He describes trashy hotel rooms in which, among other things, other people's ashes are still in the ashtrays. These descriptions are all part of Nabokov's ongoing portrait of the United States, inspiring awe and disgust by turns.

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