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Literature Study GuidesLolitaPart 2 Chapters 17 18 Summary

Lolita | Study Guide

Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita | Part 2, Chapters 17–18 | Summary



Chapter 17

Humbert feels vaguely that he is in the hands of McFate; he reassures himself that he still has Harold Haze's gun.

Chapter 18

As they continue driving Humbert begins to believe they are being followed by someone who looks like his father's cousin Gustave Trapp. Humbert and Lolita are late for ceremonies at a Magic Cave in Wace. At the ceremony they see and speak about Vivian Darkbloom and the playwright Clare Quilty. When Humbert tells Lolita that he believes Clare Quilty was an old flame of hers, Lolita laughs and, again, purposely misunderstands Humbert, calling Quilty a "fat dentist."


Nabokov famously disliked Freud and psychoanalysis generally, and throughout Lolita makes fun of aspects of psychoanalysis. Nabokov does that in Chapter 17, parodying, through Humbert's statements, the connection early Freudians made between guns and the phallus.

Humbert continually has difficulty believing in the person who is following them—he is having more and more difficulty telling fantasy from reality. The theme of doubles recurs in Chapter 18. Since Vivian Darkbloom—an anagram of the name Vladimir Nabokov—serves as a double for Nabokov himself, her presence with Clare Quilty is a clue that Quilty is Humbert Humbert's double. Humbert believes Trapp (who is actually Quilty) is a detective. His suspicion is an example of situational irony because Humbert himself is becoming like a detective.

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