Literature Study GuidesLolitaPart 2 Chapters 23 24 Summary

Lolita | Study Guide

Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita | Part 2, Chapters 23–24 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 23

Once Lolita has disappeared Humbert searches for her. He tells himself that Trapp has kidnapped her. He looks for Lolita and her captor in 342 hotels and finds a trail of suggestive names in the guest books of some of the hotels. He follows the names as long as he can before returning to Beardsley.

Chapter 24

Back in Beardsley Humbert plans to murder an art teacher, Riggs, until he realizes that he cannot be the person who kidnapped Lolita. He hires a detective, who looks for Lolita for two years but only comes up with an Indian in Dolores, Colorado, whose name is Bill Brown.

Analysis

There is a pattern going on here, whether it's really a fateful one or one in Humbert's imagination, because the number of hotels Humbert visits (342) was the number of his address in Ramsdale and his room number at The Enchanted Hunters hotel. Humbert is frightened by names left in the guest books of the hotels he visits—Harold Haze is of course Lolita's real father, but Arthur Rainbow sounds something like Arthur Rimbaud, whose work Humbert has been researching, and Donald Quix is similar to Don Quixote, with whom Humbert may identify in his impossible-dream quest. Are these names really clues of some sort or is Humbert once again seeing too much into things, confusing coincidence with fate, imagination with reality? Much of this section of the novel makes Humbert look foolish, and much of it is Nabokov's parody of a tough-guy detective novel.

The names and numbers in Chapter 24 reinforce Nabokov's love of games and word play, which appear throughout the novel as clues to Quilty's identity as a shadow of Humbert and as Lolita's second abductor. When Humbert locates Quilty's name in Who's Who in the Limelight in the prison library in Part 1, Chapter 8 the entry is followed by Quine, Dolores, who writes a play Never Talk to Strangers and has since disappeared, reminiscent of Dolores Haze. A diligent reader can figure out just who "Trapp" is from analyzing the jokes in the names in the guest books.

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