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Literature Study GuidesLolitaPart 2 Chapters 31 32 Summary

Lolita | Study Guide

Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita | Part 2, Chapters 31–32 | Summary



Chapter 31

Humbert reviews his "case" and feels that he now sees himself and Dolly/Lolita clearly. He recalls a visit two years earlier to a priest when he decided that religion could help him. He says the only treatment for his misery is the "articulate art."

Chapter 32

Humbert realizes how, in loving his imagined Lolita, he ignored the real girl. He recalls seeing her look into a mirror when she did not see him, her face a mask of sadness; he recalls overhearing her have a rather philosophical discussion with Eva Rosen. Humbert realizes that he "did not know a thing about my darling's mind." He recalls Lolita's envy of friends who had real fathers; he remembers when she asked where her mother was buried. He begins to think about the real girl, Dolores, not the girl he used, Lolita. He recounts the few minutes when he saw her for herself and not through his lustful, self-centered imagination. He begins for the first time to wonder about her mind and what goes on inside her as a person. He remembers his disinterest in her as a human being, his purposeful ignorance of her feelings. Then for the first time in the book, he thinks again about her mother and realizes that even Charlotte's cold relationship with Dolores was better than the "parody of incest" that he gave Lolita, "the waif."


One of the main themes in Lolita concerns aesthetics. Aesthetics is the study of the beautiful. Aesthetics asks questions like "What is art? What is beauty? How is the material connected to the spiritual, and how is beauty connected to morality?" When Humbert quotes the "old poet" he is making a connection between beauty and morality: one can only be "moral" if one accepts that what is beautiful must die. And Humbert with his desire to stop time, to make life literary, and to keep Lolita a "nymphet" has not accepted this. He seems to realize that he hasn't paid his "duty," but still his high rhetoric undermines the sincerity of what he says. He still believes the "articulate art," meaning writing, can provide relief. Although he recognizes his brutality his focus is, as always, turned inward. Still some critics suggest that in the passages at the end of Chapter 31 readers can see Humbert truly loving Lolita, or the girl Dolores Haze.

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