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Literature Study GuidesLolitaPart 2 Chapters 35 36 Summary

Lolita | Study Guide

Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita | Part 2, Chapters 35–36 | Summary



Chapter 35

Humbert enters Pavor Manor (leaving Insomnia Lodge) and puts new cartridges in his gun, which is oily. He worries that "the execution" will be "bungled" and drives through a thunderstorm. The house is "elaborate and decrepit," and as he rings the bell he realizes that he's drunk.

It's like a fairy tale, he thinks, the way the door opens. He wanders around the house and finally sees Quilty coming out of the bathroom. Quilty wears a purple bathrobe "very like one I had." When Quilty finally notices Humbert he thinks he is Brewster, come to work on the phone, and it takes Humbert some time to convince Quilty that he is there to avenge his daughter, Dolores Haze. Humbert loses his gun under a cabinet and the two men fight physically, rolling around on the floor, though neither of them is fit for fighting, both being literary men, sick and drunk.

Finally Humbert gets his gun back. Ridiculously he gives Quilty a poem, which Quilty reads out loud, joking about it. Quilty starts to bargain, saying Humbert can have his whole house and find another girl like Lolita. Humbert shoots Quilty and misses him. Quilty runs into another room and plays the piano. Finally Humbert hits him, and Quilty races howling through the house as Humbert continues shooting at him. Finally Quilty hides himself in his bed where Humbert shoots him one last time, frustrated by Quilty's refusal to take him seriously and to die. When he goes downstairs Humbert finds a group of Quilty's friends, who all say it was about time someone killed Quilty. Quilty finally dies.

Chapter 36

Humbert leaves, not caring what happens to him. He drives back toward home on the wrong side of the highway, noting that fortunately there are not many other cars out. Finally he realizes police are following him, then blocking his way, and he swerves off the road "among surprised cows," coming to a stop, thinking of "two dead women"—Charlotte and his mother. As he waits for the police to take him he remembers a day shortly after Lolita had disappeared, when he stood on a hill and heard the sound of children playing. He realized then that the truly tragic thing was not that he had lost Lolita but that Lolita had lost all opportunity to be a part of that laughing world, "that concord."

He says he's reread the story, which has "bits of marrow sticking to it," and that he thought about what name he'd call himself. He instructs his publishers not to publish the book until he and Lolita are both dead. He hopes she loves her baby and that her husband is good to her; and he hopes she will live, through his book about her, in the minds of "later generations."


Humbert wants his duel with Quilty to be literary and dramatic, with himself as the avenging hero. But their fight is anticlimactic, with Quilty laughing at him and misunderstanding or not caring that Humbert plans to murder him. The fact that his foe comes out of the bathroom is just one example of the absurd in this chapter; real life, once again, refuses to cooperate with Humbert's literary imagination. Quilty is wearing a purple bathrobe that Humbert remembers as resembling his own—one more sign that Quilty and Humbert are doubles or shadows of each other. In trying to kill Quilty is Humbert trying to do away with some aspect of himself?

The whole duel is an parody of gangster movies or Westerns. This is no dramatic shootout but two out-of-shape literary men rolling around on top of each other. Humbert's dramatic act of revenge turns into another one of Quilty's jokes. The fact that none of Quilty's guests come to his aid or care that he is dead is another example of situational irony, an action that contrasts with the clichés.

Humbert, who made so many rules to avoid detection, is now thrilled to be breaking them all. He's moving backward in memory, revealing the hidden past, and driving the wrong way on the road.

Humbert's final recollection—of the moment he heard the children playing and realized what Lolita had lost—is perhaps Humbert's truest statement of love. Once again it is highly rhetorical, full of flourish. Humbert's focus is highly subjective—more about himself than Dolly Haze. Nabokov leaves it up to readers to determine whether Humbert truly repents of his actions or not.

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