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Lolita | Study Guide

Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita | Symbols



Lolita is filled with doppelgangers or doubles, although Clare Quilty is the clearest double, or shadow, in the novel—similar to Humbert Humbert in so many ways that one might consider him Humbert's more evil self. Other doublings include names, such as Humbert Humbert and another possible doubling or doppelganger of Humbert in his friend, fellow émigré, and fellow pedophile Gaston Godin.


Butterflies appear occasionally in Lolita. They are, like the girl herself, fragile, beautiful, and often chased and trapped because of their beauty. Like a butterfly Lolita emerges from the "cocoon" of childhood, though prematurely.


McFate is the name of one of Lolita's classmates, Aubrey McFate. Humbert takes the last name over and uses it for the many coincidences that occur as he travels with Lolita. McFate could be considered a fake fate, signified in part by the "Mc" as in "McDonalds." It's a sort of false fate, as McDonalds has food that is not quite real. Humbert sees McFate many places as he travels with Lolita through the country: in the car that follows them and in the number (342) of the house in Ramsdale and of the room where he and Lolita stay in The Enchanted Hunters hotel. The workings of McFate can also be seen in the fact that the play Lolita performs in at Beardsley has the same name as the hotel where Humbert and Lolita first have sex. These coincidences do turn out to be a false kind of fate in that they are not caused by any real fate but by the plans that Quilty and Lolita have put together and Humbert knows nothing about.

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