Lolita Summary and Analysis of Part One, Chapters 11-20

Chapter 11:

Humbert relates, by memory, some of the entries from his destroyed diary from June, 1947. He watches Lolita closely, analyzing her qualities that make her the supreme nymphet. He has to be careful with Haze always around. He says that he resembles "some crooner or actor chap on whom Lolita has a crush." Humbert uses his tongue to get an eyelash out of Lolita's eye. Humbert happily agrees to stay in the house in the fall to tutor Lolita. Humbert writes in his diary that he sometimes dreams of murdering. A trip to "Our Glass Lake" keeps getting delayed. He copies out a list of her classmates' names and imagines what they are like. He longs for an accident to eliminate Haze, and continues to flirt with Lolita when he musters the courage.


The diary is a convenient device for allowing us to see Lolita through Humbert's passionate eyes in an utterly subjective, supposedly private form. Alongside his increasing sexual desire, however, comes a growing desire for violence.

His dreams of murder aside, Humbert wishes an accident would befall Haze. Accidents and random acts of fate continue to preoccupy him. He believes "Fate" is intervening in their delayed trip to Our Glass Lake (which, it turns out later, is really Hourglass Lake, bringing up the idea of time and fate as well), and one of Lolita's classmates is called "Aubrey McFate." We learn in Chapter 12 that this is not an actual student, but his own addition; regardless, McFate is Humbert's own word for the randomness of life that somehow seems mapped out by fate.

He plays other mental games with names of the classmates, and demonstrates how words are more important than are people in his mind. The list also introduces other characters we meet at various points, and serves symbolic purposes; Mary Rose Hamilton and Rosaline Honeck, two "roses," surround Lolita (or "Dolores," as she is officially called) and remind us that "Dolores" also contains a "rose." Her association with the perfumed flower is logically appealing for Humbert, a former perfume adman.

Finally, the "actor chap" Humbert resembles is Clare Quilty. Since Quilty is rarely visible in the novel, Nabokov deploys many clues such as this to show how he doubles Humbert.

Chapter 12:

Haze makes plans for Humbert and Lolita to go the lake, but informs him, to his dismay, that Mary Rose Hamilton, one of Lolita's classmates, will come along. Humbert learns that an old woman from Georgia, Miss Phalen, was to have taken Humbert's room before he came, but she broke her hip.


Humbert introduces the idea of McFate here (see Chapter 11), and we see another quirky event that has allowed Humbert's meeting with Lolita, Miss Phalen's broken hip. Humbert's various schemes for Hourglass Lake are piling up, though he is continually thwarted. Likewise, Haze impedes his designs on Lolita around the house; Lolita is as much about repression as it is about release from desire.

Chapter 13:

On Sunday morning, Mary Rose Hamilton is sick and unable to go to the lake, so Haze calls off the trip. Upset, Lolita does not attend church with her mother. Left alone with her, Humbert has her sit on his lap while she eats a red delicious apple. Humbert jokes around and sings a song while covertly rubbing against her in ecstasy. She crawls off to pick up the phone, and Humbert believes she has not noticed anything.


The scene on Humbert's lap parodies the Garden of Eden story. Lolita, as Eve, devours the red apple, yet she remains ignorant of the calculated interior designs and exterior fondling of Humbert-as-Adam.

Perhaps more important than the Biblical associations to Nabokov is the sensual name of the apple - a red delicious. Humbert's description of his frenzied passion - which appears to include ejaculation - achieves its orgasmic build-up through an extended paragraph of gorgeous prose. Humbert's pedophiliac act, of course, offsets the beauty of the prose, as does his humorous rendition of the pop song - which also foreshadows his engagement with American culture through Lolita.

Chapter 14:

Humbert is proud of having had his erotic experience without "impairing the morals of a minor." He hopes to reenact the performance, though he wishes to protect her purity. He learns Lolita is going to leave for summer camp and stay until school starts. He hides his misery under a toothache, and Haze recommends he see their dentist, Ivor Quilty, the uncle or cousin "of the playwright."


Humbert's belief that Lolita is pure will prove one of his biggest blunders. In his romanticization of her image, he ignores her many vulgarities and decidedly impure nature.

The playwright Haze refers to is Clare Quilty, yet another clue. Adding to the air of mystery and detection, Nabokov names the summer camp director Shirley Holmes - a reference to Sherlock Holmes.

Chapter 15:

Humbert plans to go away and return in the fall when Lolita comes back. Lolita cries about going to camp, though her mother believes it is only because she is making Lolita return some expensive clothing she bought. Lolita is cold to Humbert at home. He fears losing her for two months in her nymphet prime. Before she is driven off to camp, Lolita runs into the house and up to Humbert's room, where she kisses him.


It is clear by now that Lolita has not only noticed Humbert's desire for her, but reciprocates at least some of his feelings. Humbert (and Nabokov) would probably not want the reader to make the too obvious connection that Humbert is a replacement father figure for Lolita. Rather, he continues to believe they are connected by fate. He says her running upstairs interrupts "the motion of fate," and in his "blood" he says she is the "eternal Lolita." Lolita steps out of time for Humbert as an ageless nymphet who returns to earth (and his touch) now and then at fated points.

Chapter 16:

Soon after Haze has left with Lolita, the maid, Louise, hands Humbert a letter from Haze. In it, Haze confesses her love for Humbert and tells him to leave her; otherwise, if he stays it means he wants to marry her. Humbert, reading it in Lolita's room, looks at a magazine ad on her wall of a man that resembles him and with Lolita's scrawl of "H.H." Under that ad, a playwright who also resembles Humbert smokes in another ad.


More examples of Haze's failed attempts at refinement emerge in her naïve, purple prose letter. Ironically, she unwittingly makes a few deadly accurate statements, including calling Humbert "worse than a kidnaper who rapes a child" if he decides to stay with her.

The playwright in the second ad is Clare Quilty again. The resemblance between the two men affirms their status as doubles.

Chapter 17:

Humbert admits to the jury that he has toyed with the idea of marrying a widow to have his way with her child, even Haze. He considers the idea more and thinks about giving sleeping pills to Haze and Lolita so he could fondle Lolita at night. He calls the summer camp, hoping to reach Haze, but gets Lolita instead. He informs her he is marrying her mother; she already seems to have forgotten Humbert, but he does not mind. Humbert drinks outside until Haze returns.


Humbert's diabolical schemes take shape, and he will eventually carry out the sleeping pill plan, though under different circumstances. More foreshadowing occurs with the dog that runs after a blue car.

Humbert reminds us that he has recreated this memoir in the style of his no longer existing journal. He calls himself an "artist" for doing so, and says he has "toyed" with the idea of marrying Haze. For him, writing is a toy, a game in which he has control over others, and it is possible that Humbert has been revising history in his memoir as an unreliable narrator, adjusting facts when it suits him.

Chapter 18:

Humbert and Haze quickly and quietly marry. Humbert is surprised by her adamant stance that if he did not believe in "Our Christian God," she would commit suicide. Haze tries to integrate herself and Humbert into Ramsdale society. Humbert steels himself for his "night duty" with the thought that Haze once looked like Lolita. Haze redecorates the house. They spend time with John and Jean Farlow.


Haze's sense of middle-class propriety is deepened once she remarries. Her activities (redecoration, socializing) are attempts to conform to bourgeois values, and even her religiousness is hypocritical; to commit suicide, even if her husband were atheistic, would be considered a sinful act under strict religious guidelines.

Chapter 19:

Humbert relates that Haze turns out to be incredibly jealous, especially of Humbert's past lovers. He invents some from his past to please her critical taste. He learns how much she hates Lolita.


Humbert proves himself able to fictionalize his past for Haze's benefit, and we have to question whether he has been doing the same for us.

Haze's jealousy over Humbert's lovers, combined with her hatred of her own daughter, will surely lead to disaster if Humbert goes through with his plan for Lolita.

Chapter 20:

Humbert and Haze take frequent trips to Hourglass Lake in July. On one trip, Haze reveals her plan to send Lolita to a religious boarding school in the fall. Afraid arguing with her would reveal his intentions with Lolita, he resolves the only option is to kill Haze somehow. They swim out into the lake, and Humbert thinks that the two witnesses on the shore are far enough away that he could drown Haze and make it look like an accident. However, he cannot go through with the act. He is not a cold-blooded murderer, he explains, despite his sexual perversion. Back on land, Jean Farlow surprises them, saying she had been painting the landscape and watching them swim.


As Humbert plots a murder that is to appear like an accident, fate intervenes yet again in the presence of Jean. It is clear that to pull off a murder cleanly, a constellation of events must be in place. Humbert has previously indicated that an "accident" will soon befall Haze, which rids him of the onus of planning and work. However, it almost seems as if he has worked so hard mentally at plotting her death that any chance accident is fated.

Jean mentions that she once saw two children making love on the beach, and her memory recalls Humbert and Annabel. As in that episode, two nearby men invade their privacy (though Humbert initially plans to make use of them for the drowning), and Humbert goes back for his sunglasses at the beginning of the chapter (which recalls Annabel's sunglasses).