Lolita Summary and Analysis of Part Two, Chapters 1-10

Part Two:

Chapter 1:

Humbert and Lolita begin their travel across the U.S., staying in motels and stone cottages. Lolita's bratty, vulgar, consumerist qualities bother Humbert more. To keep her in line when she throws a tantrum, he threatens to tutor her in French and Latin in a relative's Appalachian farmhouse for years. He also uses legal arguments, justifying his actions and warning her that if he goes to jail, she will be orphaned. Overall, they travel from New England through the South, to the West coast, near the Canadian border, and return to Beardsley.


Nabokov adds another twist to complement his already subversive love story about a pedophile. He also writes the American road novel (even beating the best-known such novel, Jack Kerouac's On the Road, to publication) through European eyes. Future chapters will more explicitly comment on Humbert's approach to American culture on the road. It is clear, however, that Lolita's attraction to American consumerism will feature heavily in their travels, and Humbert even mentions a bribery system they later develop which we may assume has something to do with consumerism.

Chapter 2:

Humbert and Lolita go to a number of roadside restaurants, tourist traps, and landmarks. Wherever they go, Lolita arouses the attention of men, making Humbert jealous. Occasionally she wants to go to a roller-skating rink with boys she has met, and Humbert lets her so long as he can stay in the parking lot. Humbert encourages her to go to swimming pools so he can compare her to the other nymphets. He enlists her in tennis lessons in California. One time, he is unsure if he sees Lolita go into the bushes near the court with a tall man or with her tennis partner friend. Humbert has to keep Lolita from inquisitive adults they meet in their travels.


Humbert's description of their travel constitutes a travelogue of American kitsch. Though there is a definite tone of condescension in his report, he seems to have some measure of appreciation for both the places and their intriguing names. Nabokov, too, was known to revel in Americana; when he moved into a new house in the U.S. full of the previous owner's garish possessions, he specified that nothing be changed.

The tall man Humbert thinks he might see is the mirage of Quilty. The use of the Doppelgänger through ambiguous images is a conventional one, and Nabokov's parody of this technique on a tennis court - where, of course, doubles tennis is played - sharpens the parody.

Chapter 3:

Lolita remains indifferent to Humbert's adoration, but he is still blissfully happy. He admits that, as a psychologist might have predicted, he takes Lolita to a beach to recreate his interrupted childhood obsession with Annabel, but the experience is lackluster. He takes her more frequently to outdoorsy settings, which also prove mediocre for romance, until two children discover them one day. They see many movies.

Humbert admits he never fully learned about the legality of his guardianship of Lolita. John Farlow is too preoccupied with Jean's cancer and the upkeep of Haze's estate to intervene (furthermore, Humbert has convinced him that Lolita is his biological child, the product of an affair years ago).

Humbert decides to return to Beardsley, hoping to better himself as a father through a fixed routine and needing money. He thinks about getting a job through Gaston Godin in the French department of Beardsley College. He mentions that Lolita sobs every night once he pretends to be asleep.


Humbert shows the first strains of guilt over not being a good father to Lolita, though he also dreams of spawning with her another nymphet for him to have a truly incestuous relationship. Though he does not dwell on it, it is obvious that Lolita is unhappy being with Humbert and only the fear of orphanage, and the constant flow of bribery and treats coming her way, keeps her with him.

Lolita's attraction to movies is also noteworthy. Nabokov has written a novel that is so specific in its language, so dense with wordplay and allusion, so dependent on its narrative voice, that Lolita defies the objective images of cinema. (Two respected film versions of Lolita have been made, but even their most ardent admirers would admit the films' deference to the book.) The kinds of movies Lolita likes - musicals, underworlders, and westerners - are distinctly American, and relate to some of the themes and motifs of Lolita (popular music is frequently used in the novel, Humbert takes Lolita into his sexual underworld, and the clichéd western fight scene Humbert describes prefigures a fight at the end of the novel).

Chapters 4-5:

Humbert and Lolita moved into a house near Beardsley similar to Haze's. Humbert enrolls Lolita in the Beardsley School for girls, a day school that promotes itself as a finishing school.

Humbert maintains neutrality with his neighbors on Thayer Street. He is constantly worried one of them might find out about him and Lolita.


Humbert's phrase "west-door neighbor" plays off "next-door neighbor." While many of Humbert's previous word games have been to amuse himself or to distract from the gravity of his crime, here he revises American idiom as a European with a keen ear for language would. Why wouldn't we describe the neighbors by their direction? His phrase even captures the solipsistic way we view neighbors - they are important only in relation to us, so that we are the "center" while they are "west" or "east" of us - and reinforces the theme of solipsistic entrapment. Humbert has many inventive phrases that readjust American idiom-he has previously described "watering" the car, for instance.

Chapter 6:

Humbert describes Gaston Godin. He does not fear Godin's discovery of his relationship with Lolita, as Godin is too self-centered and abstract to become suspicious. Godin is a French bachelor, overweight, always wears black, a mediocre teacher, and is beloved by everyone. He knows and employs the small boys in the neighborhood. He and Humbert often play chess in Humbert's house. Humbert says he brings him up only because he needs him for his defense - Godin was disdainful of America, a poor teacher, and "fooling everybody," yet he was still adored.


Nabokov does not exercise much subtlety in dropping clues that Godin is a homosexual pedophile. Aside from his behavior with and snapshots of the young boys in the neighborhood, Godin has portraits of a number of homosexual writers. The portrait of Harold D. Doublename is an obvious joke, since Godin is a homosexual double of Humbert - even his doubled initials come just one step before Humbert's in the alphabet. Nabokov intended the comparison to be a red herring for Freudians who believe Humbert is a repressed homosexual, much as the psychiatric report of Humbert related in Part One, Chapter 9 suggested.

Chapters 7-10:

Lolita takes further advantage of Humbert's love for her. Over their time together at Beardsley, she multiplies by five her weekly allowance (paid for her sexual cooperation) from Humbert, in addition to all the other gifts she receives. Humbert sometimes spies in her room and discovers stashes of money. Humbert reduces the money he gives her, afraid she will use it to run away from him.

Humbert reads an advice column on how fathers should politely treat their daughters' boyfriends. However, Humbert forbids Lolita from dating and phone calls with boys. He does permit a chaperoned dance, and promises her she can throw a party at their house. Although he can not monitor her at all times, he feels confident Lolita has not betrayed him seriously, as high school boys bore her. Each night, Humbert reviews his day as a respected professor and father.

Humbert describes his disappointment in meeting Lolita's girlfriends, such as Mona Dahl, a sophisticated girl with whom she does theater at school. Humbert unsuccessfully interrogates Mona about Lolita one time when Lolita is late to practice a scene with her.

Sometimes Humbert begs at Lolita's feet for her affection while she tells him to leave her alone.


Lolita's burgeoning independence - and Humbert's ensuing jealousy and possessiveness - are described in a manner befitting the conventional father-daughter relationship. Of course, Humbert's bans on dating and phone calls have more urgency than the typical suburban dad's. His review of himself as a respected professor and father, then, takes on u Humbert's hold on Lolita is fast waning, and it is only a matter of time before she metamorphoses into adulthood. The butterfly-like elusiveness of the nymphet always appealed to Humbert, but now she may fully escape.