Lolita Summary and Analysis of Part One, Chapters 21-33

Chapter 21:

When Haze states her plan for her and Humbert to go England in the fall, he argues vigorously against it. She acquiesces easily, and Humbert uses his newfound advantage to spend more time alone pretending to work. One day, Haze goes into his study and asks why he locks up the drawer of a small table. After she leaves, he wonders if the hiding place for his key is safe enough.


Though Humbert claims "Locked up love letters" are in the drawer, he is not far off - it is where he keeps his diary. The repeated mentions of the destruction of the diary, and Haze's curiosity over the drawer's contents, suggest that she will soon discover it.

The hotel Haze brings up - she erroneously calls it "Enchanted Hunters" - will play an important role later.

Chapters 22-23:

Haze and Humbert learn that Lolita can enroll in boarding school only in January. From his doctor, Humbert acquires some strong, purple sleeping pills, supposedly for his own insomnia, to drug Haze and Lolita. He drives home and finds Haze tearfully writing a letter. She has read his diary, and she tells him she is leaving with Lolita. Humbert tries to calm her down and fixes her a drink. After he does this, he receives a phone call informing him Haze has been run over by a car.

Humbert rushes out and finds that a Packard automobile driven by a Frederick Beale, Jr. has run over Haze as she was about to mail three letters (which Humbert takes and tears up). John and Jean Farlow stay with Humbert, and he tells them he will devote himself to Lolita and find her a private school in New York. He fakes a phone call to Lolita's camp director and tells the Farlows he will pick her up after the funeral and take her on a trip somewhere. Beale visits and explains he was not at fault for the accident; he had to swerve to avoid a neighbor's dog. Humbert agrees. He thinks about the conditions leading up to Haze's fated demise, and his own role in the matter, and weeps.


Humbert crystallizes many of his ideas of fate he has previously brought up; such a momentous event as Haze's death, he believes, could only be determined by a number of factors. Humbert has acknowledged the presence of randomness in life before, however, as with his mother's freak death. What makes Haze's death particularly fated is not simply the constellation of necessary preconditions, as he outlines them, but the dog's role in the accident. Humbert almost hit the dog with a car not once, but twice - when he first arrived at the home, and just before Haze's accident. Nabokov's love for word games makes plausible the idea that he chose the fated animal to be a dog rather than a cat because "dog" backwards is "God."

Chapters 24-25:

Humbert leaves Ramsdale, but not before Jean can make her attraction to him known.

Humbert is afraid Lolita has been informed of her mother's death, and realizes that he has not become her legal guardian. He plans to pick her up, tell her Haze is sick in the hospital, and then drive around with her for a while until he says Haze has died. He calls the camp and learns Lolita will not be back from a hike for two more days. He buys a great deal of clothing for Lolita. Remembering Haze's mention of The Enchanted Hunter inn, he wires a double room for the next night.


As Humbert says, perhaps McFate has again intervened. He previously said Lolita was on a camping trip to rid the Farlows of suspicion, and he now learns she is on a real camping trip.

Humbert should know by now, though, that things have a way of reappearing in his universe. The Enchanted Hunter pops up again and will continue to be important, as much for its odd name as anything else.

Chapter 26:

Humbert despairs from his jail cell. He instructs the printer of his memoir to fill the page with Lolita's name.


In a rare moment of vulnerability, Humbert reverts to his tricky ways in his instruction for the printer. But the printer has not followed his request, so Humbert's power to play games from jail is now severely restricted.

Chapter 27:

Humbert arrives at the summer camp, and Lolita soon meets him. As they drive away, he tells her Haze is in the hospital in another town, and that they will make it there tomorrow. At Lolita's suggestion, they pull over and kiss. A patrol car stops and asks if they saw a blue car up ahead, then continues. Lolita alternates between flirting with and mocking Humbert.

After some difficulty, they locate The Enchanted Hunter and park, though a red convertible takes a sheltered space before they can. They receive a room, number 342, with a double bed. Humbert explains to her that they must sleep in the same bed to save money, but Lolita giggles and calls it "incest." She warms up when she discovers his gifts of clothing, and while they hug, she promises to show him how to kiss later.

At dinner, Lolita points out that a diner there looks exactly like Clare Quilty, the playwright from the cigarette ad. Humbert lures her into trying one of the purple pills. She is soon sleepy, and he takes her off to bed as she tries to confess to her "disgusting" behavior.


Quilty is clearly following them (his is the red convertible), and Humbert even asks himself, at one point, what "shadow of us" are the police after. (Remember that "Humbert" is close to the Latin for "shade," and that shadows often represent Doppelgängers.) Quilty's interest in Humbert or Lolita is not yet evident, but remember that he was a children's playwright.

Another doubling occurs in the hotel room; they have a double bed, and the room is filled with mirrors, making Humbert describe the room twice. The doubling and mirrors can also be seen as the characters', especially Humbert's, solipsistic entrapment. Humbert tries to evade this solipsism - the self's belief that it is the only thing that exists - through his obsessive love for Lolita, but as he writes the memoir, he is in solitary confinement.

The hotel room also throws another fated checkpoint Humbert's way through its number, 342, the same as their house address.

Chapter 28:

Humbert tells the jury he regrets having gone through with the act; he should have known that Lolita was different from Annabel, and that only pain would follow.

Humbert asks at the front desk if his wife has called. He musters his courage on the porch outside. An old, drunken man asks him questions that are full of suspicion about Lolita, but whenever Humbert asks what he said, the man provides a similar-sounding question. He invites them to lunch with him tomorrow, but Humbert says they will be gone by then.


Quilty is the man outside, and his verbal duplicity suggests his doubling of Humbert. His interest in Lolita now appears out of more than mere curiosity.

Chapter 29:

Humbert enters his hotel room. He changes into his pajamas. Lolita is deliriously half-awake in bed. He climbs into bed but is too afraid to make a move. He gets a drink of water from the bathroom for his heartburn, and when he returns Lolita gets up and asks for a drink, too. She drinks it and quickly falls asleep again. He stays awake the whole night. He informs the jury that by six o'clock in the morning, she was awake, and that by 6:15 they were lovers - and that Lolita seduced him.

He describes the seduction. When Lolita wakes up, he pretends to be asleep, then feigns waking up. They kiss. Lolita asks him if he knows about the game she and Charlie (a boy who works at the camp) played. He does not; she is shocked that he "never did it" when he was a kid, and she has sex with him.


Humbert has proved himself, at times, an unreliable narrator. He admits he does not always remember details perfectly, and sometimes adds to them retrospectively. Moreover, he may change details around, such as the usage of the number 342, to fit some authorial scheme. Do we believe, then, that Lolita truly seduced him? He spends a great deal of time in this chapter expressing his regret to the jury, so this claim may be a way of further exonerating himself. However, Lolita's behavior does fit with her coarse, flirtatious nature.

Nabokov refrains from describing the act of sex. As Humbert says, he is "not concerned with so-called 'sex' at all," and Nabokov has echoed this view. Sex, after all, is the release from desire; instead, Nabokov focuses on the tremendous build-up of Humbert's desire before the sex act. Desire lends itself much more easily to an exploration of emotions warped by madness.

Chapters 30-33:

Humbert describes how he would have repainted the dining room of The Enchanted Hunter with murals of a lake.

Humbert reminds the jury that he was not Lolita's first lover.

Lolita tells Humbert that she first experienced sex with another girl at another camp the previous summer. This summer, she had had sex with the brutish Charlie. At night, Humbert tells Lolita he will join her in the lobby, and admonishes her not to talk to strangers. In the lobby, Humbert sees a man about his age staring at Lolita reading a movie magazine in her red armchair.

They check out of the hotel and drive to Lepingville. Lolita is cold to Humbert, and she soon says she should call the police and tell them he raped her. Humbert, already feeling guilty, drives on anxiously until they stop at a gas station. He tells her Haze is dead.

Humbert lists all the things he bought her in Lepingville. They get separate rooms, but at night she comes into his and they make up "very gently."


Dolores Quine, the actress from Who's Who, debuted in the play "Never Talk to Strangers." Humbert gives this advice to Lolita, and the strange man who watches her, of course, is Quilty.

The town of Lepingville shares the first three letters with lepidoptery, the study of butterflies (remember that Nabokov was a renowned lepidopterist). Lolita is in many ways a butterfly to Humbert, a beautiful, fragile, and elusive creature. However, she is often vulgar and, at times, more resembles the larva that eventually becomes the butterfly. Humbert learns she is also not sexually innocent. He would like to believe he is witnessing her prior to her metamorphosis (recall his desire for nymphets never to grow up), but she already has sexually metamorphosed in impure ways. Still, he sees her only as an elevated butterfly and not as a debased larva.

Humbert also reveals his first monstrous feelings that are completely untouched by guilt when he describes his reunion with Lolita at the end of Chapter 33: "You see, she had absolutely nowhere else to go." He has become a true predator, the lepidopterist who has finally ensnared his subject. Even her suggestion that she will expose him does not faze him at this point.