Chapter 18 Summary
Humbert and Charlotte marry almost immediately, keeping their wedding small and quiet. Charlotte does not want to bring Lolita back from camp for the event, and Humbert lets her do as she wishes. He takes charge of the newspaper announcement about their wedding. For fun, he implies to the reporter that he and Charlotte are currently rekindling a lost flame from an affair they had many years ago.
Humbert learns quite a bit about Charlotte, much of which surprises him, in the short lead-up to his wedding. At one point, she says that she will kill herself if she ever suspects that Humbert does not believe in “our Christian God.” He makes vague assurances on the matter, but the conversation makes him uneasy. If she is so staunch in her religious beliefs, she is certainly too principled simply to look the other way if she finds out that her husband wants to molest her daughter. He decides to tread carefully and prevent her from developing any suspicions.
Humbert is pleasantly surprised to see Charlotte change under the force of her love for him. She seems so sweet and vulnerable that he begins, suddenly, to see small flashes of resemblance between her and her daughter. He looks up old pictures of Charlotte when she was Lolita’s age and uses them to remind himself that this woman was a girl once herself. His thoughts on this matter help him to perform his onerous “nightly duty” in the bedroom.
Charlotte enters into her new marriage with complete sincerity. Every day at breakfast, she greets Humbert with “intolerable tenderness.” When he reacts with “solemn exasperation,” she assumes that he is too manly and European to express his love openly. She refurnishes the house to make it look the way she thinks the home of a married woman ought to look. She seeks advice on these matters in tacky magazines for housewives, and he tolerates the results. However, he mourns inwardly when she changes the colors of the couch, the site of his one moment of sexual bliss with Lolita.
After their wedding, Charlotte and Humbert begin making frequent social calls to other couples in town. There Humbert engages in staid, middle-class conversations with staid, middle-class people. With the other fathers, he discusses camps and schools and the various ups and downs of little girls’ friendships. As he chats, he privately wishes he could bring Lolita home from camp immediately.