Chapter 22 Summary

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Humbert is pleased to learn that there is no room for Lolita in Miss Phalen’s boarding school until January. This means that he will have at least a few months to spend with the little girl. He hopes that he will be able to influence events so that he can keep her longer.

Since the beginning of his marriage, Humbert has been performing experiments on Charlotte, slipping her sleeping pills and observing the effects. He wants to find a drug that will put both Charlotte and Lolita into such a deep sleep that they will not wake up, even if he touches them. So far, none of the drugs he has tried are strong enough, so he goes to the doctor and complains of insomnia so severe that it demands the strongest possible medication. After some hesitation, the doctor hands over a bottle of purple pills.

Thrilled, Humbert makes his way home, reflecting as he walks on the beauty of the town of Ramsdale. His recent broody period has changed Charlotte’s behavior and made her properly manipulable, so he is back to acting as cheerful with her. He bursts through the front door and calls out a greeting, but he hears no reply. He steps into the living room and finds her at her desk writing a letter.

Charlotte looks up, her face puffy and streaked in tears. Not bothering with a greeting, she flings at him the various cruel names he gave her in his diary:

The Haze woman, the big bitch, the old cat, the obnoxious mamma, the—the old stupid Haze is no longer your dupe.

The worst has happened. Charlotte has read everything Humbert wrote about Lolita, and now they are going away. Charlotte says that he will “never, never see that miserable brat again.”

Humbert stammers an unintelligible defense, but she orders him out of the room. He goes up to his little studio and looks at the “raped little table” where he kept the diary. Its drawer hangs open, a key still stuck in the lock. He goes to the bedroom, finds his diary among her things, and slips it into his pocket. Finally, he goes downstairs to the kitchen and locates a bottle of Scotch—Charlotte’s favorite drink.

Returning to the living room, Humbert admonishes Charlotte. “You are ruining my life and yours,” he says. He claims that she is being hysterical and that the notes in the diary are just part of a novel he is writing. He needed names for the characters, so he grabbed the names of the people in the house.

Charlotte ignores Humbert. He goes back to the kitchen and begins forming a plan to rewrite his diary and introduce slight changes that will make it seem less incriminating. This, he hopes, will help him convince Charlotte that it is really a work of fiction. However, he seems to know that it is a lost cause. Charlotte will not believe him. He stares around the kitchen to calm himself.

When the phone rings, Humbert answers, and the person on the other end of the line tells him that Charlotte has been in a terrible accident. He replies that this is impossible. He even calls out to her, making it a joke: “There’s this man saying you’ve been killed, Charlotte.” But when he returns to the living room, he sees that she is no longer there.

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Chapter 21 Summary


Chapter 23 Summary