Chapter 29 Summary

Lolita has left a light on in the bathroom, and its open door gives Humbert a dim view of the room. She is dressed in an old nightgown, and her head is resting on both of the pillows. Humbert slips into his own pajamas. He begins to ease himself into the bed, and Lolita turns and stares at him.

Humbert freezes. The sleeping pill has failed to work. Lolita sleepily calls him “Barbara” and rolls over. He stays frozen, watching her, wondering if the pill needs more time to take effect. When he gains the courage to finish getting into bed, Lolita wakes up again. He tries to move closer to her, but she tosses and mumbles in her sleep. At one point he thinks she may be fully conscious, ready to “explode in screams” if he puts a finger on her body.

Throughout the night, Humbert lies awake, easing himself closer to Lolita when he thinks it is safe and then retreating when she seems on the point of waking. He resolves that tomorrow he will give her one of the pills he tried on her mother, the ones that he previously decided were not good enough. In the meantime, he lies still and listens to the sounds of clanking elevators and flushing toilets. He marvels that ordinary life can go on when Lolita is next to him—but still unattainable.

Congratulating himself for being too kind to harm Lolita, Humbert falls asleep. The rest of the night is filled with frustrated dreams of Lolita and Charlotte and the doctor who prescribed the ineffective purple pills. He wakes up often, and he is awake at six when Lolita sits up and yawns—and immediately seduces Humbert Humbert.

Seeing Humbert in bed with her, Lolita laughs, kisses him, and whispers in his ear. He listens, hardly able to believe what she is suggesting. When he says cautiously that he does not understand what game she wants to play, she is aghast. “You mean, you never did it when you were a kid?” she says.

Humbert marvels that, to Lolita, sex is a child’s game. Eagerly and immodestly, she shows him exactly how to play. He is astounded that, far from his expectations, she is already “utterly and hopelessly depraved.” She is not innocent, so he reasons that he need not worry about taking her innocence away. Pretending not to know what she is doing, he lets her “have her way”—but only for a while. Then the temptation grows too great, and he shows her sex as he knows it.