Chapter 3 Summary

Humbert’s first girlfriend is named Annabel, and she is the daughter of English and Dutch parents. She makes an incredibly strong impression on the thirteen-year-old Humbert, who retains his memory of her in perfect detail until he meets Lolita. By the time he writes his memoir, Lolita has overtaken his memory entirely, and his mental image of Annabel has faded to a set of vague memories about her “honey-colored skin,” “brown bobbed hair,” and so on.

Annabel is just a few months younger than Humbert. Her parents are strict and stuffy, like his aunt. He despises them, but he strikes up a friendship with Annabel immediately. At first, the two children just talk about unimportant things such as tennis, outer space, and baby animals. They tell each other what they want to be when they grow up: she wants to be a nurse in a faraway country, and he wants to be a spy. Then, quite suddenly, they are “madly, clumsily, shamelessly, agonizingly in love with each other.” Their feelings are so intense that they are at a loss for how to satisfy themselves. They want, quite literally, to consume each other entirely and become one person. However, they are wealthy little European children, and their lives are so strictly regulated that they cannot even “mate” as poor kids in a slum could probably do. They try to meet at night in a garden once, but they are caught. After that, they are only allowed to see each other on the beach, and they are forced to stay within sight of their elders at all times. They lie in the sand, secretly attempting to touch each other, occasionally hiding behind a child’s sand castle to sneak a quick kiss. These cautious, stolen moments cause Humbert to feel an excruciating amount of sexual desire.

The tension builds throughout the summer. Finally, when Annabel's vacation comes to an end and she and her parents begin preparing to leave town, the two young lovers decide that they no longer care about getting caught. They slip off alone together and run to a deserted stretch of sand, where they find a shaded spot among the rocks. There they clumsily but eagerly make out. Humbert is “on the point of possessing” Annabel when they are interrupted by a couple of swimmers coming ashore. The moment passes, and they never end up having sex. A few months later, Humbert receives word that Annabel has died of typhus fever.