Chapter 36 Summary

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When Humbert first begins his affair with Lolita, she seems eager and curious. Soon, however, she begins showing open disgust for him and his desires. When given the choice, she chooses absolutely any other activity over sex. “There is nothing more atrociously cruel than an adored child,” Humbert explains—but then he takes pains to say that he is not complaining. In spite of the difficulties, his time with Lolita is “bliss.”

Humbert tries taking Lolita to a beach and finishing his unfulfilled relationship with Annabel. However, it does not work out. Their first two beach excursions meet with bad weather. The third, in California, provides good weather and a delightfully private little cave—but somehow Humbert does not want Lolita there. She is “all gooseflesh and grit” and he has “as little desire for her as for a manatee.”

Generally speaking, outdoor sex is not as lovely as it sounds—and it is far too risky for a man in Humbert’s position. Once he takes Lolita to a beautiful romantic spot in the mountains, where he has sex with her. Afterward, she bursts into tears—a habit of hers—and he hugs her to comfort her. Then, suddenly, two children and a woman burst out of the bushes. Humbert and Lolita gather their things and run for his car. As Lolita runs, she pulls on her clothes, assaulting him with curse words that no little girl should know.

Humbert lives in constant fear that he will be caught and arrested. He is bothered by whispers when he tries to embrace Lolita “innocently” in public. He cowers before police officers. Because he is so timid, he even fails to find out how to become Lolita’s legal guardian. He reads up on the matter in law books from many different states, but he only grows confused. Eventually he discovers that the authorities rarely investigate a child’s guardianship except in cases of obvious danger or neglect. He decides to wait and hope that people will never ask about his legal connection to his stepdaughter.

Musingly, Humbert daydreams of taking Lolita to Mexico, marrying her, and eventually getting her pregnant. He reasons that she may give birth to another nymphet, a sort of Lolita Two, who could eventually give birth to Lolita Three. This imaginary future never happens, but only because Humbert it too afraid to take Lolita across an international border.

Humbert knows that he is a terrible father. He cannot make Lolita study, and he feels awkward and “implausible” when he tries to discipline her. Ultimately, he decides to settle in the New England town of Beardsley because it will give her more stability and more schooling. More importantly, he will spend less money. Financially, he cannot sustain constant travels.

As Humbert drives back to New England, he cannot help but feel that somehow he and Lolita have “defiled” the beautiful countryside they have visited. He has been everywhere, but he does not really know what he has seen. All he remembers clearly are “her sobs in the night—every night, every night” as soon as he pretends to fall asleep.

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Chapter 35 Summary


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