Chapter 37 Summary
Humbert corresponds with an acquaintance, Gaston Godin, who sets him up with a little house in Beardsley. When Humbert arrives, he is expecting an ivy-covered brick place, but instead he finds a drab wooden house that looks much like the old Haze home. He does not like the place at all, but he decides to stay anyway. The town is a good spot because it has a college library with the books he needs for his work, and it also has a respected private girls’ school for Lolita. Lolita, for her part, seems to notice nothing about her new home. She just walks in, finds the radio and a pile of magazines, and collapses onto a couch.
The Beardsley School for girls disappoints Humbert. He attends an interview with the headmistress, Miss Pratt, who tells him that the girls at her school are not required to “become bookworms” or memorize facts. The school curriculum is concerned with “the four D’s: Dramatics, Dance, Debating, and Dating.” She tells Humbert that girls Lolita’s age are far more concerned with social life than with academic life, and that he, as Lolita’s father, must allow her to practice the social arts which she will someday need as a housewife and a mother. No “plunge into dusty old books” can prepare a girl for her future—but a modern education at an institution like the Beardsley School certainly can.
Humbert finds Miss Pratt’s style and attitude distasteful, but ultimately he decides to stick to his plan to send Lolita to Beardsley. He speaks to some people in town, who assure him that the school is fine. Supposedly the girls do a good deal of academic work. The headmistress’s focus on social life is mainly an attempt on her part to attract donations from people with modern American values.
One of Humbert’s main reasons for sending Lolita to this particular school is that it is separated only by a vacant lot from his new house. He buys powerful binoculars and watches the schoolyard during breaks between classes. For him, this is both practical and recreational. He feels that he must watch over Lolita, and he also enjoys observing “the statistically inevitable percentage of nymphets among the other girl-children.” However, to Humbert’s great sadness, a group of workers soon begin construction of a new building on the vacant lot. They put up a fence and begin their work, completely destroying Humbert’s view. Then they go away, and they never even come back to finish their work.