Chapters 30-31 Summary

In chapter 30, Humbert once again addresses his readers directly. This time, however, he does not address the “jury” that stands in judgment over him. Rather, he addresses the shady men who feel the same illicit desires he feels. Even now that he is in prison, far away from Lolita, he sees such men as rivals for her affections:

I have to tread carefully…It would never do, would it, to have you fellows fall madly in love with Lolita!

He does not provide any precise physical descriptions of the morning’s sexual activities. He simply waxes poetic, claiming that he wishes he were a painter who could decorate the walls of the Enchanted Hunters with a mural. He would paint a series of disparate scenes, some from his courtship with Lolita, some depicting historical loves between grown men and little girls. Finally he would include a series of diffuse colors and objects that suggest both his orgasm and Lolita’s less enthusiastic reaction:

a fire opal dissolving within a ripple-ringed pool, a last throb, a last dab of color, stinging red, smarting pink, a sigh, a wincing child.

In chapter 31, Humbert admits that he feels “boundless misery” now as he writes down his experiences. He explains that he needs “to sort out the portion of hell and the portion of heaven” that he has experienced because of his pedophilia and, in particular, because of his affair with Lolita.

According to Humbert, the laws of ancient Rome decreed that girls could get married when they were twelve. Some American states allow this as well, whereas others allow marriage at fifteen. Nowhere in the world is it considered legally wrong for “a brute of forty” to drunkenly “thrust himself up to the hilt” on a wife who is much younger than he. Even in the prison where Humbert resides while writing down his adventures with Lolita, there is a magazine that says girls mature sexually when they are twelve years old. He insists that this proves his actions are natural.

In spite of these protests, Humbert Humbert clearly feels wracked by guilt he cannot quite explain or understand. He admits that he feels “horror” at his own actions and that he has never been able to rid himself of this feeling. However, in the next breath, he returns to his usual pattern of defending himself:

Did I deprive her of her flower? Sensitive gentlewomen of the jury, I was not even her first lover.