Chapters 7-8 Summary

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Eventually, Humbert decides to deny his real desires and get married. He reasons that a more conventional life might inspire him to develop a more moral character. Besides, he will constantly have access to a legal sexual outlet, which will be convenient even though it will not give him what he really wants.

Humbert considers himself “an exceptionally handsome male” who is capable of wooing any woman he chooses. In fact, he has long made a habit of ignoring most adult women to prevent them from “toppling, bloodripe, into [his] cold lap.” He could have a really impressive woman, but he settles on a stupid and uninteresting girl named Valeria.

Humbert chooses Valeria largely because she dresses and acts like a child. She does not do this for his benefit; it is “just her style.” She is not a child at all, but a fully grown woman in her late twenties who “mislaid her virginity” several years before meeting him. Being married to her is fun on their wedding night, when he has her dress up in an old nightshirt he has stolen from an orphanage. As time passes, he finds that she is a convenient vent for his sexual attraction to a nymphet who lives across the street. However, the marriage is not successful. Valeria grows fat and sad, and Humbert becomes increasingly discontented with her round womanliness.

One day, when Humbert has been married for four years, he suddenly receives a decent inheritance from an American uncle. He will receive it only if he moves to the United States, so he informs Valeria that they will soon be emigrating. For some reason she seems unhappy about this.

Soon Valeria informs Humbert that she is having an affair. His long years of suppressed sexual desires have taught him “superhuman self-control,” so he is just barely able to refrain from beating her senseless in the street. He hails a taxi that has been rolling along nearby, and moments later, she admits that the driver is her paramour. The three of them go to a restaurant to discuss a divorce.

Although Humbert has no particular affection for Valeria, the episode clearly wounds his pride. He considers murder but decides that Valeria is not worth the trouble. He resolves merely to hurt her badly the next time he is alone with her, but he never gets the chance. The paramour drives them to his apartment and then helps Valeria pack and leave. Valeria later moves to California, participates in a bizarre psychological study, and ultimately dies in childbirth.

At this point, Humbert pauses in his story to reflect on the inadequate library offerings in the prison where he is writing his memoir. He lists titles of the few volumes he can find, one of which is the 1946 edition of Who’s Who in the Limelight. He writes out, word for word, most of a page from this book. It has an entry on an actress called Dolores Quine, who shares the same first name as Lolita. It also includes an entry on a playwright named Clare Quilty, the author of Little Nymph and other esteemed plays for children. Humbert makes wordplays and rhymes with these names. One of his rhymes is “Guilty of killing Quilty.”

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Chapter 9 Summary