Characters Discussed

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Humbert Humbert

Humbert Humbert, the novel’s middle-aged, Central European narrator, who “writes” the book as his confession while in a prison cell awaiting trial for murder. After his sudden death of coronary thrombosis a few days before the trial’s scheduled start, his book is “edited” by John Ray, Jr., presumably a professor of psychology. Humbert’s name is fictitious and often distorted in the text, rendered as Humbug, Humbird, Humburger, Hamburg, or Homberg. Born in 1910 in Paris, he is the son of a Continental European father (with Swiss, French, and Austrian genes) who owned a luxury hotel on the Riviera and of a beautiful English mother who is killed by a lightning bolt when the boy is three years old. Humbert traces his sexual obsession for girls between the ages of nine and fourteen—his term for them is “nymphets”—to a case of interrupted coitus he suffered when, at the age of thirteen, he and a certain Annabel Leigh had their romance forever aborted by her early death.

Lolita Haze

Lolita Haze, also called Dolores, Dolly, Lo, and Lolly, a twelve-year-old whose mother Humbert marries. She becomes his capricious child-mistress after her mother’s death. She is a gum-chewing, Coke-swilling, comic-book-addicted schoolgirl who exploits Humbert’s obsession with her and is largely insensitive to his feelings. Vexed by his possessiveness, she runs off with playwright Clare Quilty, who turns out to be impotent and even more perverted than Humbert. At the age of sixteen, she marries a plain, dull, poor mechanic who quickly impregnates her. While Lolita is a “nymphet,” Humbert raves about her chestnut hair, supple limbs, honey-hued shoulders, and slim hips. After she has married and grown beyond nymphet age, he deplores her “washed-out gray eyes” and “rope-veined, narrow hands.” The “editor’s” preface informs the reader that Lolita died giving birth to a stillborn girl.

Clare Quilty

Clare Quilty, an American dramatist whose most popular play is The Little Nymph and who is a year younger than Humbert. The clever Quilty pursues Humbert and Lolita throughout their cross-country wandering and induces the girl to leave her stepfather. Humbert confronts Quilty toward the novel’s end, killing him in an orgy of bloodletting, pumping dozens of bullets into the playwright.

Charlotte Haze

Charlotte Haze, Lolita’s mother and Humbert’s second wife. She is a conventionally middle-class, humorless, religious widow whose lust for him repels Humbert. He shudders over her plump thighs, coral lips, and bountiful breasts. After their marriage, she fawns over him. Then, however, she reads his secret diary and discovers his passion for her daughter, whom she detests. Rushing frantically out of the house, Charlotte is killed by a passing car.

Valeria

Valeria, Humbert’s first wife, who abandons him for a White Russian former colonel who has been reduced to driving a taxi in Paris.

Rita

Rita, a drunken divorcée twice Lolita’s age but very slight and thin. She becomes Humbert’s complaisant companion for the two years he spends searching for Lolita.

Richard (Dick) Schiller

Richard (Dick) Schiller, Lolita’s husband, a simple, poor, hard-of-hearing, out-of-work mechanic.

Characters

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As in many of Nabokov's novels, the cast of characters in Lolita is large, but its central players are relatively few. Humbert Humbert, the narrator, is a European expatriate, a self-described "nympholept" sexually obsessed with girls under the age of fourteen. He rents a room in the house of Charlotte Haze, an excruciatingly bourgeois but ultimately pathetic widow, and marries her in order to be near her daughter Dolores, whom he calls Lolita. Soon after, Charlotte is killed in an implausibly...

(This entire section contains 188 words.)

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convenient car accident — a sort of parodicdeus ex machina — leaving Humbert alone with his beloved nymphet.

The fourth major character of Lolita is Clare Quilty, an author of children's plays for whom Lolita eventually leaves Humbert. Quilty is a mysterious character, for although he shadows Humbert and Lolita throughout most of the novel, his presence is indicated only through a series of clues which the reader comes to understand only near the end of the book. The only time Quilty appears as Quilty is in the novel's final scene, when Humbert murders him, taking revenge on Quilty, (and, in a sense, himself) for Lolita's ruined life.