Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*United States

*United States. In the course of the novel, the narrator, Humbert traverses the highways, towns, roadside attractions, hotels, motels, and tourist camps of most, if not all, of the forty-eight states of the United States, from Maine to California, as well as Alaska (which was not yet a state at the time the story is set). He does this first with Lolita, then alone, in search of her, after she is taken away from him. Humbert contrasts the canvas of America, with its natural landscapes of true beauty, dotted with garish billboards, gift shops, and gas stations, with what he calls “sweet, mellow, rotting Europe.”

Early in his narrative, Humbert outlines his first journey with Lolita, from east to west and back again, through New England, past “corn belts and cotton belts,” caverns and cabins, through mountains and deserts, and the “pale lilac fluff or flowering shrubs along forest roads” of the Pacific Northwest, and back to New England.

Their second trip, several years later, begins at Beardsley and takes them slowly through the Midwest and West, with stops in Kasbeam, where Humbert first becomes aware that they are being followed, and Wace, where they attend a summer theater with a play by Humbert’s rival, Clare Quilty, another pedophile who is following their trail through the West, and finally to Elphinstone, a western town “on the flat floor of a seven-thousand-foot-high valley.” There, Lolita falls ill, is hospitalized, and leaves the hospital with Quilty. Maddened with grief, Humbert follows their trail, stopping at hundreds of hotels, motels, and tourist homes, checking registers for the clues, which he finds in the form of mocking false names left by Quilty.

While the ironic vision and mocking voice of the novel’s European narrator are turned upon many aspects of twentieth century American civilization to comic effect, Humbert does not mock when he describes the epic beauty of the American wilderness—a beauty to which native-born Lolita, who is bored by “scenery,” is blind.

Hotel Mirana

Hotel Mirana. Luxurious, palm-shaded hotel on the French Riviera owned by Humbert’s father and the place where Humbert, at thirteen, met his first...

(The entire section is 926 words.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

Sexuality in the 1950s
Traditional attitudes about sex began to change during the 1950s—the time in which...

(The entire section is 615 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

Point of View
Humbert serves as the first-person, unreliable narrator in Lolita. His "impassioned confession"...

(The entire section is 511 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

By allowing Humbert to tell his own story, Nabokov places Lolita in the hands of a narrator whose values and proclivities the reader,...

(The entire section is 412 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In general, Nabokov's fiction is not chiefly concerned with social commentary. While his settings and characters are carefully and vividly...

(The entire section is 284 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

At one point in the novel, Humbert admits that he never found out the laws governing his relationship with Lolita. Investigate what rights...

(The entire section is 85 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Although Nabokov's novels abound in literary allusions and parody, they do not fit in easily among general literary trends or traditions....

(The entire section is 208 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Many of Nabokov's novels are similar to one another in a variety of ways. Characters, props, and other plot details often reappear in various...

(The entire section is 302 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Several of Nabokov's novels have been made into films: Laughter in the Dark (1969, directed by Tony Richardson, starring Nicol...

(The entire section is 277 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

Sue Lyon played Lolita Haze in Stanley Kubrick's 1962 film. Although Nabokov created the screenplay, Kubrick rewrote much of the text for the final version of the movie. Published by Gale Cengage

Lolita was twice adapted for the screen. The first version was directed in 1962 by Stanley Kubrick from Nabokov's screenplay and...

(The entire section is 103 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

Death in Venice (1913), by Thomas Mann is a tragic tale of an acclaimed author's obsession for a young...

(The entire section is 84 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Alfred Appel Jr., The Annotated Lolita, McGraw, 1970.

Anthony Burgess, The Novel Now:...

(The entire section is 180 words.)


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Bloom, Harold, ed. Lolita. Edgemont, Pa.: Chelsea House, 1993. Contains nine essays on such topics as the effect of America on Humbert, necrophilia, the attacks on Freud, the parodic elements, the treatment of women, and Humbert as a writer.

Field, Andrew. Nabokov: His Life in Art. Boston: Little, Brown, 1967. Explains how Lolita grew out of an unsuccessful short story Nabokov wrote in 1939. Also finds similarities to other Nabokov works in Russian. Excellent analysis of how Humbert and Quilty are psychological doubles.

Maddox, Lucy. Nabokov’s Novels in English. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1983. Interprets the novel as an anatomy of an obsession, with Humbert...

(The entire section is 189 words.)