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.)