Student Question

What is Lolita's age?

Quick answer:

Lolita is twelve years old when Humbert first meets her. At their final meeting, Lolita is seventeen years old.

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When Humbert first meets Lolita in her mother's garden, she is twelve years old. Lolita's age is a major attraction for Humbert, who prefers "nymphets" between the ages of nine and fourteen to adult women. However, Humbert projects other qualities onto the girl: his idealized "nymphet" possesses what he believes to be a blend of childlike innocence and vulgarity with a latent sensuality.

While Humbert claims he truly loves Lolita, much of his affection throughout the book hinges on her young age. While boarding at the Haze house, he frets over too much time passing before he is able to get any sexual satisfaction out of inconspicuously using Lolita since she will soon blossom into full adolescence. He constantly sexualizes her young body, particularly her slim hips and tanned skin, and even compares her to a colt at one point. Even after he has her mother out of the way and starts a sexual relationship with Lolita, he starts despairing at any sign of burgeoning sexual maturity, such as acne, physical development, or interest in boys her own age.

During Humbert and the seventeen-year-old Lolita's final meeting, Humbert claims he still loves Lolita even though she is no longer a nymphet. However, the novel is ambivalent as to how sincere Humbert is here. Is he deluding himself, as he has been with his tendency to present his pedophilic desires as aesthetic rather than immoral? At any rate, Humbert's desire for Lolita is largely based on her youth and his own idealized notions of "nymphet" behavior more than any qualities inherent in Lolita herself.

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