(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

After the death by heart attack of Humbert Humbert, before he was to be tried for murder, his lawyer asks John Ray, Jr., Ph.D., to edit the accused murderer’s last manuscript. It is titled “Lolita, or the Confession of a White Widowed Male.” Dolores Schiller, the girl Humbert calls Lolita, dies giving birth to a stillborn daughter a few weeks after Humbert’s fatal heart attack. Ray defends the manuscript against charges of pornography and claims it will become a classic in psychiatric circles.

Humbert’s confession begins with a summary of his life from his birth in 1910 until his discovery of Lolita in 1947. He was born in Paris to an English mother and a Swiss father, who ran a luxurious hotel on the Riviera. At thirteen, he fell in love with Annabel Leigh, who was close to his age, and experienced unfulfilled lust. Four months later, Annabel died of typhus. He had been haunted by her memory until he found her essence reincarnated in Lolita. After studying English literature in Paris, Humbert became a teacher and discovered himself drawn to certain girls between the ages of nine and fourteen, whom he calls “nymphets.” Trying to lead a conventional existence, he was married to Valeria from 1935 until 1939, when she left him for a White Russian taxi driver; she later died in childbirth.

Humbert then relates how, at the start of World War II, he moves to the United States. After his second stay in a mental institution, he seeks refuge in the small New England town of Ramsdale, where he rents a room from Charlotte Haze, a widow, after seeing her twelve-year-old daughter, Dolores, known as Lo to her mother and Dolly to her friends, and also sometimes called Lolita. The darkly handsome Humbert soon discovers that he resembles some singer or actor on whom Lolita has a schoolgirl crush. When the girl goes away to summer camp, Humbert decides that he cannot live without her. Then Charlotte leaves a note for Humbert in which she confesses her love for him and orders him to marry her or leave her home. They marry, and afterward he hints to her friends that he and Charlotte had had an affair thirteen years previously, and he begins to regard Lolita as his child. Humbert decides that he must somehow get rid of her mother, his wife, but he cannot bring himself to kill her.

Humbert’s problem is solved when Charlotte breaks into his locked desk to read his journal and discovers his disdain for her and...

(The entire section is 995 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Lolita chronicles the life of its narrator and protagonist, Humbert Humbert, focusing on his disastrous love affair with a young girl....

(The entire section is 1087 words.)