Lolita

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Clare Quilty Character Analysis

A children’s playwright, child pornographer, and the novel’s villain. Quilty is Humbert Humbert’s double and spiritual twin: a fellow pedophile, writer, and brilliant student of literature. Quilty is not revealed as a major character until the end of the novel, but clues to his identity are strewn throughout the book. Lolita falls in love with Quilty, who helps her to escape from Humbert. But she then abandons Quilty when he asks her to perform in his pornographic films. Quilty himself, it turns out, is impotent. At the end of the novel, Humbert Humbert murders Quilty in his decadent manor house.

Clare Quilty Quotes in Lolita

The Lolita quotes below are all either spoken by Clare Quilty or refer to Clare Quilty. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Perversity, Obsession, and Art Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Lolita published in 1989.
Part 2, Chapter 35 Quotes

We rolled all over the floor, in each other’s arms, like two huge helpless children. He was naked and goatish under his robe, and I felt suffocated as he rolled over me. I rolled over him. We rolled over me. They rolled over him. We rolled over us.

Related Characters: Humbert Humbert (speaker), Clare Quilty
Page Number: 299
Explanation and Analysis:

Humbert has finally discovered Quilty, and he plans to murder him for kidnapping Lolita. After attempting and failing to shoot him several times, Humbert begins to fight him fist-to-fist.

This description of the fight stresses how Humbert and Quilty are similar and interchangeable, even indistinguishable. First, Humbert describes how both are rolling over the floor, but he maintains the distinction between them as “two” oversized children. (The infantile references and latent homoeroticism are worth mentioning briefly.) But as the sentence continues, the divisions between subject and object break down. “he rolled over me” and “I rolled over him” are phrased in perfectly opposite terms. Then “We rolled over me” indicates that Humbert has merged his identity with that of Quilty; “They rolled over him” steps outside of Humbert as narrator to refer to both himself and Quilty as “they.” And “we rolled over us” unifies them entirely as both the subject and object of the fight.

The brilliant line-by-line development underscores how Humbert and Quilty have been playing similar roles throughout the novel (essentially acting as "doubles" or "doppelgängers," a common theme in Russian literature and Nabokov's work). They are both sexual perverts, both artists in a sense, and both paranoiacs—and this is what has made them so able to intuit the other’s actions at every moment. In their final battle, they fuse together, as if whoever succeeds will also have killed himself. That Humbert was brought down by a close analog to himself indicates, also, his own original culpability—for it seems to position the blame back onto him even as their identities intermingle.

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Clare Quilty Character Timeline in Lolita

The timeline below shows where the character Clare Quilty appears in Lolita. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 8
Exile, Homelessness and Road Narratives Theme Icon
Patterns, Memory and Fate Theme Icon
...copies a “dazzling coincidence”—a section of a book containing a mention of a man named Clare Quilty. Quilty is a dramatist known for his work with a certain Vivian Darkbloom writing... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 16
Perversity, Obsession, and Art Theme Icon
Suburbia and American Consumer Culture Theme Icon
Life and Literary Representation Theme Icon
Women, Innocence, and Male Fantasy Theme Icon
Patterns, Memory and Fate Theme Icon
...his name written next to a handsome male face, and another depicting a famous playwright, Clare Quilty. His snooping is interrupted by a call from the maid, Louise, the only other... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 15
Exile, Homelessness and Road Narratives Theme Icon
Life and Literary Representation Theme Icon
...author is, and she responds that it’s some old woman, someone with the first name Clare. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 18
Life and Literary Representation Theme Icon
Patterns, Memory and Fate Theme Icon
...Lolita to see a play in Wace, Nebraska. The play is by Vivian Darkbloom and Clare Quilty. As they stand up to leave, Humbert becomes concerned: Lolita is beaming at the... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 29
Perversity, Obsession, and Art Theme Icon
Exile, Homelessness and Road Narratives Theme Icon
Life and Literary Representation Theme Icon
Women, Innocence, and Male Fantasy Theme Icon
...identity of the man who took her away. Initially reluctant, she finally reveals his name: Clare Quilty, the author of The Enchanted Hunters. Quilty, who had been a friend of Charlotte’s,... (full context)
Life and Literary Representation Theme Icon
Women, Innocence, and Male Fantasy Theme Icon
Humbert is heartbroken when Lolita comments that Quilty is the only man she ever loved. Humbert can see that she only considers him... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 30
Life and Literary Representation Theme Icon
Patterns, Memory and Fate Theme Icon
...Ramsdale. In a secluded spot along the way, he practices his marksmanship, preparing to confront Quilty. His car gets stuck in the mud of a dirt road, but a wrecker pulls... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 33
Patterns, Memory and Fate Theme Icon
Finally, Humbert visits the local dentist, Ivor Quilty. Ivor is Clare’s uncle, something Humbert has learned from his conversation with Lolita. After offering... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 34
Life and Literary Representation Theme Icon
Humbert Humbert leaves Ramsdale and drives to Clare Quilty’s house—Pavor Manor—on Grimm Road. He arrives at night, and many cars are parked outside.... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 35
Life and Literary Representation Theme Icon
Patterns, Memory and Fate Theme Icon
...every door and pocketing every key he finds left in its lock: he doesn’t want Quilty to hole himself up in a room. While he’s walking toward a third bathroom, Quilty... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 36
Exile, Homelessness and Road Narratives Theme Icon
Life and Literary Representation Theme Icon
Patterns, Memory and Fate Theme Icon
Humbert Humbert departs Quilty’s manor. He leaves his raincoat and the murder weapon behind. No longer caring what happens... (full context)