Lolita is in many ways a novel about exile, about characters who have lost their homes. It is important to notice that there is no real “home,” in Lolita: every place Humbert Humbert and his nymphet live is a temporary dwelling. Humbert Humbert’s life begins at a hotel, and ends in a prison. In between, he lives in boarding houses, rented apartments, and motels—hundreds of them. He doesn’t stay anywhere, or with anyone, for more than a few years. Further, he is an exile from his cultural home: a bewildered European in America. Lolita, too, is homeless. In Ramsdale, she is a newcomer who has lost her father and her hometown. With Humbert, she becomes a kidnapped orphan, with no way of putting down roots and living a normal life. Lolita is not only a story of exile, but a road narrative: a story of adventure by car which spans the length and breadth of the United States. The themes of exile and the road are part of what make Lolita a strong contender for the title of “The Great American Novel.” The U.S. has always been a nation of immigrants, adventurers and exiles, and its history has been marked by internal migration and uprooting on a vast scale.
Exile is one of the great themes of Nabokov’s novels. Nabokov himself was an exile from his home country, Russia, and he never really settled down permanently after leaving. He died in a hotel in Switzerland. Humbert and Lolita’s wanderings were in part inspired by the cross-country butterfly collecting trip Nabokov took while composing the novel.
Exile, Homelessness and Road Narratives ThemeTracker
Exile, Homelessness and Road Narratives Quotes in Lolita
In the gay town of Lepingville I bought her four books of comics, a box of candy, a box of sanitary pads, two cokes, a manicure set, a travel clock with a luminous dial, a ring with a real topaz, a tennis racket, roller skates with high white shoes, a portable radio set, chewing gum, a transparent raincoat, sunglasses, some more garments—swooners, shorts, all kinds of summer frocks. At the hotel we had separate rooms, but in the middle of the night she came sobbing into mine, and we made it up very gently. You see, she had absolutely nowhere else to go.
We had been everywhere. We had really seen nothing. And I catch myself thinking today that our long journey had only defiled with a sinuous trail of slime the lovely, trustful, dreamy, enormous country that by then, in retrospect, was no more to us than a collection of dog-eared maps, ruined tour books, old tires, and her sobs in the night—every night, every night—the moment I feigned sleep.
Who can say what heartbreaks are caused in a dog by our discontinuing a romp?” (238)