Clare Quilty Quotes in Lolita
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.
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.