Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita: Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Humbert Humbert begins his manuscript by repeating the name Lolita in various ways, lingering on the mouth sensations associated with saying it. He mentions a predecessor to Lolita, a girl he loved “in a princedom by the sea.” He writes as though speaking in front of an audience, referring to his readers as “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury.”
The “princedom by the sea,” is an allusion to Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee,” a narrative poem describing a romance between two children which ends in the death of the girl. The poem hints at the novel’s tragic conclusion. The choice of Poe is significant; he married his cousin when she was a child. Humbert’s decision to refer to his readers as members of a “jury,” reminds us that the writer is in jail, and also that his narrative is an attempt to justify himself to the world: another indication we should be on our guard.
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
Patterns, Memory and Fate Theme Icon
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