Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita: Part 1, Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Humbert Humbert recopies—from memory—two weeks of entries from a diary he kept at the Haze’s in the summer of 1947. The diary is a record of his attraction to Lolita—and sometimes the weather—which unfolds over several weeks in June. He writes it in his most difficult-to-read handwriting, so that no one who might discover it would bother to read it. Over the summer, Humbert spends an enormous amount of time trying to be alone with Lolita, coming up with all kinds of schemes and fantasies. He is constantly frustrated in his attempts by Charlotte, who sends Lolita away constantly so that she can be alone with Humbert, with whom she seems to want to start an affair. Humbert doesn’t ever manage to get alone with Lolita for long, but he does have a few brief, intimate moments with her: he licks her eye to remove a speck, sits her on his knee, and nuzzles her in the darkness while he sits with her and Charlotte on the piazza. As he narrates, Humbert emphasizes the most minute details of Lolita’s body; not only what she looks like, but what she feels like and how she smells. Humbert begins imagining that Lolita is inviting his sexual interest, especially after learning from Charlotte that he looks like one of Lolita’s favorite Hollywood stars.
Just like the sunbathers and the parents of Annabel Leigh, Charlotte presents an obstacle to the fulfillment of Humbert’s desires. A love triangle of sorts forms between mother, daughter and lodger. Love triangles, secrecy, diary entries, the importance of the weather, and the difficulty of seeing the beloved are all clichés of romantic fiction. This chapter is a parody of such writing. Once again, Humbert blurs the lines between life and literature, constantly calling attention to the fact that he is not just reporting events, but designing a narrative. Humbert’s diary is the beginning of his attempt to immortalize Lolita in writing and in his memory. He is interested in every detail of her body, as though she were a work of art. The association of sexual desire with art recurs throughout the novel.
Perversity, Obsession, and Art Theme Icon
Life and Literary Representation Theme Icon
Women, Innocence, and Male Fantasy Theme Icon