Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita: Part 1, Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Humbert Humbert is at first horrified by the letter, but comes to realize that marrying Charlotte would give him the opportunity to be with her daughter without arousing suspicion. He begins fantasizing about all the opportunities married life would give him to molest Lolita—by giving her sleeping pills and then molesting her, for instance—and ultimately resolves to do it. To prepare himself for Charlotte’s return, he eats rich food and drinks liquor, hoping that these will function as aphrodisiacs. When Charlotte returns, Humbert is drunkenly mowing the lawn, watched curiously by Leslie, the neighbor’s black gardener.
Here, Humbert begins making decisive plans to fulfill his perverse fantasies about Lolita. No longer content to wait for “accidents,” (like the one in Chapter 13), he decides to marry Charlotte and begin his vast deception. Before Charlotte even arrives, Humbert is already trying his best to act out the role of suburban husband. But because he is such an outsider (as a European, a pervert, a bohemian, and a snob), his act is comically unconvincing from the very beginning. The neighbor’s gardener already knows it doesn’t look right. Humbert often drinks alcohol during times of stress. Here, he is using it to make himself aroused for Charlotte; he is not normally attracted to adult women.
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