Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita: Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Humbert Humbert explains his background and upbringing. His heritage includes a “salad of racial genes,” from all over Europe; he is the son of an English woman and a man of mixed Swiss, French, Austrian and German descent. Humbert was born in Paris in 1910, and spent his childhood at the Hotel Mirana on the French Riviera, a resort owned by his father. His mother died when he was three years old, but he was doted on by everyone in the “private universe,” of the hotel: his father’s lady-friends, tourists, and the hotel help. He lived a charmed life filled with physical activity, illustrated books, and the gentle sternness of his Aunt Sybil. He is careful to mention that he had no abnormal sexual experiences before the age of thirteen: his childhood knowledge of sex was limited to looking at nude drawings and discussing puberty with a friend.
For most of Lolita, Humbert is an exile, a homeless stranger moving from hotel to hotel in a foreign land. Here, we can see that in some ways Humbert was born into “exile”: he grew up in a hotel, motherless and without a definitive national identity. Humbert is careful to establish his sexual “innocence,” in childhood: he wants to show he was psychologically normal before he was seduced by nymphets.
Exile, Homelessness and Road Narratives Theme Icon
Life and Literary Representation Theme Icon
Women, Innocence, and Male Fantasy Theme Icon
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