Vladimir Nabokov

Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on Lolita makes teaching easy.

Lolita: Part 1, Chapter 22 Summary & Analysis

Pretending he has insomnia, Humbert Humbert convinces the Haze family doctor to prescribe him sleeping pills. He tests these pills on Charlotte, meaning to use them on Lolita when she returns from camp. Worried that they aren’t strong enough, Humbert goes back to the doctor for a more powerful prescription. When he returns, he discovers that Charlotte has opened his drawer and read his diary. She screams that he’s a monster. Hoping to talk his way out of the situation, Humbert urges her to calm down, telling her that she’s hallucinating. Charlotte ignores him: she’s furiously writing a letter, with two others already stamped and ready on the table. Humbert leaves for the kitchen to pour her a scotch. He tries to think of ways to fix the situation. On the way back to the living room, he receives a telephone call from Leslie, the neighbor’s gardener—Charlotte has been run over by a car.
In his own mind, and when manipulating others, Humbert often makes fantasy and reality switch places. To make his own fantasy into reality, he must try and turn Charlotte’s reality (her realization of the truth) back into fantasy, by convincing her she’s hallucinating. Once again, a freak accident—Charlotte’s death—saves Humbert and changes the entire course of the story. The number of such coincidences suggest, to Humbert, the influence of fate (though to the reader it might hint at the constructedness of the novel, to Nabokov's hand in determining what happens). As Humbert later points out, significant events in his life tend to happen around toilets and telephones.
Perversity, Obsession, and Art Theme Icon
Patterns, Memory and Fate Theme Icon