Lolita

Lolita

Lolita Part 1, Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Humbert Humbert goes outside to view the scene of the accident. While crossing the street to send her letters, Charlotte was run over by a car driven by a man named Beale, who was swerving to avoid a collision with a dog. Humbert takes advantage of the confusion at the scene of the crash to destroy the letters Charlotte was planning to send. He stuffs them into his pocket, where he “claw[s] them to fragments.” When he tries to reassemble them later, he can only make out a few sentences. One of the letters was for Lolita, another was for the headmistress of a reform school, and another was clearly addressed to him.
Cars are very important to the plot of Lolita. The image of a car swerving off-road can be interpreted as an analogy for the sudden turn away from ordinary domestic life which Lolita is about to experience. Humbert’s perspective on the events that take place in Lolita is the only one available to us as readers. He has destroyed alternative stories, like those which might have been told in Charlotte’s letters. It is important to remember this as we read through Humbert’s confession: by the time he is writing, nobody is left alive to contradict him. We have little reason to trust him.
Themes
Life and Literary Representation Theme Icon
Patterns, Memory and Fate Theme Icon
The Farlows arrive and comfort Humbert, who pretends to be traumatized by the death of his wife. Realizing that he’s been given a perfect opportunity, he schemes up a way to remove Lolita from Camp Q and become her guardian. First, he fakes a call to the camp in front of the Farlows. He tells them that Lolita is on a five-day hike, and cannot be reached. Later, he convinces Jean and John that Lolita is really his daughter (not Harold Haze’s) by inventing an affair with Charlotte in 1934. This convinces them to let Humbert deal with Lolita’s future.
Knowing that nosy friends and neighbors are always sniffing for scandal, Humbert tells the Farlows something he knows they will believe. He makes up his affair with Charlotte the same way he invented his love life. The letter Q in Camp Q is another little detail which foreshadows the eventual appearance of Clare Quilty, the novel’s antagonist.
Themes
Suburbia and American Consumer Culture Theme Icon
Exile, Homelessness and Road Narratives Theme Icon
Life and Literary Representation Theme Icon
Humbert receives a visit from Beale, the man who ran over Charlotte. Beale is expecting a lawsuit, and tries to convince Humbert that the accident was not his fault. He disingenuously offers to pay for Charlotte’s funeral expenses, and is shocked when Humbert actually accepts.
Beale is expecting Humbert—who appears to be a dignified, grieving widower—to refuse his offer out of pride. Of course, Humbert is faking it: one faker tricks another.
Themes
Suburbia and American Consumer Culture Theme Icon