Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita: Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

At thirteen, Humbert Humbert has his first romance. The girl is Annabel, the daughter of a family friend. He complains that he can no longer visualize her in full detail, since the singular image of Lolita has fully replaced her in his mind. Nevertheless, he tries to describe the story of his brief romance. Annabel and young Humbert fall madly in love with one another, but find it impossible to get away from adults. They touch each other in secret as often as possible, but cannot fully satisfy their budding desires. Finally, they manage to escape to a cave on the beach, with nothing in it but a pair of sunglasses. They are about to have sex, but are discovered by two older men, who mock them. Humbert abruptly ends this scene to tell his readers that Annabel died of typhoid four months later.
The sunglasses in this scene reappear when Humbert first sees Lolita: he establishes an almost mystical link between the two girls. Because he cannot visualize Annabel, Humbert is in some sense “exiled,” from his earliest memories; a feeling which parallels his separation from Lolita during the time of his writing. Humbert is always scheming to be alone with Annabel. The erotic frustration which comes from his inability to do so recurs throughout the novel. Annabel Leigh’s sudden death from typhoid is a parody of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and poems, in which female characters often die from sickness.
Perversity, Obsession, and Art Theme Icon
Exile, Homelessness and Road Narratives Theme Icon
Women, Innocence, and Male Fantasy Theme Icon
Patterns, Memory and Fate Theme Icon