Humbert Humbert tries to explain the strange mixture of the “bestial and the beautiful,” in his love for nymphets. He launches into a legal defense of his sexual behavior: Roman law allowed girls to marry at twelve, and certain states in the U.S. still allowed marriage at that age under special circumstances. Finally, in an effort at justification, Humbert tells his readers that he was not even Lolita’s first lover.
Bestial and beautiful is a good way of describing Lolita as a novel: there is a tension between the perverted subject matter and the highly aestheticized prose. The intensity of Humbert’s attempts at self-justification suggests suppressed feelings of guilt. By the end of the novel, these feelings will become more explicit.