Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita: Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Humbert Humbert asks himself what connection there might be between his young romance with Annabel and his adult obsession with Lolita. Were these normal pubescent feelings, or did his perverse sexual tastes begin then? He concludes that his passion for Lolita began, magically, with her predecessor Annabel. After this account, he precedes to describe his first sexual experience with Annabel: an interrupted session of mutual masturbation one evening in the mimosa grove of her family’s garden. Humbert dwells on the sights and smells surrounding the memory: the stars, Annabel’s “biscuity odor,” and the shapes of the mimosa leaves. He remembers the windows of the house as playing cards, and hypothesizes that this image might appear to him because the adults were playing cards inside.
Humbert cunningly represents his pedophilic love for Lolita as innocent by identifying it with his childhood love for Annabel. Humbert is highly sensitive: sights, smells and feelings leave a strong impression on his memory, and this fuels his imagination. Humbert’s visualization of the windows as playing cards reminds us that we never recall our memories perfectly; they are reshaped by the thoughts and feelings which surround them. This will become more important as Humbert moves into the story of his relationship with Lolita, which is powerfully reshaped by his feelings and his imagination.
Perversity, Obsession, and Art Theme Icon
Women, Innocence, and Male Fantasy Theme Icon
Patterns, Memory and Fate Theme Icon