Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita: Part 1, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Humbert Humbert wonders what happened to the nymphets he visually enjoyed but never touched, speculating that the activity of his imagination might have somehow changed their fates. He recalls one instance during his life in Paris when he did run into a “former nymphet”—a teenage prostitute named Monique, whose services he solicited after running into her on the street. Humbert sleeps with Monique three times, but by the third time, remarks that she is already becoming too much of a woman for his tastes. The encounter inspires him to look for child prostitutes in Paris. He asks a madame, who is at first disgusted, but then refers him to someone else. Eventually, he is presented with a girl—but not one he considers a nymphet. He finds her so repulsive that he gets up to leave, but the procuress and her family emerge from behind a curtain to blackmail him into paying.
Humbert is carried away with his own imagination: he imagines it as capable of changing the real world. This blurring of the line between life and literature recurs throughout Lolita. Humbert gets tired of Monique quickly, and isn’t satisfied by the small girl the later Madame shows him. Both of these encounters demonstrate how specific his notion of a “nymphet” is: it is rare for him to find anyone who qualifies.
Perversity, Obsession, and Art Theme Icon
Life and Literary Representation Theme Icon
Women, Innocence, and Male Fantasy Theme Icon