Sometime after his escapades in Paris, Humbert Humbert decides to marry, hoping that marital sex and domestic life will help him to control his desire for nymphets. He chooses Valeria, the daughter of a Polish doctor who is treating him for dizziness. Valeria is an aspiring painter in the Cubist mode, which Humbert Humbert finds vulgar. He regrets that he could have made a better choice than her; describing his looks, he explains that women have always found him irresistible, in part because of the repressed virility which shows in his facial features.
This is the first of Humbert’s many attempts to live a normal social life. What makes it hard for him here and later on is his hatred of “vulgarity,” a category within which he includes trendy art, domestic life, and the sexuality of adult women. Valeria represents all of the things Humbert—an exile, pervert, and aesthete—despises. Humbert’s traditionally masculine exterior contrasts with his deviant interior. His irresistible looks also parallel his charming narrative voice—an implicit warning to readers to be careful.