Vladimir Nabokov

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Lolita can help.

Lolita: Part 2, Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Humbert Humbert and Lolita leave Beardsley and drive west. They go through a town close to Lolita’s Midwestern hometown of Pisky, but do not visit it. At a gas station, Lolita slips off, ostensibly to use the toilet, while Humbert isn’t looking. He thinks nothing of it at the time, but notes in retrospect that he should have realized she was using this moment of freedom to telephone someone.
Once again, an important event takes place in connection with toilets and telephones—this is the pattern Humbert recognizes in his fate. Humbert tells us something he didn’t realize at the time it took place: that Lolita was probably calling someone. This is something he does throughout the novel: attempt to come to terms with his loss of Lolita by understanding what really happened during their time together. Humbert prevents Lolita from seeing her hometown. By kidnapping Lolita, he has made her into a wanderer without a home, like himself.
Exile, Homelessness and Road Narratives Theme Icon
Life and Literary Representation Theme Icon
Patterns, Memory and Fate Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Later on, at the Chestnut Court motel where they are staying, Humbert returns from his grocery shopping to notice that Lolita has a certain “glow.” He suspects that she has had sex with another man while he was gone. He rips off her clothes to see if he can smell anything, but cannot verify his suspicions. He wonders if they are anything but a “madman’s fancy.”
Humbert’s obsession with Lolita makes it hard for him to distinguish between his jealous fantasies and well-grounded suspicions. His intense desire causes him to make up fantastic stories—like the novel—which are hard to distinguish from reality. For Humbert, there is a link between erotic obsession and art.
Perversity, Obsession, and Art Theme Icon
Women, Innocence, and Male Fantasy Theme Icon