Vladimir Nabokov

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Lolita: Part 2, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Still describing his year of travels with Lolita, Humbert Humbert explains how at one point he tries to recreate his childhood beachside love with Lolita. He finds a cave on a California beach, but somehow, it just isn’t the same. He jokes that Freudian psychologists will no doubt be interested in this attempt to recreate his sublimated, original desire.
Humbert’s romance with Lolita is an attempt to recreate his idealized childhood romance with Annabel Leigh. But it doesn’t work. Humbert is not a young boy, but an adult kidnapper. Freudian psychoanalysis teaches that most of our desires are disguised replacements for an “original,” desire: usually, the desire for the mother. Although he despises psychoanalysis, Humbert identifies this scene as the kind of event psychoanalysts might like to interpret.
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As they continue their travels, Humbert Humbert and Lolita have a few close encounters with being discovered: once while having sex in a forest, another time when they are stopped by two policemen, and a third time in a movie theater. Humbert, worried about the legal situation, begins to do research on guardianship. Though he thinks it might be best to establish himself as Lolita’s legal guardian, he is too afraid to tempt fate.
Living the life of a criminal deviant is beginning to wear Humbert down. But he is afraid to begin pretending to live an ordinary life, something which he has failed at twice: once with Valeria, and once with Charlotte. Humbert’s respect for fate keeps him from making plans. As we have seen, his plans usually fail, and the good things that happen to him are the result of his luck, which he is afraid of tampering with by being more careful. The recurrence of forests and movies in connection with sex is important. For Humbert’s imagination, both are associated with eroticism.
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Equally anxious about his financial situation, Humbert uses his friend Gaston Godin to find a position as a French Professor at Beardsley college. There, he plans to settle down and enroll Lolita in school. Humbert reflects sadly on his year of travel with Lolita, which he imagines as having “defiled” the whole country. He lets slip that Lolita cries every night, as soon as he pretends to fall asleep.
The name “Beardsley,” emphasizes that Humbert is using this job as a “beard,” to disguise his perverse relationship with Lolita. Here, Humbert’s guilt leads him to tell us more about Lolita’s feelings than he has previously. Humbert constantly identifies Lolita with America. Compared with Europe, America was considered a young culture. Humbert imagines he has corrupted the country in the same way he has corrupted Lolita.
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