Newly conscious of ruining Lolita’s childhood, Humbert meditates on moments when he noticed but coldly ignored her pain. He remembers her hopeless expression in the mirror when she thought he wasn’t looking; her sadness when seeing the happiness of normal families; her fear when his physical affection suddenly transformed into lust. Tortured by these memories, Humbert realizes that the “parody of incest,” he offered Lolita was no substitute for any real kind of family life.
Lolita is filled with small details, and Humbert prides himself on being an attentive observer. But now, he begins to realize how much desire caused him to ignore the details of Lolita’s inner life. Sexual fantasies warped his perceptions. Here, Humbert becomes painfully aware of the suffering he caused and ignored. Humbert calls his relationship with Lolita a “parody of incest,” because he has been posing as Lolita’s father. He begins to realize that the life he lived with her was a cruel imitation or parody of ordinary family life.