Humbert Humbert departs Quilty’s manor. He leaves his raincoat and the murder weapon behind. No longer caring what happens to him, he decides to drive back on the wrong side of the highway. Eventually, he finds the road blocked by police cars. He swerves off to the side, climbing a grassy hill populated with cows. The scene reminds him of two deaths: his mother’s and Charlotte’s.
Now that the story has ended, Humbert drives on the wrong side of the highway back where he came from, simultaneously moving backwards in his memory. Humbert the character is at the end of his story, and begins to reflect on the past.
As he waits for the police to arrest him, Humbert Humbert recalls a moment of reflection he had soon after Lolita’s disappearance. He remembers looking at a small town from the crest of a hill, listening to the sound of children playing far below. The experience made him realize that the really tragic part of his story was not his loss of Lolita, but Lolita’s loss of a happy childhood among other children. Reflecting on having finished his story, he gives an instruction to his publishers: the book should not be published until both he and Lolita are no longer living. Humbert ends the book as though speaking to Lolita, wishing her happiness and promising to immortalize her in art.
Here, Humbert gives us his scene of redemption, his fullest recognition of what he has done. His crime, as he understands it, was to deprive Lolita of two things that he, an eccentric exile, never knew: a home and a place in a community. Two stories end here at the same time. One is the story of Humbert the character, and it ends with his arrest. The other is the story of Humbert the narrator, who has just finished figuring out the plot—the pattern and meaning—of his life. The story of the telling is no less important than the story of the life told: Humbert’s manuscript has been an emotional attempt on his part to immortalize Lolita, make sense of his life, and come to terms with his crimes.