Vladimir Nabokov

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Themes and Colors
Perversity, Obsession, and Art Theme Icon
Suburbia and American Consumer Culture Theme Icon
Exile, Homelessness and Road Narratives Theme Icon
Life and Literary Representation Theme Icon
Women, Innocence, and Male Fantasy Theme Icon
Patterns, Memory and Fate Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Lolita, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Perversity, Obsession, and Art

There is a relationship between Humbert Humbert’s desire for nymphets and his artistic gifts. The common link is obsession, which Lolita suggests is the connector between sexual perversion and artistic talent. Humbert Humbert’s passion for Lolita is not only perverse, but also physically and intellectually obsessive. He is not satisfied with merely molesting Lolita, or even with having sex with her, as more ordinary pedophiles might be. These things, to him, fall short of his…

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Suburbia and American Consumer Culture

Lolita pokes fun at the middle-class consumer culture of the American suburbs in the 1950s. As a savvy European aesthete, Humbert Humbert narrates his journey through his adopted country in a voice dripping with contempt. Many of the places and people in Lolita are pure caricatures of American “types.” The novel makes fun of everything which was quintessentially “American” in the late 1940s and 1950s, good and bad: Hollywood movies, middle-class consumerism, motels, Freudian psychology…

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Exile, Homelessness and Road Narratives

Lolita is in many ways a novel about exile, about characters who have lost their homes. It is important to notice that there is no real “home,” in Lolita: every place Humbert Humbert and his nymphet live is a temporary dwelling. Humbert Humbert’s life begins at a hotel, and ends in a prison. In between, he lives in boarding houses, rented apartments, and motels—hundreds of them. He doesn’t stay anywhere, or with anyone…

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Life and Literary Representation

Humbert Humbert is not only a pedophile, but a literary scholar, and Lolita is as much—or more—about literature as it is about pedophilia. Often, literature functions as a lens through which Humbert sees and interprets the world around him. He also uses it as a tool to justify himself, and to make sense of his life. He uses Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee,” to express his love for his childhood sweetheart. He often uses…

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Women, Innocence, and Male Fantasy

The flip side of Humbert Humbert’s obsession with nymphets is his hatred of sexually mature women. Humbert Humbert treats the adult women of Lolita with almost infinite pity and contempt. Often, when angry, he thinks about killing them: he considers or at least imagines murdering Valeria, Charlotte, and Headmistress Pratt at the Beardsley School. Humbert’s misogyny reaches its pinnacle in his marriage with Charlotte. Humbert hates Charlotte’s body, and is disgusted by her…

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Patterns, Memory and Fate

Throughout Lolita, Humbert Humbert seems to believe that his life is following the pre-established pathways of his fate. He tries to fit every event in his life into a mysterious pattern, finding subtle, hard-to-explain connections everywhere. Annabel Leigh’s mysterious connection to Lolita is the first instance. Sunglasses appear on the cave floor with Annabel, and then again when Humbert Humbert first sees Lolita. Humbert Humbert also notices that life-changing things tend to happen…

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