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by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita Book 1, Chapter 23 Summary

  • Running outside, Humbert finds a chaotic scene. In her haste to mail some letters, Charlotte tripped and fell in front of a moving car that was itself trying to avoid hitting a dog.
  • Humbert acts fast, gathering up the unmailed incriminating letters. In a whirl of anxiety, he sees himself as he imagines others seeing him: "The widower, a man of exceptional self-control, neither wept nor raved" (23.2).
  • The Farlows come to console him. Humbert does a lot of drinking and reads the letters: one to a reform school, one to Lolita, and one to him.
  • Humbert concocts a story for the Farlows about how he and Charlotte had an affair long ago, all of which is to imply that Lolita just might be his daughter so she can't be taken away from him.
  • Humbert puts on a big show of bereavement and concern and convinces the Farlows not to notify Lolita at camp – he doesn't want to ruin her vacation with the news.
  • Among many other "busybodies" dropping by the house is a man named Beale, who comes by to explain how he ran over Charlotte and to sell the idea that it was really her fault. Humbert thanks fate for clearing his path to Lolita and takes the man up on his offer to pay for the funeral.

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