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by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita Book 1, Chapter 5 Summary

  • Humbert recounts his more general relations to women during his college years.
  • He considered getting a degree in psychiatry but then switched to English literature, which he studied in Paris.
  • He begins publishing and finds a teaching job.
  • Humbert introduces and details the term "nymphet" (1.5.5); nymphets are girls between 9 and 14 and don't have to be good looking. To discern a nymphet is also a skill – you must yourself be, as he says, an "artist and a madman" (1.5.6).
  • There must be a gap of at least ten years between the man and his nymphet. Thus, by definition, Annabel is not one but his love for her fueled his love of nymphets.
  • Living in Europe, Humbert had relations with many women, all of whom are substitutes and many of whom are prostitutes; taboo prevents him from being with a girl of twelve, but he spends plenty of time staring at them in parks.
  • Humbert recounts many examples from literature and history in which poets and leaders loved much younger girls.
  • He "tried hard to be good" (1.5.19), spending many days sitting on a park bench ogling nymphets but restraining himself.

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