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A typical middle-class, middle-aged American woman, Charlotte Haze
aspires to sophistication and European elegance, but her attempts
fall comically flat. She is religious and not particularly imaginative.
Charlotte sees Humbert as the epitome of the world-weary European
lover of—and in—grand literature. He represents her chance to become
the woman she dreams of being, but her vulgar, self-conscious stabs
at sophistication, such as her tendency to drop celebrity names
and mispronounce French phrases, make Humbert cringe. Humbert usually
refers to her derisively as Mama or the Haze woman. Charlotte’s
love letter to Humbert traffics mainly in self-pitying martyrdom
and melodramatic gestures. Nabokov portrays Charlotte with so little
sympathy that the tragic elements of her character almost disappear.
She dies, after all, knowing that the man she loves lusts after
her own daughter.
Charlotte is not particularly fond of Lolita. Although
Lolita’s adolescent tantrums certainly don’t make her a very likeable
child, Charlotte’s distain signals a greater lack of motherly concern
than normal. Charlotte seems to see Lolita as a threat, almost as
competition, and she sends Lolita to camp to keep her from hindering
her romantic plans for Humbert. Humbert, of course, sees Charlotte only
as an obstacle to his romantic plans for Lolita. Though Charlotte
is not an overtly kind and wonderful mother, her presence does protect
Lolita—when Charlotte dies, Humbert is free to kidnap Lolita and
change her life forever.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Lolita!