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.