The narrator and protagonist of Lolita. Humbert is an erudite European intellectual with an obsessive love for nymphets and a history of mental illness. He manages to seduce the reader with his gift for beautiful language, but he is nonetheless capable of rape and murder. Humbert, despite his knowledge of the world, becomes self-aware only toward the end of the novel, when he realizes he has ruined Lolita’s childhood. He writes the story of Lolita from his prison cell, where he awaits trial for murder. However, he dies of heart failure soon after Lolita’s death.
The novel’s eponymous nymphet. An adolescent, she is seductive, flirtatious, and capricious, and she initially finds herself attracted to Humbert, competing with her mother for his affections. However, when his demands become more pressing, and as she spends more time with children her own age, she begins to tire of him. Humbert attempts to educate her, but she remains attached to American popular culture and unimpressed with his cultured ideas. Eventually, she runs off with Clare Quilty, but he abandons her after she refuses to participate in child pornography. She eventually marries Dick Schiller and dies in childbirth.
Humbert’s shadow and double. Quilty is a successful playwright and child pornographer who takes a liking to Lolita from an early age. He follows her throughout the story, ultimately kidnapping her away from Humbert. Though Lolita is in love with him, he eventually tires of her. Nabokov conceals Quilty’s importance to the story until nearly the end. Quilty is amoral, highly literate, and completely corrupt.
Lolita’s mother and Humbert’s wife. A middle-class woman who aspires to be cultured and sophisticated, Charlotte never manages to be much more than a bourgeois housewife. Her relationship with Lolita is strained throughout the novel. Charlotte worships Humbert and stays blind to his pedophilia and lust for her daughter until she discovers his diary. She dies soon after in a car accident.
Humbert’s childhood love. Annabel and her family visit Humbert’s father’s hotel as tourists. Despite having many physical encounters, Humbert and Annabel are unable to consummate their adolescent love. She later dies of typhus in Corfu. Humbert remains obsessed with her memory until he meets Lolita.
Humbert’s first wife, whom he married to cure himself of his addiction to nymphets. Humbert finds Valeria intellectually inferior and often bullies her. When he plans to move to America, Valeria leaves him to marry a Russian taxi driver. Valeria and her husband die in California years later.
A friend of Charlotte’s and the wife of John Farlow. John and Jean Farlow are among Charlotte and Humbert’s few friends. After Charlotte’s death, she secretly kisses Humbert. She eventually dies of cancer.
A friend of Charlotte’s, married to Jean. He handles the Haze estate after Charlotte dies, but he eventually relegates his duties to a lawyer because of the complicated nature of the case. After Jean dies, he marries someone else and lives an adventurous life in South America.
Lolita’s husband. Dick is a simple, good-natured working man who is deaf in one ear, Dick has no idea about the sexual relationship between Humbert and Lolita, believing Humbert to simply be Lolita’s father. Dick receives a job offer in Alaska, where he plans to take Lolita, whom he calls Dolly.
An alcoholic whom Humbert lives with after he loses Lolita. Toward the end of their affair, Rita has many encounters with the law and becomes paranoid that Humbert will leave her. Humbert finds her comforting but regards her as simple-minded.
Lolita’s favorite friend at the Beardsley School for Girls. Mona has already had an affair with a marine and appears to be flirting with Humbert. However, she refuses to divulge any of Lolita’s secrets. She helps Lolita lie to Humbert when Humbert discovers that Lolita has been missing her piano lessons.
A plump, beloved French professor at Beardsley College. Gaston is popular in the community and helps Humbert find his house and settle into Beardsley. They often play chess together, but Humbert thinks him a poor scholar and not very smart. Gaston also has a predilection for young boys, which no one in Beardsley seems to notice.
The headmistress of the Beardsley School for Girls. Humbert is unimpressed with Pratt’s emphasis on social skills and her resistance to traditional academic approaches. She calls Humbert to her office to discuss Lolita’s disciplinary problems and expresses concern that Lolita is not developing sexually.
Clare Quilty’s uncle, a dentist. Dreamy and well liked, he thinks of his nephew with kind indulgence. He has been friends with the Haze family all his life. Humbert finds Clare Quilty by visiting Ivor at his office.
A French nymphet prostitute. Initially, Humbert is attracted to her nymphet qualities and begins an affair with her. However, he becomes disillusioned by her maturation and abruptly ends the affair.
The author of the foreword and the editor of Humbert’s memoir.
Lolita’s summer-camp director.
Shirley Holmes’s son, who also works at the camp. Lolita has her first sexual experiences with him, but she is unimpressed by his manners. Later Humbert discovers that he has been killed in Korea.
Lolita’s friend at camp. Barbara has sex with Charlie in the bushes while Lolita stands guard. Finally, Barbara convinces Lolita to “try it,” which she does.
Clare Quilty’s female writing partner. Lolita confuses Humbert by telling him that Vivian is a man and Clare is a woman. After Quilty’s death, Vivian writes Quilty’s biography. “Vivian Darkbloom” is an anagram for “Vladimir Nabokov.”
The lawyer to whom John Farlow entrusts the Haze estate. He handles the estate but wants nothing to do with the sordidness surrounding the impending trial.
The driver of the car that kills Charlotte.