What is a nymphet?

The term “nymphet” is a word that Humbert invents in order to describe the specific type of young girls that he finds sexually attractive. Derived from the image of a “nymph,” a mythical, fairy-like maiden associated with the natural world, Humbert explains that a nymphet is a girl between the ages of nine and fourteen who possess a tempting charm and mischievous nature. Beauty is not necessarily an indicator of a girl’s nymphet-ness, although Humbert suggests that nymphets share certain physical characteristics like a “slightly feline outline of a cheekbone” or a “downy limb.” He also suggests that only “an artist and a madman” are truly capable of spotting a nymphet.

How is Clare Quilty a double of Humbert?

The use of doubles is a common motif throughout Lolita, and one of the most significant examples of doubling are the parallels between Humbert and Quilty. With their shared interest in little girls, Humbert and Quilty both pursue Lolita and aim to make her the center of their respective worlds. While Humbert expresses a more genuine sense of affection for Lolita than Quilty does, she ultimately suffers during her time with each of them. The connection between their characters become even more apparent as they finally confront each other near the novel’s end. 

Is Humbert a reliable narrator?

Throughout the novel, Humbert proves himself to be an unreliable narrator whose biases and selfish motives manipulate the way in which readers understand the novel’s action. Nabokov wrote Lolita during a period in which writers were particularly interested in exploring subjectivity, and this novel is no exception. The fact that Humbert addresses his narrative to a jury implies that he is trying to shape how the public views his perverse behavior, an objective which inevitably requires him to make careful choices about how he tells his story. Humbert’s narcissistic attitude also makes it difficult to trust his account of events as he struggles to acknowledge and understand how other characters feel in any given moment.