Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews March 3, 2024
February 25, 2024
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
How does the novel’s first-person
narration affect our perception of the events being described?
Though the novel is told in first-person,
there are many indications that Nabokov wishes readers to supply
their own interpretations of the events in the story. By frequently
hiding linguistic clues and using puns and word games, Nabokov demands
that readers question what Humbert tells them. Nabokov further emphasizes
this necessity by providing many instances in which Humbert admits
to falsifying his history and his identity in order to get what
he wants. Nabokov therefore implies that Humbert is an untrustworthy
narrator whose literary skills can persuade readers to overlook
his lies, manipulations, and true character. As a result, Nabokov
slyly comments on the act of writing beautifully or movingly about
horrific situations. If readers fall under the spell of Humbert,
unquestioningly listening to his story, they might forget that Humbert
is writing about pedophilia, rape, and murder.
Though Humbert is an extremely intelligent man, he often
makes references to facts without understanding their true meaning.
For example, he hears of Quilty and even sees him on occasion, but
he misunderstands the danger he represents. He is unable to see
Lolita’s unhappiness, even as he gives enough information to make
it obvious to readers. Humbert is also willing to ignore any impulse
that runs contrary to his desire or his plan to be with Lolita.
As a result, readers have enough ammunition to question Humbert’s
version of the story and his depiction of Lolita. As readers search
for “the truth,” Nabokov makes it clear that he is far more interested
in the beauty of the narrative and the seduction of the methodology
of storytelling. The truth, ultimately, becomes less important than
the manner in which it is told.
Many characters die in the novel.
How are these deaths significant to the story?
Virtually all deaths in the novel appear
to be random, chance events—with the notable exception of Humbert’s
murder of Quilty. Death occurs capriciously, without any greater
meaning or grand reverence. Nabokov uses literary methods to convey
the abruptness of death and its attendant feelings of numbness or
matter-of-factness. Humbert’s lack of response to loss, another
sign of his self-absorbtion, is most clear after the death of his
mother, conveyed by the simple phrase “picnic, lightning.” Similarly,
Annabel is dispatched not in a sentence, but in a phrase: “and four
months later she died of typhus in Corfu.” Lolita’s death is completely
hidden from the reader, as John Ray, Jr.. Ph.D. notes that “Mrs.
Richard F. Schiller” died in childbirth, without ever identifying
her as Lolita. Humbert reveals the demise of even the most important
characters in abrupt terms. Emotion arises later from his actions,
such as from his obsession with nymphets, rather than from overt
explanation. Death does not discriminate between those Humbert loves
and those Humbert despises.
The death of Quilty, however, takes up many paragraphs,
as Humbert draws out the execution by forcing Quilty to face his
guilt and acknowledge his role in Lolita’s corruption. Quilty often
interrupts Humbert’s plan with bribes and ridicule in an attempt
to extend his life. The length of Quilty’s demise indicates that
chance plays a smaller role in this death than it has in the other
deaths. Humbert’s climactic murder of Quilty is an epic struggle
between rivals, one that was foreshadowed and ordained throughout
the novel. Though Nabokov blurs the lines between good and evil
and makes it clear that Humbert and Quilty have much in common,
the length of Quilty’s execution indicates that this death was necessary to
the resolution of the novel, particularly the way Humbert learns empathy
and begins to feel for others..
Ace your assignments with our guide to Lolita!