Lolita

by: Vladimir Nabokov

Part One, Chapters 23–27

The hand of McFate, which we have already seen working in previous sections of the novel, provides numerous coincidences in these chapters as well. For example, Lolita and Humbert stay in Room 342 at the Enchanted Hunters, the same number as the Hazes’ street address. At the hotel, Lolita spots a man who resembles Clare Quilty, the playwright whose picture she once had on her bedroom wall. In the car, Humbert and Lolita share a kiss that gets interrupted by a policeman looking for a blue sedan. He doesn’t comment on the kiss, even though Lolita states that Humbert should have been arrested—for speeding. This foreshadows the final section of the novel in which Humbert, after killing Quilty, is indeed arrested for speeding. The policeman’s lack of interest in the kiss implies a certain societal tolerance of the relationship between Humbert and Lolita, a situation that Humbert is more than willing to exploit.

A final instance of McFate at work can be seen in the name of the hotel, the Enchanted Hunters. Later in the novel, Lolita will star in a play of the same name, written by none other than Clare Quilty. The phrase itself represents many things, but it most clearly refers to Humbert himself. He frequently claims that he been spellbound by nymphets who possess magical powers and mythical qualities. Humbert is enchanted by Lolita, the object of his obsession, both in the charming, familiar sense of the word and the more distressing, literal sense of being bewitched or spellbound. Later in the novel, Humbert will also become a hunter—first of Lolita, then of Quilty. Humbert notices these strange coincidences in prison, as he writes the manuscript and ruminates on events from his past. Similarly, we won’t discover the full import of these clues until the novel has ended, and we can look backward to construct a pattern of incidents.