Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, first published in 1955, in which the central character, "Humbert Humbert", is sexually obsessed with pubescent girls. Humbert narrates to the reader his childhood: his young first love, his attempt to recapture that same innocent experience, and his (present) stunted ability to have mature relationships. Despite his age (his late thirties) and his having had various relationships with women, he testifies to the reader that his emotional senses and amorous attractions remain frozen--in a state of perpetual, idealized, pubescence.

Warning: Spoilers follow

A scholar, Humbert leaves Europe for America, and he eventually moves into a rented room in the home of Charlotte Haze, after meeting her, and spying her twelve-year-old daughter (Dolores Haze, affectionately shortened to "Lo", or Lolita) sunbathing in the garden. Charlotte Haze, a lonely widow, becomes Humbert's unwitting pawn in his silent quest to be near her young daughter. Charlotte soon marries Humbert. Upon a search of Humbert's room, she finds his diary, and Humbert's written confessions of indifference to his new wife and impassioned lust for her daughter. She runs away in disgust and, in fleeing the home, is hit and killed by a passing car.

Humbert begins traveling around America with Lolita, with whom he is now having a sexual relationship, going from motel to motel. This relationship ends when a rival adult suitor, Clare Quilty, convinces Lolita to leave Humbert and run away with him.

At the end of the novel, when Humbert Humbert briefly reunites with Lolita, it is only to give her the money she has requested so that she and her new husband, Richard Schiller, can make a fresh start in Alaska. Humbert realizes that he still wants her, not because she was one of the class of young girls he refers to as nymphets, but because he has truly fallen in love with her.

The novel is a tragi-comedy narrated by Humbert, who can be quite funny in his observations of American life. His humor is an effective counterpoint to the truly moving nature of the story itself. The tale is told in a more flamboyant style than was usually found in American literature, filled with word play, foreign phrases, anagrams, and invented words such as nymphet, which has since gone on to a life of its own in the dictionaries. Throughout the novel, Nabokov uses a number of literary devices which add to the complexity of the story.

Because of the subject matter, Nabokov had difficulty finding a publisher, eventually resorting to Olympia Press, a publisher of "erotica" in Paris, which published Lolita in 1955. A favorable notice by English author Graham Greene led to widespread critical admiration for the book, and its eventual American publication on August 18, 1958, by G.P. Putnam's Sons. Today, it is considered by many one of the finest novels written in the 20th century.

It has been filmed twice, by Stanley Kubrick (starring James Mason, Shelley Winters, Peter Sellers and the girl who played Lolita, Sue Lyon), and by Adrian Lyne (starring as the lolita Dominique Swain, Jeremy Irons and Melanie Griffith).

Because of the above, the term lolita has come to be applied to any sexually attractive woman (especially in the marketing of pornography) who is either under age or who has only recenly reached the age of consent.

Table of contents
1 See Also
2 Other Lolita Themed Films
3 References

See Also

Pedophilia, Hebephilia

Other Lolita Themed Films

Pretty Baby (1978) - Brooke Shields

Léon (1994) - Natalie Portman


  • The best guide to the complexities of Lolita is The Annotated Lolita, by Alfred Appel, Jr., first published by McGraw-Hill in 1970, with a revised edition published by Vintage Books in 1991. ISBN 0679727299
  • Original Lolita: ISBN 0679723161