Summary: Chapter 16
Still reeling from Lolita’s kiss, Humbert is handed a note by the maid, Louise. Charlotte Haze has written him a letter, confessing her love for him and asking that he leave—unless he reciprocates the feeling and marries her. Humbert goes into Lolita’s room and looks at the clippings on the wall. One of the men in the pictures resembles Humbert, and Lolita has written “H. H.” on it.
Summary: Chapter 17
Humbert considers marrying Charlotte so he can stay close to Lolita. He even toys with the idea of giving both mother and daughter sleeping pills in order to fondle Lolita. He would stop short, he thinks, of having sex with the girl. Humbert decides to marry Charlotte and calls the summer camp to tell her. However, Charlotte has already left, and he reaches Lolita instead. He informs her that he plans to marry her mother. Lolita seems distracted and not particularly interested—she has already forgotten about Humbert at camp. However, Humbert believes he will win her back after the wedding. He makes himself a drink and waits for Charlotte to return.
Summary: Chapter 18
Charlotte and Humbert become lovers and start planning the wedding. Charlotte quizzes him on whether he’s a good Christian and says she will commit suicide if he isn’t. Charlotte enjoys the prestige of being engaged to Humbert and waits on him hand and foot. Humbert states that he actually enjoys some aspects of the affair and that it seems to improve Charlotte’s looks. Humbert tells himself that this helps him get as close as possible to Lolita. Charlotte responds to the engagement by becoming highly social and redecorating the house. Charlotte doesn’t have very many close friends besides John and Jean Farlow, whose niece, Rosaline, goes to school with Lolita.
Summary: Chapter 19
Humbert describes Charlotte further and mentions that she is about to suffer a bad accident. Humbert finds Charlotte extremely jealous, as she asks him to confess all his previous relationships and mistresses. Humbert makes up some stories to satisfy her romantic notions. He grows used to Charlotte, but her constant criticism of Lolita still secretly upsets him.
Summary: Chapter 20
Charlotte and Humbert go to the nearby lake in the last week of summer. Charlotte confesses that she wants to get a real maid and send Lolita off to boarding school. Humbert seethes quietly but, afraid of repeating his experience with Valeria, doesn’t want to intimidate her. He considers killing her there at the lake but cannot bring himself to do so. Jean and John Farlow join them, and Jean tells of seeing two young people embracing by the water. She starts to tell a story of Ivor Quilty’s nephew but gets interrupted.
Summary: Chapter 21
Humbert tries the silent treatment on Charlotte, to no effect. However, when she decides they will go to England in the fall, Humbert argues against it, and she immediately becomes contrite for making plans without him. Regaining some control in the relationship pleases Humbert. Charlotte tries to be near him as much as possible and mentions going to stay at a hotel called the Enchanted Hunters. She wonders why he locks the small table in his study. Humbert teases her by saying it contains love letters. Later, Humbert worries whether the table’s key remains secure in its hiding place.