The main relationship in Lolita, while incredibly unsettling, is a fascinating contradiction. The love that Humbert has for Lolita is all encompassing and so strong that he still thinks about the girl longingly years after the fact. His attraction is also incredibly fleeting. Throughout the novel Humbert talks about the appeal of the nymphet and how their allure only lasts for a short period of time. When first describing nymphets Humbert says “the idea of time plays such a magic part in the matter.” He brings up puberty constantly as if it’s a ticking time bomb always looming in the distance. Humbert is only attracted to a certain kind of girl at a very particular age. Once they grow out of that bracket he looses interest. In Lolita, Humbert finds the epitome of every nymphet quality he is looking for. Her mere presence makes him weak in the knees and he spends the first half of the novel pining over her. The attraction he has towards her is intense. One of the reasons he is so fervent with his desire for her is because she is just on the cusp of growing up. The novel progresses at a rapid pace that is partially created by Humbert updating how much Lolita has grown over periods of time. The more Lolita grows into womanhood the more resentment starts to grow within Humbert towards her. This is shown most clearly during their 2nd road trip in the novel. At this point Lolita is going through a growth spurt and Humbert describes in inches and pounds. This is the trip where Lolita is becoming increasingly more independent as she grows into being a teenager. She starts running off with boys, which makes Humbert furious.
His budding resentment for her and her actions is very much so in the same vain as his feelings towards grown women. The way Humbert describes adult women in the novel is with complete distain. In his wives he only sees every feature that proves their age. He is almost to a point of being totally repulsed by the mature female figure. While working at a university in America he mentions is distain for the female coeds. It’s the aging process that gives his love for Lolita a time limit.
Despite this, the fleeting nature of Humbert’s physical attraction to Lolita is far outshined by his powerful love for the idea of her. He is infatuated with this perfect nymphet image he puts upon Lolita. Lolita isn’t even her real name; just a pet name he latches onto when fantasizing about the young Dolores. It’s clear that his initial attraction is all based on fantasy because Dolores does nothing more with Humbert then act like the child she is. She walks around aimlessly and reads comics. To Humbert she is something glorious to behold. The initially love Humbert has for Lolita is so strong that even during the time of “writing” the dissertation that the book is claiming to be he still writes about his Little Lo pensively. The love with the ideal outlives the physical attraction. This constant back and forth between his passionate feelings towards this fabricated romance with the harsh realities of the real world create the main conflicts and tension in the book. Humbert takes Lolita on a year long road trip after her mother dies in an effort to spend as much time as possible with his soon to be outgrown nymphet. While he attempts to make this excursion one of romance and excitement, the reality is it’s a trip filled with paranoia. Lolita is actually Dolores, a pre-teenage girl who is constantly trying to push Humbert’s buttons by getting him into trouble. There relationship brings up the question of whether or not what Humbert feels for Lolita is lust or love. When you truly love someone, you want the best for them. Humbert could care less about Lolita. He takes her out of school so he can spend more time with her. He brings her into his life on the run. These are all selfish acts. So as many times he writes about his love for Lolita in the novel it must be taken lightly.