On the surface, chapter seven is a quick (one paragraph of only twelve sentences) summary of H.H.’s decision to marry - but you know there’s more to it than that. In chapter seven, Nabokov cleverly undermines Humbert’s reliability as a narrator by exhibiting his conceited and proprietary attitude towards women. "I could obtain at the snap of my fingers any adult female I chose" reads rather like the fantasy of the average brute; and the internal struggle between this callous brute male and the legitimate tenderness and intense emotion he feels for nymphets (and eventually, Lolita) reveals the oppression H.H. suffers not only as a pedophile, but as a male in a society with restrictive ideas of what it means to be a man at all.
It occurred to me that regular hours, home-cooked meals, all the conventions of marriage, the prophylactic routine of its bedroom activities and, who knows, the eventual flowering of certain moral values, of certain spiritual substitutes, might help me, if not to purge myself of my degrading and dangerous desires, at least to keep them under pacific control.
What a loaded periodic sentence! It takes up a full six lines in my book. Words like purge, degrading, and dangerous, as well as concerns for his "own safety" spell out clearly his attitude towards his own sexuality, which he is still trying to repress at this point in his telling.
...in addition to my striking if somewhat brutal good looks…
This is an important note, as it plays heavily into how he is perceived by others - a crucial theme in this and other works by Nabokov. More shortly.
...allowed me to enter upon my quest with equanimity.
Contrast this sexless language with that of previous chapters - it reflects the calculation with which he viewed his marital arrangement. In fact, the language of this whole chapter is a striking contrast against what has come before, laying out just how much he repressed not only his sexuality but his emotions and his true self in order to conform to social norms and restrain the "monster" within him.
A note on this chapter’s tone as it pertains to the larger whole: when you think about the dominant moods of each chapter we’ve covered so far, how do they evolve? The tone vacillates, as conflicted as H.H.’s own complex person - at turns romantically despairing and cunningly callous. This chapter is one of the latter, giving us another layer by which to judge and doubt our dear Humbert Humbert.
...the cubistic trash that accomplishes misses then painted instead of lilacs and lambs.
You must appreciate the two-in-one flick of aesthetic snobbery and misogyny in this line.
Let me repeat with quiet force: I was, and still am, despite mes malheurs, and exceptionally handsome male; slow-moving, tall, with soft dark hair and a gloomy but all the more seductive cast of demeanor. Exceptional virility often reflects in the subject’s displayable features a sullen and congested something that pertains to what he has to conceal. And this was my case. Well did I know, alas, that I could obtain at the snap of my fingers any adult female I chose; in fact, it had become quite a habit with me of not being too attentive to women left they come toppling, bloodripe, into my cold lap. Had I been a français moyen with a taste for flashy ladies, I might have easily found, among the many crazed beauties that lashed my grim rock, creatures far more fascinating than Valeria. My choice, however, was prompted by considerations whose essence was, as I realized too late, a piteous compromise. All of which goes to show how dreadfully stupid poor Humbert always was in matters of sex.
This is the first substantial description of his own physique in adulthood, and it demands our attention. Humbert’s abominable arrogance leads us to doubt him; descriptors like handsome male, slow-moving, seductive, and virility all accentuate his traditional masculinity; but his abruptly cold lap flips that notion on its head, especially after the word bloodripe, bringing maleness to a cold, calculating, callous, and cruel conclusion. On top of that, contrasting descriptors like adult female, toppling, bloodripe, crazed beauties that lashed my grim rock, and again the term creatures all reduce and objectify femininity, making women into animals.
Finally ending by calling himself "poor Humbert" and "dreadfully stupid" is H.H.’s attempt to paint himself as an innocent victim beyond reproach. By the twelfth sentence he has flipped completely from his absolute power over women (“I could obtain at the snap of my fingers any adult female I chose”) to his complete bumbling helplessness among them. A fascinating paragraph, and a master course in manipulation.