Chapter Twelve, unlike the last, does not require so much analysis! One brief page compared to Eleven’s fifteen. And it plays a curious role: Nabokov’s intention with this chapter seems to be to mold and manipulate the reader’s interpretation of the last one. This is best indicated by his breaking of the fourth wall at the start of both paragraphs: it will be seen, the reader has also marked. Indeed, H.H. tells us exactly what to think about those teasing incidents with Lo, citing his devil, Aubrey McFate of the poet class list, and his many machinations (the Mirage of the Lake and Miss Phalen’s broken hip, for instance).
One important notation:
I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and how to do it, without impinging on the child’s chastity…
H.H. at this point still cares for some modicum of decency and does not wish to “corrupt” Lolita, does not want to hurt her or physically possess her. He still wants to protect her innocence and, perhaps, his own sense of being a “gentleman.”
Importantly, Nabokov also throws in a dash of foreshadowing at the end of that first paragraph, promising Humbert (and us) some “relief” soon.
The Mirage of the Lake is also finally cleared, turning out to be a disappointing excursion. H.H. hardly spends any time recalling it, compared to his previous fantasies of how it might have gone.
And if you’re here for some feminism: “We hasten to alienate the very fates we intended to woo.” Yes, Charlotte is a “career girl at heart” but McFate has interfered with her too, and now her romantic pursual of Humbert drives her professional ambitions further underground.