Chapter nine is another brief, practical chapter. You may have noticed that Nabaokov has done little to advance the plot since Lo and H. moved to Beardsley in Part II Chapter 4. In each, he has been dropping hints to heighten tension and keep the reader’s interest (although he doesn’t seem to fear losing it; personally I would have made the mistake of cutting the chapter on Gaston) while also managing to answer any burning questions. Last chapter focused on the boys; now we turn to the girls.
Three paragraphs, about a thousand words. About 600 of those words are in the first paragraph alone.
Of course, H.H. is simply judging Lo’s girl friends on the basis of their qualifications for nymphethood - there is only one, Eva Rosen, whose qualities H.H. admires both provide a foil to Lo and some greater insight into H.H.’s “taste." But she figures in the novel much less than Mona, a perhaps former nymphet who is now too grown. (Mona is also the only one whose named has not been "changed," as she helped Lo to deceive H.H.) All the while, he is also comparing the girls to Lolita herself.
The reader knows what importance I attached to having a bevy of page girls, consolation prize nymphets, around my Lolita.
No need to interpret or psychoanalyse here: Nabokov comes right out to explain H.H.’s rationale for allowing so many girl friends. But there is also his persistent anxiety: “I have often wondered what secrets outrageously treacherous Dolores Haze had imparted to Mona…” Yes, this will come up again later. “...while blurting out to me by urgent and well-paid request various really incredible details…” the sentence continues, pointing out H.H.’s continual hypocrisy in his judgment of Lo’s character.
The second half of the chapter is devoted entirely to setting up and describing a conversation H.H. had with Mona, in which he tried, unsuccessfully, to draw out some secret about Lo. But Mona evades him, with “a faint gleam of crystalline irony.” This is, in many ways, a foreshadow to the events of chapter 14, in which Mona will lie for Lolita. As per usual, Nabokov transcribes their conversation in paragraph form, without quotation marks, until the tone changes.
“Oh, she’s a doll,” concluded Mona, and sighed abruptly, and picked up a book that happened to lie at hand, and with a change of expression, falsely furrowing her brow, inquired: “Do tell me about Ball Zack, sir. Is he really that good?” She moved up so close to my chair that I made out through lotions and creams her uninteresting skin scent. A sudden odd thought stabbed me: was my Lo playing the pimp?
...And he uses it to segue back into H.H.’s sordid mind. The reasoning behind the final sentence of this chapter I can hardly guess at (Any more intelligent minds out there are welcome to email me their hypotheses.), except that it creates an eerie tension:
One of the latticed squares in a small cobwebby casement window at the turn of the staircase was glazed with ruby, and that raw wound among the unstained rectangles and its asymmetrical position - a knight’s move from the top - always strangely disturbed me.
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