This is the story behind Lolita’s real life inspiration – Sally Horner.
Lolita’s many layers also hid the story of Sally Horner. Sally’s tragic tale wasn’t the initial spark, but the gas at the pump to keep the road trip going when the car was perilously close to breaking down. That apparently throwaway parenthetical, “Had I done to her…?” flashes neon bright with significance and warning. Not only must Humbert Humbert answer that question with a denial-stripping yes, but so too must Vladimir Nabokov. Readers can, if they wish, put aside Dolores Haze as a character in a novel, even a great one. Sally Horner can’t be cast aside so easily, her legacy to be remembered as a young girl forever changed by a middle-aged man’s crime of opportunity. A girl denied the chance to grow up. A girl immortalized, and forever trapped, in the pages of a classic novel of satire and sadness.