I think Sam hit the nail on the head. This book is an exercise of the imagination. I, too, am guilty of imagining with reality. Nabokov wants us to imagine with the reality he gives to us through Humbert. Instead of reiterating Sam’s post, I decided delve into Nabokov’s hobby of lepidopterology and include some interesting facts about butterflies and Nabokov.
He named his own species of butterfly! Carterocphalus canopuncttus.
Butterflies are noted for their unusual life cycle.
“The diverse patterns formed by their brightly coloured wings and their erratic yet graceful flight have made butterfly watching a hobby.”
“Butterflies exhibit polymorphism, mimicry and aposematism.”
“Some butterflies have evolved symbiotic and parasitic relationships with social insects such as ants.”
“…a few species are pests, because they can damage domestic crops and trees in their larval stage.”
“Unlike many insects, butterflies do not experience a nymph period…”
But. Nabokov doesn’t advocate grandiose symbolism. So it probably doesn’t mean anything. Just thought that these are interesting facts to know! Also, in my butterfly research, I found the poetry vs. science/precision vs. passion context:
“In Speak, Memory, Nabokov reports that he ‘discovered in nature the nonutilitarian delights that [he] sought in art. Both were a form of magic, both were a game of enchantment and deception,’ Note also: ‘Coincidence of pattern is one of the wonders of nature. The wonders of nature were beginning to impress me at that early age .’
In nearly every interview Nabokov reiterated this theme. He told the BBC, for example, that ‘all art is deception and so is nature; all is deception in that good cheat, from the insect that mimics a leaf to the popular enticements of procreation.’ When asked for a more specific tie between lepidopterology and his writing, Nabokov replied, ‘I think that in a work of art there is a kind of merging between the two things, between the precision of poetry and the excitement of pure science.’”