Writing from prison where he is held on trial for murder, Humbert Humbert recounts his obssessive passion for 12-year-old Lolita. Fleeing a bad marriage from France to America, Humbert rents a room from Charlotte Haze where he becomes obssessed with Charlotte's daughter, Dolores (aka, Lolita). While Lolita is away at summer camp, Humbert marries Charlotte. When Charlotte discovers Humbert's diaries and their lacivious fantasies about her daughter, she is enraged and runs out into the street where she is struck by a car and killed.
Humbert fetches Lolita from camp, takes her to a hotel where they begin their sexual relationship before he has even told Lolita her mother is dead. He then takes Lolita on a year-long journey across the US in an effort to avoid the discovery of their relationship and any intervention by the authorities on Lolita's behalf.
At the end of the year, Humbert settles down with Lolita in the town of Beardsley where he sends her to an upscale private school for debutantes. Humbert and Lolita battle fiercely over her allowance and her behavior with boys, culminating in Lolita's insistance that they go back on the road.
Humbert complies and quickly figures out that he and Lolita are being followed. Lolita's suspicious behavior suggests to Humbert that she is complicit in this and her sudden disappearance leads Humbert on a chase to find Lolita and exact revenge on her new lover.