Reading and knowing only Part One of the story, why do you suppose Nabokov used this poem as the foundation for the opening chapter of his story?

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Nabokov used this poem because it encapsulates the broad range of the narrator’s emotions when thinking about Lolita. In just these few short lines, the name “Lolita” is repeated three times to emphasize the importance of the girl/woman in the narrator’s life and mind. She occupies his thoughts; he is obsessed with Lolita. He draws her name out, slowly saying all three syllables with “Lo-lee-ta” and “Lo. Lee, Ta.”

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.

Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee, Ta.”

That Lolita is the light of his life shows her importance to the narrator. Without Lolita, his life would be dark and bleak. She is also the fire of his loins. This represents the sexual attraction and passion he feels for her. He is obsessed with her sexually. By describing Lolita as the “fire of my loins,” Nabokov shows the physicality of their relationship. He does not depict their intimacy in sentimental terms that involve passionate embraces or long tender kisses. He cuts through to note the place where Lolita really incites the narrator: his loins. This is an extremely sexual reference that is intended to convey just how animalistic the narrator’s passions are concerning Lolita.

Lolita is also his sin and his soul. The juxtaposition of the base concept of sin and lofty concept of soul shows how much the narrator realizes his depravity in loving Lolita, but she is also his soul. That is not to say that he believes there is anything spiritual about their relationship. Rather, it implies that without Lolita, he would not be alive. He would not be able to breath.

The poem then focuses on Lolita’s name and mentions it twice slowly. It is so easy to say Lolita; the tongue just needs to make three short sounds emerge. The ease with which the narrator can say her name belies the difficulties that loving her presents.

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