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

Please help me analyze the alliteration from the line above. Which 'L' words attribute to the alliteration? Lo, Li from Lolita and light, life, loins? Or just light, life, loins.

  • There are no rules that tell you exactly which words contribute to alliteration. – Peter Shor Jun 27 at 23:48
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  • That is not what I want to ask. I'm sorry because my English can lead to some vague meaning. I'm trying to learn poetry and some sound effect in prose style. I did some research about alliteration. But I still got some confuse. Like in the line from Lolita, can a person say that the alliteration is from Lo, li, light, life, loins and another person say it's just light, life, loins? Or one can say it depends on the reader, i.e. Lo, li, light, loins can make this effect and Li, light, life, loins another effect. Can we say that a person is wrong in their choice of words? – m m Jun 28 at 6:25

In poetry, alliteration requires stressed syllables that begin with the same consonant sound. Nabokov's novel Lolita is written in prose, so we don't need to analyse the metre to determine which syllables are stressed; we only need to know each word's main stress.

In Nabokov's first two sentences, we can find two groups of alliterations:

  1. based on the "l" sound: "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins"
  2. based on the "s" sound: "My sin, my soul."

There are two other sound patterns that strengthen these strings of alliterations:

  1. the assonance of the "i" sound in "light", "life" and "fire",
  2. the assonance between "Lolita" and "loins" (obviously with some liberty, since "o" and "oi" are not exactly the same sounds),
  3. the repetition of "my", which on the one hand exhibits assonance with "light", "life" and "fire", and on the other hand provides a bridge between the first group of alliterations ("my life", "my loins") and the second group "My sin, my soul").

One can see that Nabokov does not only use alliteration in these opening sentences but reinforces this sound effect by means of other sound effects. The next sentence continues the alliterations, this time based on the letter "t":

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

For Humbert Humbert, speaking the girl's name is a sensual experience. He can't resist the sound effects, just like he can't resist the girl.

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  • But the stressed syllable of Lolita falls on the second syllable, loLIta. So that it's much be "Li", "light", "life", "loins". At the same time, alliteration can be count on the first syllable even though it's not stressed. That's mean it can be "Lo", "light", "life", "loins" or "Li", "light", "life", "loins" , or "Lo", "Li", "light", "life", "loins". Which is right? I'm really confused. – m m Jun 29 at 6:56
  • @mm Where did you find the claim that alliteration relies on the first syllable? Does that apply to unstressed first syllables? – Tsundoku Jun 29 at 9:09

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