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Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Brief Essay on Names for the 13 to Life Contest

 What's in a Name?
*Includes spoilers for Great Expectations, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and Lover Eternal by J.R. Ward.*

Shakespeare, through his character Juliet, decided that names aren't very important, but was he right? Subjects like this are pretty much always a matter of opinion, and today I'll be playing devil's advocate to Shakespeare. I'm not really sure what I believe about names since it isn't something I think about often, so this is the only option I have.

Because Sarah read Great Expectations, I decided to discuss this Dickens novel first. If you've read it, you know that one of the conditions of the main character's great expectations (inheritance, basically, while the benefactor is still alive) is that he must continue to go by the nickname Pip, instead of his real name (Philip). Magwitch, Pip's benefactor, wants him to use this name because that was who he was when they met (Pip was a young child), and Magwitch doesn't want him to change. Pip's name is a symbol of the naive child who visualized his parents and siblings based on the shape and lettering of their tombstones.

Another instance when a name is very important to a character is in The Lord of the Rings. I'm sure everyone can guess who I'll mention. Sméagol! After finding the ring and murdering his friend, Sméagol's mind fractures into two entities, Sméagol and Gollum. When Sméagol/Gollum turns completely evil, it is signified by him forgetting the name Sméagol and going by just Gollum, no matter which of the two is in control. Sméagol/Gollum seems to become less evil, although certainly not good, when Frodo Baggins reminds him of his original name.

My third and final reference comes from a PNR series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward, and is much less significant than the other two, but demonstrates the importance of names all the same. When the brother Rhage falls in love with Mary Luce he doesn't think that they can be together because he was told by a very reliable source that he would end up with a virgin. Or at least, he would start out with one. Mary tells Rhage that she isn't a virgin, and his hopes are shattered, but he resolves to be with her anyways. At the end of the book, Mary reveals (not knowing about the prophecy) that, since her mother was a devout Catholic, she was named after none other than the Virgin Mary. Her name was what had been told to Rhage, not her sexual status.

In conclusion, while names certainly do influence how others think of us (ex. Pip), they don't have any real 'power.' In other words, names can't be used to control people (unless they're fae), but they definitely aren't just a collection of letters that got tagged onto you at birth. A name identifies you, it's your verbal definition, and that's not nothing. It's a really big something. Shakespeare got it wrong; while a name isn't everything, it's a big part of it. That's why the government allows name changes for all the Bartholemews and Charmaines out there. No offense to anyone who likes these names.

P.S.: Happy Fourth of July! And happy birthday to me :D

1 comment:

Shannon Delany said...

Very cool thoughts on names. It'll be interesting to see if you realize what role names play in the 13 to Life series. :)

Happy ultra-belated birthday!

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