1 of 3
1
Character’s names in fiction/film
Posted: 17 February 2007 06:57 PM   [ Ignore ]
Rank
Total Posts:  1
Joined  2007-02-17

Anyone ever discuss the origins of characters’ names and how the meaning may reveal something about the character or the author’s intent?  Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus?  How about The Sixth Sense?  Cole Sear?  Malcolm Crowe?

Other examples? 
Links?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 February 2007 07:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Avatar
Rank
Total Posts:  5
Joined  2007-02-17

That’s such a broad topic.  In virtually any literature of quality, the characters’ names are carefully considered for meaning and effect.  Biblical names frequently convey clues.  One well known example:  “Moby Dick’s” opening line ... “Call me Ishmael.”

For further effect, a writer or filmmaker may also choose not to name a character; that kind of conscious choice can also speak volumes (e.g., “The man in black” or Clint Eastwood’s character in “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly").

[ Edited: 17 February 2007 07:29 PM by Eclecticist ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 February 2007 07:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4811
Joined  2007-01-03

And it’s not something that can be studied systematically or without specific comment from the author. If the author is silent on how he came up with a name, then there is no way to know for certain what her thought processes were. One can speculate, one can point out possible allusions and sources of inspiration, but one can’t know for sure why the author made the specific choice.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 February 2007 08:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2861
Joined  2007-01-31

Maybe sometimes.  I think it’s fairly clear what Joseph Heller had in mind when he named one character in Catch-22 “Sergeant Scheisskopf”.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 February 2007 09:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Rank
Total Posts:  4
Joined  2007-02-17

Don’t names remain an art intimately entangled with the language of their homeland? Dave is right that one can’t know for sure. That’s where the art is. Take Darth Vader, for example. It conveys to me at least, the sounds and feelings for English speakers, of darkness, of invader. Poetically Darth is close to death. Had the same character been named Brite Joiner, it would be hilarious.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 February 2007 12:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1373
Joined  2007-01-29

Charles Dickens used names to illustrate his characters.  I would guess that he thought of the character then chose a name to fit.

And if you’re asking an author - I’m currently rewriting a published biography into the form of a novel, making amendments to the storyline.  I have had to rename people and places that I personally knew.  What’s guided me?  I’ve tried to use names belonging to a particular time and place that also reflect the characters.  Would John have had another biblical name, for instance?  Which names would have been used for animals at that time?  It’s an interesting journey, and I thank the FIND & REPLACE button for saving me an awful lot of work.

(I am co-author and publisher, so I can do what I like with it, btw.)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 February 2007 06:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  345
Joined  2007-02-17

Sheisskopf is fairly easy, but for over 30 years I’ve wondered about the point of the name Major __________de Coverley. I’ve found teasing references, such as one book that mentioned the ‘obvious’ meaning of the name Scheisskopf as opposed to the ‘subtle’ satire of Major ____________de Coverley, but I’ve never actually found an explanation that’s remotely plausible. Even implausible explanations are thin on the ground.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 February 2007 07:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  429
Joined  2007-02-14

You can find a lot of such information in the discussion boards and the trivia sections at IMDB.

And BTW: in Dutch ‘father’ is spelled as ‘vader’…

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 February 2007 03:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2861
Joined  2007-01-31

We had some fun with Sith lord names (Darth Vader, Darth Sidius) back in 2002. Unfortunately, “Darth Maul” broke the pattern.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 February 2007 09:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Rank
Total Posts:  4
Joined  2007-02-17

Dutchtoo and Dr. Techie: Thanks for the last two references. Yes, while father includes nurturing, protecting, etc, it also begins with the penetration and invasion of the egg by the sperm.  The Dutch are very practical.  But Darth Maul is well, quite dark. Can I use that name somewhere?

ElizD, I am sure your re-naming takes on poetic dimensions.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 February 2007 02:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2032
Joined  2007-02-19

Take Darth Vader, for example.

Thanks for the new viewpoint, friends. For me, “Darth Vader” has always been associated with “Bath” and “Wader”, probably because of his odd, almost fetishist wardrobe (I’ve always felt that if my hearing were sharper, I’d hear him squelching as he walked). My favourite image of him though, is one from “Mad”, which depicted him trying to eat spaghetti.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 February 2007 01:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Rank
Total Posts:  8
Joined  2007-02-22

After the first Star Wars film, I was convinced that Obi-Wan Kenobi’s name was a big clue to his nature - namely, that he was a sophisticated droid. His name seemed to be letters and numbers: O-Bee-1 Kay-En-O-Bee, like the droids Artoo-Detoo and See-Threepio. Shows the pitfalls of trying to infer a meaning for a name, I guess.

[ Edited: 24 February 2007 01:16 PM by Rolfe Stonebender ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 26 February 2007 02:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
Rank
Total Posts:  1
Joined  2007-02-26
kurwamac - 18 February 2007 06:24 AM

Sheisskopf is fairly easy, but for over 30 years I’ve wondered about the point of the name Major __________de Coverley. I’ve found teasing references, such as one book that mentioned the ‘obvious’ meaning of the name Scheisskopf as opposed to the ‘subtle’ satire of Major ____________de Coverley, but I’ve never actually found an explanation that’s remotely plausible. Even implausible explanations are thin on the ground.

I found this http://www.wlajournal.com/15_1-2/scoggins%20213-227.pdf that says

In Now and Then, Heller gives additional examples of Catch-22 characters
who were based on his fellow airmen. One of these is the squadron
executive officer, Major ---- de Coverly. The men of Yossarian’s squadron
are able to enjoy themselves immensely while on furlough in Italy thanks
to Major ---- de Coverly, whose most important duty apparently involves
renting apartments for his men to use while on leave:

Each time the fall of a city like Naples, Rome or Florence
seemed imminent, Major ---- de Coverly would pack his
musette bag, commandeer an airplane and a pilot, and have
himself flown away, accomplishing all this without uttering
a word….A day or two after the city fell, he would be back
with leases on two large and luxurious apartments there,
one for the officers and one for the enlisted men, both
already staffed with competent, jolly cooks and maids.
(Catch-22 135)

As it turns out, Major ---- de Coverly was closely patterned after Heller’s
own squadron exec, Major Cover, who performed an identical role for his
men:

The first American soldiers were in Rome on the morning
of June 4 [1944], and close on their heels, perhaps even
beating them into the city, sped our congenial executive
officer, Major Cover, to rent two apartments there for use by
the officers and enlisted men in our squadron…with cooks
and maids, and with female friends of the cooks and maids
who liked to hang out there….
(Now and Then 176)

I also though of the English folk dance Sir Roger de Coverly, mentioned in a Christmas Carol, I believe

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 February 2007 12:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  345
Joined  2007-02-17

I found that too, but it really doesn’t explain anything.

The only thing that makes any sense at all to me is that he was so formidable that nobody dared to ask his first name, but that hardly seems to justify the ‘subtle satire’ that I remember reading about all those years ago. What with that and the rather silly Sheisskopf, I don’t think names were Heller’s strong point, though he seems to been obsessed with them: the (somewhat amusing) bit from Catch-22 where Yossarian signs other people’s names to the letters he censors, occasionally incorporating them into sentences, and the (pretty awful) decision to use Good as Gold as the title of a novel whose hero is named Gold, making a bad novel even worse.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 February 2007 05:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3149
Joined  2007-02-26

There are two characters on the TV show Lost called John Locke and another called Rousseau.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 February 2007 05:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2861
Joined  2007-01-31

In “Selections from the Allen Notebooks”, orignally published in The New Yorker and reprinted in Without Feathers, Woody Allen writes:

“Should I marry W.?  Not if she won’t tell me the other letters in her name.”

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 3
1
 
‹‹ psychopath vs. sociopath      no pone valley ››