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Essay on Toni Morrison’s Beloved – Character Naming

Character Naming in Beloved

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other word would smell as sweet.

So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called,

Retain that dear perfection which he owes

Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,

And, for thy name, which is no part of thee,

Take all myself.”

hakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, II.ii

Shakespeare’s Juliet tells us that names are unimportant – inconsequential, in fact. A name is merely a convenient string of sounds that denotes an individual, but it has no meaning. But this is clearly not true. Would Romeo and Juliet be the same play if its star-crossed lovers were called Robert and Jennifer? Of course not. The names of characters serve to identify them as members of a certain culture and help to cement their identities. A name may be an arbitrary string of sounds, but it carries much more weight than that. In Beloved, Toni Morrison demonstrates a clear understanding of this fact. Her choices of character names assist in firmly establishing the world of the book.

Toni Morrison was born with the name Chloe Anthony Wofford. She changed her first name to Toni upon entering college – traditionally, a time looked upon as one of great significance in a young person’s life. From this, we can infer that Morrison appreciates the power of a changed name to confer a new identity. There are two characters whose names change during the novel: Jenny Whitlow becomes Baby Suggs, and Joshua becomes Stamp Paid. In both of these cases, the character is abandoning the name under which they lived as a slave for a new, free name. Whitlow is the last name of Jenny’s original master (142), and we learn that she takes the name Baby Suggs because her husband called her Baby. What she is known as by the people closest to her is more important than what the white community wishes to call her.

The name Sethe is also interesting. This name could be interpreted as a feminine version of the Jewish name Seth, used in the fourth and fifth chapters of Genesis as the name of the third son of Adam and Eve, after Cain and Abel.

The Awakening: Romanticism, Realism, and Local Color

The Awakening: Romanticism, Realism, and Local Color

Imagine being far out into the middle of the ocean and at that moment, having to make a choice between judgment and individuality, death and life? In 1899, Kate Chopin composed a captivating novel titled The Awakening. Throughout Chopin’s day, the work was regarded as nonsense and a waste of time on her part. Critics found the main character’s rebellion to be foolish and unlawful. At that age, it was believed firmly that women should be nothing less than completely loyal to their husbands and should joyfully care for any children that they had while their spouse was away, hard at work. Edna, the central character, did not follow this standard. She says specifically that she would not give-up herself for her children. She is not one known to submit to her husband’s every whim. Chopin brought Romanticism into play in a realistic setting with this individual. To these literary devices, she blends local color.

By manipulating Romanticism, Kate Chopin stretches one’s imagination and startles one’s mind. Romanticism is both a literary and an artistic movement. It took place in the eighteenth and nineteenth century during which people expressed freedom and individuality and emotions in their works. Chopin shows Mrs. Pontellier’s display of freedom and individuality when Edna refuses to go in when her husband Leonce tells her to do so; rather, she stays out on the hammock and tells him to proceed inside without her. Romantics also loved exotic places and chose to display a character that follows his or her own heart. Chopin demonstrates this in her work when Edna realizes th…

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…because Tuesday night social calls were a pastime, Realism because Leonce believed that Edna should put herself on hold every Tuesday night for company, and Romanticism because she chose not to stay.

Kate Chopin is now considered a wonderful author for the same piece that was once prohibited. People realize that she was just before her time. She blended a Romanticism which is now common to out time with a Realism that was true to her time. She enhanced it with a mélange of Local Color into her setting to give a full outlook of Edna Pontellier’s world. Seeing everything that she has to go through, which option should be chosen? Would it be better to live without freedom of individuality or die trying to get it? With all of the pressures that prevailed over Edna, she chose death.

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