Can You Judge Characters By Their Names?

Submitted By KJLaTorra
Words: 1694
Pages: 7

Can You Judge Characters by Their Names? While reading any type of literature, whether it is poetry, a short story, or a novel, one can make the connection that quite possibly the names of some characters are chosen specifically by the author to portray the character based on the meaning or gender of the name. I have always paid attention to names in a piece of literature just to see how certain characters’ names may portray what kind of character they are. Although not proven, it seems as if minor characters’ names are chosen more specifically because of the lack of interaction with them in the story; therefore by hearing their name, the reader can assume what kind of character they are. In Russell Banks’ novel, Rule of the Bone, a young boy named “Chappie” sets out on a type of quest to get away from everybody and everything he knows, mostly because he feels he is unaccepted by those around him. He gets into a few scary situations, like dealing with a biker gang, rescuing a young girl from a pedophile, and interacting with blood thirsty Rastafarians. Throughout all this, Chappie decides he wants to change his name to “Bone”. I began to wonder, “Do authors purposely choose their characters names to send an unwritten message to the readers about whom that character really is and who they want to be?” Based on the reading of the novel, “Rule of the Bone”, by Russell Banks, It seems as if Banks has used some of his character names to portray their physical appearance, personality traits, and how he wants the character to be perceived. Knowing what a character looks like helps a reader picture the character as a person with a name, enabling the reader to distinguish who the character is from the other characters in the piece of literature. In the novel, a minor character is introduced, “Bruce”. The first thought that comes to mind is that Bruce is a masculine name, and there is no confusion over that. Bruce is a name commonly associated with very masculine qualities in the person who bears it. Bruce in the novel is the leader in a motorcycle gang and according to the main character Chappie, Bruce, “was the lead dog...he made decisions and gave orders and the other guys usually followed them...” (p47) He spends a lot of time in the gym; therefore he is incredibly muscular and strong. The main character, “Chappie”, describes him as having, “…arms and pecs as big as hams…” (p44). He is also said to have fought in the Gulf War, and he kept his hair cut short, and continuously shaves his chest hair; common attributes among bodybuilders. Bruce is a very masculine character, and the exact definition of his name is: “From a Scottish surname, of Norman origin, which probably originally referred to the town of Brix in France. The surname was borne by Robert the Bruce, a Scottish hero of the 14th century who achieved independence from England and became the king of Scotland.”(Behind the Name) Bruce is the name of a hero, and heroes are usually thought of as comic book superheroes, making the character “Bruce” a much easier character to picture. Another minor character is Rose. The main character Chappie rescues her from a pedophile and child pornographer, who gave her the nickname, “Froggy”. Froggy, or Rose, is a young girl who can’t look after herself, and her mother gave her up to this pedophile named “Buster Brown”. It seems as if Banks is trying to show us how downtrodden the little girl is. The reader might guess that Froggy isn’t a happy name, but more of a name that is used negatively, like, “Today is just a froggy day”, giving hints to the rain outside. Hearing this name, and picturing this girl with a very sketchy character just makes the reader feel bad for the poor little girl, who is helpless in an unhappy environment. It isn’t until late in the story that her real name is revealed, and it turns out to be Rose. There isn’t much physical description of Rose, other than that she is a cute little girl with blonde hair and