What’s in a Name.

The naming of things is important, or so the Ents tell us. Dickens would no doubt have agreed having given us so many memorable ones;

The Artful Dodger aka Jack ,Mr Micawber, Newman Noggs and Bob Cratchit, to mention but a few. Could anyone but Barkus be willing. Or  any but Oliver Twist ask for more?

In court we have John Basard who lacks a letter and Roger Cly with out his piratical faking. Can a Charles Darnay be anything but innocent? Jerry, Jarvis and Number One Hundred and Five are all there but we are still left with M’mselle now joined by Carton; another empty box to be filled.

Why would CD be so reluctant to spell out who they are, or at this stage didn’t he know himself? Is the Golden Thread a link through them to the unknown with more mystery to follow or have we been indulged by a sight of aspiring love as Darnay’s;

“…hurried right hand parcelled out the herbs before him into imaginary beds of flowers in a garden: and his efforts to control and steady his breathing shook the lips from which the colour rushed to his heart”

If that is so then we are in for fireworks with the disreputable doppelganger showing perhaps a little more than professional courtesy to M’selle and expressing an opinion that Darnay is to join those heads overlooking Temple Bar and enjoying the Barcimede feast.

In the meantime Madame carries on knitting and hearing nothing.

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2 thoughts on “What’s in a Name.

  1. Be careful, Mr Booley, about using the wisdom of Lord of the Rings characters, or you could end up getting too “precious” about the text…

    You’ve really got me thinking about the continued delay in naming Miss Manette. We know from elsewhere that Dickens spent so very long picking character names (David Copperfield and Martin Chuzzlewit in particular, I seem to recall, went through a number of variations before Dickens settled on the final titles). Granted these are eponymous characters, so there is more riding on their names and getting it right, so the question is could Dickens really have got this far into the story and still not have decided on a first name for his heroine? Is it further signs of Dickens’s difficulties in writing this novel, to link back to jrsd’s criticism this week, or is there a deliberate mystification at work. Madame Defarge is another unnamed character, as is the red-haired juggernaut of part 2 (remember her?) who seems to have been a blip of the sort we’d expect to see more in Dickens’s early writing (like Little Nell’s brother). It’s common in Dickens criticism to split his writing into two halves – the early stuff where he was making it up as he went along, and the later stuff, from Dombey and Son forwards, where he structured and planned ahead, but ATOTC seems to buck the trend and hark back to the good old days of seat-of-your-pants writing to deadlines.

    Or – all the above is false and there is a grand purpose to withholding the names of characters. Is Dickens afraid of confusing the weekly reader by referring to characters by both both christian and surname? Is he making a point about MM’s status by removing her somewhat from the reader rather than allowing the intimacy of first-name terms?

    Above all, why do I get the sinking suspicion that when MM reveals herself, the moment itself is going to be a crushing anticlimax after all this speculation?

  2. Back to the beginning. The best and worst. A thunderous opening but I read it as a personal statement. It is difficult to explain without making a complete spoiler, but consider his background from ’57 to ’58, a huge burst of activity and personal problems. Have a look at the ’58 Christmas number, when they were written and the theme running through them.
    He was unsure of himself and may well have considered calling M’mselle ‘Clara’ He dithered over names because;
    “..coupled with the separaton the name of a young lady…. I will not repeat her name…..there is not on this earth a more virtuous and spotless creature than this young lady.”
    Maybe truth and fiction were overlapping

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