Great Character Names – Part Two


After last week’s post about some of the characters in Charles Dickens’s “Bleak House,” I received suggestions for a few others of note.

My friend Kim Stebbins mentioned Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” the main antagonist in Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel and portrayed by Louise Fletcher in the 1975 movie version.  Did we ever know Nurse Ratched’s first name?  Did it matter?

How about Major Major, from Joseph Heller’s novel “Catch-22?”  In the novel, we learn that he was named “Major Major Major” by his father, as a joke.  According to Professor of Literature at Rensselaer Alan Nadel, everything about the character signifies nothing: The character’s name is an empty repetition of “the name of authority.” The character’s promotion to squadron commander is meaningless.  Even the character’s physical identity is not his own, but rather that of Henry Fonda.

And my friend Lottie Nevin added Miss Havisham, of Dickens’s “Great Expectations.”  She (Miss Havisham, not Mrs. Nevin) is a spinster who lives with her adopted daughter, Estella.  Dickens describes her as looking like “the witch of the place,” “a cross between a waxwork and a skeleton.”

More recently, I was struck by Suzanne Collins’s memorable character Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist and heroine of “The Hunger Games” trilogy.  Katniss’s first name comes from a plant that is more commonly known as arrowhead, which is usually found in water.  The root of the plant can be eaten, as Katniss remembers from her father’s teachings.  Her last name comes from Bathsheba Everdene, the central character in “Far From the Madding Crowd” by Thomas Hardy.  According to Collins, “The two are very different, but both struggle with knowing their hearts.”

I’d love to hear from you!  What character names have you encountered recently that resonate?

Note: Are you wondering where all the photos are?  I recently read Roni Loren’s great post (http://www.roniloren.com/blog/2012/7/20/bloggers-beware-you-can-get-sued-for-using-pics-on-your-blog.html) and until I have a stockpile of royalty-free photos, I’m being extra cautious.