The name of the rose

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In the title of the novel, The name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco, the ‘rose’ can signify many ideas. By making this the title of the book, Eco has attracted the attention of a reader because it suggests a number of things. A rose can be all of nature, the most beautiful of it, a girl, etc. Just as the title suggests several answers, so can the implications in the novel.

        The rose can be the Church, the richest and most powerful organization in the entire world. As each of its most devoted die, a little bit of the doctrine is forgotten until the ‘name becomes bare’, it can no longer be understood as its whole. In return, the most learned abbey in Europe burns to the ground, much like the martyrs it exalted.

        Instead of seeing the deaths for what they are (just random acts, committed by several people, not one depraved person, but individual curious ones) William goes on wild goose chases, i.e.

trying to find Adelmo’s murderer before realizing that it was a suicide. He looks for evidence that simply is not there, then finding the next real clue, usually a body, searches in vain for what he wants to be the truth. Blinded by what he thinks is true, instead of what is right in front of his face, he searches and searches not judging by ’names’ so much as placing the wrong meaning on them.

        Near the end of the novel, William gives Adso the following advise ‘ Fear prophets, Adso, and those prepared to die for the truth…he loved his truth so lewdly that he dared do anything to destroy falsehood…the truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for truth’ (491). Thus, the theme of the novel is the truth. William searches for it and searches for it, and finally finds it when, infuriated, he sees the clues for what they really mean, instead of what they desired them to mean.

        Semiotics teaches that each element is meaningless until it is differentiated from the other elements. This can be applied several places in the novel, first as each death cannot be solved on it own, but only in conjunction with the other murders. In addition, William singles out the library as the common denominating factor not, for example, sleeping quarters or the Church.

        The title ‘The Name of the Rose’ can apply in this fashion: William comes across a bud, as he searches for clues, the petals continue falling off, as the rose dies, when enough petals have dropped, he can see what makes the flower. The petals are there to reveal the truth, to those who are in search of it. The petals are there to draw attention to what is important.

        The novel must be taken in its entirety, not just in pieces to understand it. A rose, to understand it’s beauty, cannot be taken apart, but must be seen as a whole. Differentiating the parts, one can understand their function. Moreover, it is the rose itself that is important because as Shakespeare says, ‘that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet’. The name is not what is important; it is what the rose is, plus what it can signify.