An essay on the importance of names in "This Earth of Mankind" by Pramoedya Toer (3 pgs, bibliography included)

Essay by dwpjokerHigh School, 12th grade April 2002

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"What's in a Name?"

What exactly is in a name? You're name is who you are; it distinguishes John Smith, from Joe Blow. There is much weight that is vested into a name; in the Native American culture a child is given a name that fits his character. In our society, the title of Doctor connotates respect and that he is a well-educated individual. In This Earth of Mankind, a name not only separates individuals by identifying who one is, it also defines him as a person.

A name with a generally negative connotation is not always bad. Minke, whose real name is never revealed to us, finds out that his name given to him by one of his earlier teachers was meant to insult him. Even after he discovers what Minke means, he decides to keep the name and use it as a form of empowerment. Nyai Ontosoroh is another prime example.

She was forced into what she is, only a Nyai, and turned herself into an extraordinary Nyai. Despite the fact she runs a major business by herself and does not rely on anyone to help her, she refuses to be referred to as anything else other than Nyai. "...I'm not used to being called ma'am and indeed I am not a Mrs. It's not an appropriate way to refer to me, not my right. Call me Nyai...because that is what I am..." (Toer 228). She is happy to be called Nyai; so little is expected of her as a Nyai, yet she has accomplished so much, it pleases her to prove others wrong, that she is more than just another piece of property. Mama has not only embraced her name, but also uses it as a form of empowerment.

A name can have such vested importance...