Name and Naming in Beloved

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 12th grade February 2008

download word file, 4 pages 3.0

It is rarely the case for an author to select the names of his or her characters arbitrarily. Often the names of the characters will be used to express an idea or concept significant to the author. For example, in 1984 George Orwell named his hero after Winston Churchill, England's great leader during World War II and added a common last name: Smith. Also, in A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess felt his hero needed a noble name, nicely met by Alexander ("leader of men") the Great, and settled on Alex Delarge. While an author’s intentions in naming character may be less obvious, there is nearly always some subtle purpose. As evidenced in the aforementioned examples, naming can be a powerful device if properly used. In Beloved Toni Morrison utilizes naming to convey many important aspects of the narrative. Throughout Beloved, the dehumanisation of slavery, the significance self-definition, and interpersonal relationships are all communicated through naming.

Sixo, perhaps the most absurd name in Beloved, epitomizes the dehumanisation of slavery in Beloved. While the origin of the name Sixo is not specifically stated in the novel, it can be assumed that it was derived from the number given to him when being bought and sold. The recognition of a person by number is indicative of sub-human status, common to institutions such as a prison camp where efficiency takes precedence over humanity. It is difficult to acknowledge the title Sixo, as a name, as it is more of an enumeration. The names of the other Sweet Home also demonstrate this same dehumanisation through enumeration. The names Paul A, Paul D, and Paul F Garner, are only marginally more acceptable than Sixo. Their names demonstrate the same enumeration as Sixo, however they are preceded by the designation Paul to provide some semblance of a...