Does Morrison Doom Characters to Their Names?

Hello all!

Something I have thinking quite a bit about lately is the bluntness of the names that Morrison gives her characters.  In class yesterday, Alpha talked a little bit about how one of the minor character’s names in the novel is “Praise Compton.”  I came across this article which explains how Compton “struggled with an outsized reputation, seared into American pop culture, as a place synonymous with gangs, drive-by shootings and gangsta rap.”  The article also mentions how crime rates have been decreasing there in the last ten years.  So why does Morrison praise the gang-infiltrated Compton?  Is she simply praising African Americans who take control of their own lives?  What do you all think of this?

Another name in the novel that stood out to me is “Lone DuPres.”  She was found by Fairy DuPres outside a sod house: “There was a serious discussion about what to do with the child–where to place her–… Fairy put up such a fight she wore them down […] and named the baby Lone because that’s how they found her.  And Lone she still was for she never married…”  This makes me wonder if Morrison is naming characters under the pretext that they will be held to the ramifications of their names.  I looked up the etymology of DuPres and found it comes from the french name DuPre, which translates to “from the meadow.”  This would make Lone’s name mean “Alone from the meadow.”

The only Morgan daughter is named “Queen”: “It took seven births for them to get around to giving a female child an administrative, authoritative sounding name…”  This implies that the citizens of Ruby know that the names they give their children will impact them in the future.  “Queen” is defined as “the female ruler of an independent state, especially one who inherits the position by right of birth.”  I think this is interesting because the Morgan family is often seen as the one that “rules” over everyone else in the town.

On page 208, we learn that the youngest Cary girls are named Hope, Chaste, Lovely, and Pure.  The name “Cary” means “stream”.  I’m wondering if Morrison is trying to tell us that the Cary family wants their children to spread these kinds of feelings and morals through the town of Ruby.

Consolata is Spanish for consolation.  She definitely seems to console a lot of the girls in the novel, particularly Pallas: “…Connie was magic.  She just stretched out her hand and Pallas went to her, sat on her lap, talk-crying at first, then just crying…”  On page 245, Connie saves Scout’s life after he is in an accident.  Lone tells Connie that she has a gift.  Is her gift to console or heal those who are broken?  Mentally, physically, or otherwise?

What do you make of all of these names?  Do you find that the names of the characters characterize them?

Happy reading,





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