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Category: cool literary names

Literary Names: The Bronte Sisters

brontes

We’ve talked a lot about Shakespearean literary names and characters in Dickens and Jane Austen, but we’ve overlooked three of the best namers in literary history—the sisters Brontë.  We love their own names—Charlotte, Emily and Anne, and we love their initial-appropriate male pen names—Currer, Ellis and Acton.  We even love their surname, which a number of parents have chosen for their daughters.

But it is the particularly rich cast of character names in their novels that we love the most.  One of them, in fact, had a considerable effect on baby naming of its era.  Though it’s long been said that it was Shirley Temple who promoted her given name in the 1930s, she wasn’t the first.  In Charlotte Brontë’ second novel, following Jane Eyre, the protagonist of Shirley was given that name because her father had anticipated a boy, and Shirley was a distinctively male name at the time.  The novel’s Father Keeldar made a gender switch that has proven to be permanent.

Here is a selection of Brontë bests;  the list isn’t meant to be complete—some of the more common names have not been included. (The initials AB, CB and EB represent Anne, Charlotte and Emily.)

GIRLS

Adèle, CB—Jane Eyre

Agnes, ABAgnes Grey

Alice, AB- The Tenant of Wildfell Hall; CB- Jane Eyre

Annabella, AB- The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

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mockingbird

As the fiftieth anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird is being celebrated, the thought comes to mind that it sometimes can take decades for an iconic fictional character –usually one imprinted on our minds from a classic read during our formative adolescent years—to take off as a baby name.

A prime example of this is Atticus, as in Atticus Finch, that noble lawyer/father Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s novel, which appeared in print in 1960 and on screen in 1962, and yet didn’t make it onto the Social Security baby name list until 2004.  The same is true of Holden: J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield appeared in The Catcher in the Rye in 1951, but not on the pop charts until 1987.  Scarlett O’Hara (GWTW book 1936, movie 1939) didn’t hit the top half of the list until 2004—when it combined with the Johanssen factor.  And if we want to go back even further, it took Huckleberry well over a century to suddenly be used by a couple of celebs.

Below are some literary names from 20th century American novels and plays, a few of which, like Daisy, Owen and Ethan, have already made their comebacks, others which conceivably could, plus a few that are probably too eccentric to be condsidered.

As always there’s the caveat that not all these characters were particularly likable or noble namesakes.  Some American literary names to consider, for both boys and girls, include:

GIRLS

ALABAMAZelda Fitzgerald, Save Me the Waltz

ÁNTONIA — Willa Cather, My Ántonia

AURORALarry McMurtry, Terms of Endearment

BLANCHETennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

BONANZATom Robbins,  Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

BRETTErnest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

CLARICEThomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs

CLYTEMNESTRA (CLYTIE) — William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!

DAISY– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

DENVERToni Morrison, Beloved

DOMINIQUEAyn Rand, The Fountainhead

ESMÉ – J D Salinger, “For Esmé—With Love and Squalor”

EULALIAWilliam Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!

FRANCESCARobert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County

INDIAEvan S. Connell, Mrs. Bridge

ISADORAErica Jong, Fear of Flying

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