Category: Gone With the Wind
Octomom aside, most of us only have the opportunity to name a small number of children. Authors, on the other hand, can name family after family–including the parents. Some–like Jane Austen–were limited by the restricted supply of names available in their milieu, while others could let their imaginations soar.
I thought it might be fun (and instructive?) to look at some of the more prominent brother and sister sets in literature for possible ideas–though you could probably skip Wallstreet Panic.
Alcott, Little Woman
Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Austen, Sense and Sensibility
Chekhov, Three Sisters
Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit
Mitchell, Gone With the Wind
Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire
Woody Allen, Hannah & Her Sisters
Cheever, The Wapshot Chronicle
Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Dumas, The Corsican Brothers
Faulkner, several novels
WALLSTREET PANIC, ADMIRAL DEWEY
Miller, Death of a Salesman
O’Neill, Desire Under the Elms
Shepard, Fool for Love
Steinbeck, East of Eden
Barrie, Peter Pan
Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga
JOLYON (Jolly), IRENESOAMES, WINIFRED
Hardy, The Return of the Native
CLEMENT (Clym), THOMASIN
James, The Turn of the Screw
Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Salinger, Catcher in the Rye
Shaw, Man and Superman
Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
Some authors have a genuine knack for character naming, usually spread over their entire oeuvre. In the case of Margaret Mitchell, it was all focused on her only novel–Gone With the Wind–whose character names still resonate today. The 1933 book (almost titled Tomorrow is Another Day) was an unprecedented smash, selling 30 million copies and winning a Pulitzer Prize, as was the movie, released in 1939 and receiving a then-record ten Oscars. Its frequent revivals and TV screenings have kept it alive for later generations. So how have its characters’ names fared for babies over the years?
SCARLETT O’Hara. For four years following the debut of the film, Scarlett sneaked onto the bottom edge of the Social Security list. It took a glamorous young, modern movie star–Ms. Johansson–to propel it to the upper echelons. A stylish color name, it’s now in the Top 300 and sure to move higher.
RHETT Butler. So closely connected to the Clark Gable persona, it took Rhett a long time to make it into the mainstream, which it finally started to do in the fifties, along with similar names like Brett and Brent, all of which have pretty much faded.
ASHLEY Wilkes. At the time of the book’s writing, Ashley was very much a Southern gentleman’s name. It wasn’t until the early 1980′s that it really crossed the genderline, when it started to appear as female characters on soap operas like The Young and the Restless. Margaret Mitchell would have been shocked to see it beome the #1 girls’ name in America in 1991.
MELANIE Hamilton Wilkes. The name of this sweet and noble character inspired a generation of Melanies. It jumped onto the list in 1938, no doubt because of the novel’s colossal success, and remains viable today.
INDIA Wilkes. The name of Ashley‘s sister is one of the most distinctive in the book and movie. Heard to some extent during the Civil War period of the story, it dropped off the charts, coming back with the resurgence of place names in the 1980s and is still an exotically appealing choice.
BEAU Wilkes. The name of Ashley and Melanie‘s young son was another strictly Southern name, hardly heard in the rest of the country despite its handsome image. It’s been picking up some steam in the last few years, chosen by several celeb parents.
BELLE Watling. Another name with an attractive meaning, it was for a long time associated with slightly wanton women like this one and Mae West-type seductresses, but now with the growing popularity of Bella, it has been making a comeback, especially as a middle name.
BONNIE BLUE Butler. Although this wasn’t her given name, everyone thought of it as that of Scarlett and Rhett‘s little daughter, and Bonnie–yet another GWTW name that means pretty–had a long run on the pop charts, reaching #32 in 1942, and still hanging on in the Top 1000.
CARREEN and SUELLEN O’Hara, Scarlett‘s sisters; Suellen began to be used the year after the film’s release, and came back split in two–as Sue Ellen on the popular nighttime soap, Dallas. Carreen, with all its double letters, never caught fire.
You’ve probably noticed that Aiden is now way more popular than the original Irish Aidan. And also that Zoey is catching up with Zoe, while other names like Isiah, Kaleb, Camryn and Sienna are either ahead of or breathing down the necks of their conventionally spelled cousins. Sometimes the reasons for these changes are clear-cut, sometimes it’s just something in the ether.
Not that this is a new thing. I remember the first time that someone asked me to spell my first name. “Huh?” “Well, is it Linda with an ‘i’ or Lynda with a ‘y’? Without my really noticing, Lynda had become a spelling alternative in the wake of the popularity of Lynn. Something similar has happened with Aidan/Aiden. When the epidemic of rhyming ‘en’-ending names erupted–Jaden, Braden, Caden et al–it was a logical development to make Aiden a legitimate member of that family. And when ‘K’-beginning boys’ names became a rage, Kaleb began pursuing Caleb up the list.
The case of Zoe/Zooey is a little different, as the spike of the latter version can be pretty much traced to a single phenomenon–’Zoey101′–the Emmy-nominated teen sitcom starring (now teen mom) Jamie Lynn Spears, which appeared on Nickelodeon in 2005. And the publicity surrounding Jamie Lynn’s big sister Britney’s second son helped spread that spelling of Brayden. The rise of the British actress Sienna Miller spurred the spelling change of the Italian town of Siena, actress Jorja Fox legitimized the phonetic spelling of Georgia, and Gossip Girl hottie Chace (originally his middle name) Crawford has the spelling of his name chasing Chase.
In terms of image, rather than spelling, Scarlett Johansson challenged the long-term connection of her name to Gone With the Wind spitfire Scarlett O’Hara, just as the charms of Jude Law have managed to erase the age-old associations of his name to Judas.
Can you think of any others?