Literary Names: Great American Novel namesakes 101

Literary Names: Great American Novel namesakes 101

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. In fact, many of the most fashionable American baby names today were inspired by beloved books.

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:


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

JORDAN – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

LAVINIAEugene O’Neill, Mourning Becomes Electra

LORELEIAnita Loos, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

MAGNOLIAEdna Ferber, Showboat

MARINJoan Didion, A Book of Common Prayer

MELANCTHAGertrude Stein, Three Lives

MOIRAJim Thompson, The Grifters

OUISAJohn Guare, Six Degrees of Separation

NARCISSAWilliam Faulkner, Sartoris

ONAUpton Sinclair, The Jungle

PHOEBE — J D Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

PILARErnest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

QUENTINWilliam Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

REGANWilliam Peter Blatty, The Exorcist

SABRAEdna Ferber, Cimarron

SAPPHIRAWilla Cather, Sapphira and the Slave Girl

SONO —  Saul Bellow, Herzog

SOPHONSIBA  — William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses

SUKIEJohn Updike, The Witches of Eastwick

SYLVIE —  Marilyn French, Housekeeping

TANIS —  Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt

TEMPLEWilliam Faulkner, Sanctuary

THEASaul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March

VEDAJames M. Cain, Mildred Pierce

VESTATheodore Dreiser, Jennie Gerhardt

ZEENA/ZENOBIAEdith Wharton, Ethan Frome


AMORY —  F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise

ARKADY —  Martin Cruz Smith, Gorky Park

ARLISSFred Gipson, Old Yeller

ATTICUSHarper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

AUGIE —  Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March

AUGUSTUS —  Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove

BINX —  Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

BRICKTennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

CASH —  William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

CLAY —  Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero

CLYDE —  Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy

DARL —  William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

DION —  Eugene O’Neill, The Great God Brown

EBEN —  Eugene O’Neill, Desire Under the Elms

EBENEZER —  John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor

ETHAN —  Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome

EUCLIDE  —  Willa Cather, Shadows on the Rock

EUPHEUS —  William Faulkner, Light in August

EZEKIELJohn Cheever, Falconer

FELIX —  Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., The Cat’s Cradle

GRAY —  John Grisham, The Pelican Brief

GUITAR —  Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

HOLDEN —  J D Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

HUD  — Larry McMurtry, Hud

JABEZStephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

JETTEdna Ferber, _Giant (_shown)

JURGIS —  Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

LEANDERJohn Cheever, The Wapshot Chronicle

LOCH —  Eudora Welty, The Golden Apples

MACONThe Accidental Tourist; Toni Morrison, Song o f Solomon

MILOJoseph Heller, Catch-22

MOSES —  Saul Bellow, Herzog

OWEN —  John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

QUENTIN —  William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

RUFUS —  James Agee —  A Death in the Family; James Baldwin, Another Country

SENECA —  Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt

VALENTINE —  Saul Bellow, Herzog

WICK —  Willa Cather, My Ántonia

WING —  Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio

WOLFJack London, The Sea Wolf

YANCEY —  Edna Ferber, Cimarron

ZOYD —  Thomas Pynchon, Vineland


About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. You can follow her personally at InstagramTwitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.