Dickensian


nameCarrying over the topic from last week, I’ll be discussing names for the symbols they are in a few more posts in the days ahead. I started the week off with unique monikers. If you’re here for the first time, scroll down for some interesting tidbits on the meanings behind well-known character names from the imaginations of J.K.Rowling and William Shakespeare. Then keep scrolling for more!

Today I’m discussing the interesting names and naming style of Charles Dickens. From 1836 to 1870, Dickens completed 14 novels, several novellas and assorted published pieces. He was in the middle of another novel before he died.  Dickens had quite a knack for describing imbalances in society, due in part to his going to work at age twelve while the rest of his family was locked away in debtor’s prison.  Some of these tales, such as A Christmas Carol  and Oliver Twist, so defined their society of their day, we get to use the word Dickensian with which to describe scenes reminiscent of his jovial Christmas or squalid poverty. 

Just like we see in J.K. Rowling and Shakespeare’s cast of characters, so many of Dickens’ characters possess distinct personalities and more often than not, their names hint at their traits. Dickens also had a keen knack for satire. It was said of his work that “even the most cartoonish of his characters glow with a certain kind of truth.” Fun for us, the satire often shows itself in the names he chose. How could Mr. M’Choakumchild not be a schoolteacher?  Or Captain Cuttle not have a hook instead of a hand?  lol Even Miss Rosa Bud’s name suggests she’s delicate and lovely. And Uriah Heep sure draws an image in my mind!

At some point in his life, Dickens lived or worked near someone considered by many to be a miser. This man had two lodgers, tradesmen by the names Goodge and Marney. Given his habit of appropriating real people and their names for his fiction, it’s not much of a stretch to see how that miser became a character in a book. Did the real Goodge and Marney lend their names to become Scrooge and and his partner Marley? Dickens scholars believe so. When we hear the name Ebenezer Scrooge, our mind makes an instant association with a wealthy miser. And so it is for his other characters. 

Dickens often borrowed character traits from friends and relatives, or from people of his acquaintance who possessed something he wanted to see in his characters, some trait or attribute. On occasion someone would take exception to their obvious presence in his story. But that didn’t stop him. He became less overt by making slight alterations. Example: Turning Smith into Billsmethie.  The name Nickleby is said to have come from his own name. The alteration was so slight that Dickens’ own mother missed the fact the loquacious Mrs. Nickleby was based upon her talkative self.

I like how he played with words to help paint pictures in the minds of his readers. If you look closely, you can see a lot of the following: The overly thin servant in Domby and Son is named Withers. The gnarly and twisted old bottle shop owner in Bleak House is named Mr. Krook. The wiry detective is named Sergeant Straw. Mat Jowl the gambler from The Old Curiosity Shop has “broad cheeks, a coarse wide mouth, and bull neck”. And Mr. Fezziwig from A Christmas Carol is a jovial man wearing a powdered wig forever askew.

His names are memorable, I think, more for the appearance, quality, and personality of the character they belong to than the actual name itself. They’ve become synonymous.  According to the Dictionary of British Literary Characters, Dickens created 989 named characters during his career as a writer. Wiki has a long list, but not that long. How many suggest habits, appearance, or occupation to you?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Dickensian_characters

I found this clip very interesting.

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Another 100 Things Blogging Challenge! For 100 days, I’ll post something from my chosen topic: Words on the Verge of Extinction. There are 86 entries to come.

Here’s one for today:

Stiricide (noun 1656)

falling of icicles from a house

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4 Us iconToday is author Marianne Stephens’ interview.
http://romancebooks4us.blogspot.com/

All through January the RB4U authors are doing interviews. The thoughtful questions are a great way to get to know us. Commenting that day gives you a chance to win a collectable t-shirt. Come see!

Right now the COLD SNOW, HOT ROMANCE CONTEST is on! Three winners will each receive a $25 gift card for Amazon/Barnes & Noble, and split the other prizes randomly picked from prize list. Be sure to check all our pages for news about authors and their books, publishers and their books, and industry representatives. http://www.romancebooks4us.com/

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b1e43-eqpicSeveral promotional opportunities for romance authors can be found on my Exquisite Quills group blogs. Meet the founding authors and our guests.
http://exquisitequills.blogspot.com/

Exquisite Quills Yahoo Group

First Kiss Wednesday ~ share your best 300 word kiss.
Set the Scene in Six~ share your backdrop or lead-up on Sundays.
The Genesis of a Book ~ share the spark that ignited your novel
Author Interviews ~
We’re booking late spring now.

EQ-RR.banner Today’s guest author: Kris Bock
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A new place for your old stars to shine 😀

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Sample my love stories for free!

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About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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10 Responses to Dickensian

  1. linuxjim says:

    Your column has bad side effects! I found myself opening “David Copperfield” on my NOOK and starting to reread it for the Nth time 🙂 !

  2. Fun post, Rose. Dickens isn’t the only one. The malaproropism, a nonsensical statement, comes from Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s character Mrs. Malaprop, who used words incorrectly.

  3. melissakeir says:

    Dickens was more obvious than Shakespeare with his naming. It was easier for me to put the pictures of the characters with Dickens’s characters.

    • Yeah I think it’s easier too. Perhaps because it was closer to our time period and influenced by movies? I’m sure in Shakespeare’s time period his characters were more obvious.

  4. rosgemmell says:

    Dickens was the master at naming memorable characters, wasn’t he! No wonder we get instant pictures in our minds from hearing them. Another great post, Rose.

  5. Rosisms could really take off. Given the winter we are having, it’s also possible the word ‘stiricide’ will not die out since at least here in north Texas we have had many icicles falling from apartment houses.

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