Thursday, March 28, 2013

Naming in Beloved

As we have all noticed through our readings of "Things Fall Apart" and "Beloved," the naming systems are drastically different. They went from names like Okonkwo and Ikemefuna to names like Denver and Stamp Paid. The traditional African naming system has people create names to symbolize something important about the person or an attribute that they should have. When they were taken to America, they were given Americanized names such as Joshua or Jenny that did not represent anything, perhaps a reference to a name in the bible. The interesting thing is how both Joshua and Jenny changed their names to Stamp Paid and Baby Suggs to represent important events that have occurred in their lives. Also, Denver was named so that Sethe could remember the birthing experience. So although the Africans were removed from their African traditions of naming, they eventually returned to have a similar nomenclature as traditional Igbo did. 

3 comments:

Austin Falk said...

It is also interesting that characters such as Stamp Paid and Baby Suggs who changed their names to reflect better their true African Culture instead of keeping names like Joshua and Jenny ended up becoming free from slavery. Their changing of names to me reflects the idea that they did not give in to slavery and ended up making a name for themselves and escaping to have a new life in the North. Stamp Paid ends up working the Underground Railroad and helping other Africans who are belittled by slavery start a new beginning. It is amazing to think that as little as a name change could represent so much about a person's culture.

Tyler Dean said...

It is very interesting indeed. Unlike the Igbo naming system in which people were named for their characteristics or their aspirations, the slave people replaced their american names with those of their achievements or experiences. Stamp Paid renames himself based on his giving up of his wife to the slave owner, and Baby Suggs names herself so because of her husband. The slaves used their names to represent and to protect their identity and to make them uniquely themselves.

Madeline Davis said...

I found this point interesting as well, especially because both the Igbo naming tradition and the African American slave names signified important aspects of the individuals' lives and personal situations. The Igbo people named their children with personal attributes or family situations. I don't remember the exact name, but Ekwefi named one of her obanje children something that's equivalent to tempting death to kill him because she knew he would die anyway. In Beloved, the African Americans often rid themselves of their Americanized names and chose their own names to represent what was important to them, whether it be commemoration of a situation (Denver's birth) or a personal identification with another person or situation (Baby Suggs/Stamp Paid). I found it a bit strange that Paul D kept the Garners' last name even after he left Sweet Home. He had the opportunity to make his name whatever he so chose, much like Stamp Paid changed his name to signify his new outlook on life, yet Paul D chose to continue to identify himself as Paul D Garner.