What’s In A Name?
Things Fall Apart is an outstanding book. I’m only halfway through it, and I can already tell that I’m going to love this one.
I’m a 36-year-old white guy in Tennessee. I’ve never been to Nigeria, much less the Nigeria of the late 19th Century. So it’s really a testament to Chinua Achebe’s writing and creativity that I really feel like I’m there when reading this story. I feel like I connect with these characters, even though there customs and culture is a world apart from mine.
Speaking of that, one of the most difficult aspects of the novel has been keeping up with all the names. It seems that many names with the clan start with an O, and it’s not Oscar and Oliver and Obi-Wan and names that I would be familiar with. It’s names that I’m pretty sure I’m not pronouncing correctly in my head.
“Do you know Ogbuefi Ndulue?” Ofoedu asked.
“Ogbuefi Ndulue of Ire Village,” Okonkwo and Obierika said together.
“He died this morning,” said Ofoedu.
“That is not strange. He was the oldest man in Ire,” said Obierika.
“You are right,” Ofoedu agreed. “But you ought to ask why the drum was not beaten to tell Umuofia of his death.”
“Why?” asked Obierika and Okonkwo together.
Okonkwo is the story’s protagonist, so I think I’ve got his name down. But all these other O names–and the ones above are just the tip of the iceberg–can get a little confusing. It’s like The Lord of the Rings–with Aragorn and Arwen and Frodo and Bilbo and Saruman and Sauron and Gandalf and Gimli–except with even more difficult-to-pronounce names.
I’ve thought about renaming the characters to Steve, Bill, and Tom–like I mention in this post about my bad memory–but I think that might be a little disrespectful to Achebe. So onward I go.
Beside that small difficulty–which is really a slight against me, not the book–I’m really enjoying Things Fall Apart. I think this one could be pretty high in my meaningless rankings.
Do character names ever trip you up?