Sai King No Dummy: Symbolic Names in TDT
Authors often choose names that have meaning. It’s like a puzzle for the reader. An encrypted message. After you unlock the puzzle, the names sometimes sound punny or downright ridiculous. Take Richard Cory, for example –the stupidest, most obvious name in the history of names. Give me a break, Edwin Arlington Robinson.
By the way, this is a joke article. There’s not a lot of serious thought going on here, may it do ya fine. But it’s mostly ka-ka, as Eddie Dean would say.
Or take Han Solo. That name says it all: a ruffian vagabond with no place to call home.
Cooler, more cryptic names exist too, like Lord Voldemort’s:
There’s also Winston from George Orwell’s”1984″ (ironic, no? And he smoked Victory cigarettes. No, cigarettes aren’t people, but it’s a name goddamnit), Prince Prospero from Poe’s “The Red Masque of Death” (another case of rich-bitch, and also of irony), and Nurse Ratshed from Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” to name a few.
You could probably count Sesame Street’s The Count. Yes. Let’s do that. Let’s count the count. That poor grape soda-colored sap has been doing all the counting, and for all these years. Let someone count him for a change.
There’s a point to all this.
I’m making the case that TDT (The Dark Tower) names are symbolic too. I’m shouting it to the rooftops.
In My Understanding of Truth, Jake Chambers writes, “What has four wheels and flies? A garbage truck, and that is the truth.”
That’s true, and that’s the whole point of the poem, isn’t it. Sometimes symbolism is in the eye of the beholder. We never really know if an author means for something to be symbolic unless s/he says so. Analysis is guesswork, sometimes.
But Sai King is known to appreciate thoughtful symbolism.
“Symbolism exists to adorn and enrich,” he says in On Writing, “not to create an artificial sense of profundity.” Guess that makes Edwin Arlington Robinson a double noob.
Dark Tower Character Names and Symbolism
Here we go. The good stuff. I’ll skip over the Calla/Calvin/Callahan/Tower bits since they’re literally written into the story, do ya.
Ted Brautigan: He deserted the breakers in Blue Heaven. When the low men in yellow coats caught him, he was braut(back)igan. GET IT???
No, but seriously. That was the entire reason why Ted was important to TDT. It’s his defining characteristic. And his ka.
Jake Chambers: “Chambers” is a good last name if you think of Chambers as spaces, or even worlds. Kiddo definitely needs that plural S at the end of his surname, because, as ye ken, there are other chambers than these.
Eddie Dean: Junkie youngster rebel hottie. Reminiscent of James Dean. Wikipedia describes Dean as an “icon of teenage disillusionment and social estrangement.” Sound familiar?
Detta Walker/Odetta Holmes: Probably not King’s intention here – it’s a stretch – but adding an “O” is an honorific in Japanese. And Odetta is definitely more honorific than her gunslinging twim, say thankya. But let me get to the last names.
“Walker” is an interesting one, considering she lost her legs. And considering Ms. Detta is totally delusional. Mayhap even about her legs. Either that or it’s a case of irony.
“Holmes!” There are a couple of ways to split this one. Firstly, you could say Odetta’s last name sounds like “homes,” which is where the hearts are, or so they say. And Odetta is much more “at home” than is her twim. Likewise, you could make the case that Odetta is a poor detective (Holmes, as in Sherlock), being that she was yet to detect Detta’s presence for many years. In that case, it’s a dam ironic name any way you slice it.
Brown: Brown is a farmer. Farmers plant plants. Plants are dying. Dying plants are brown. Brown is a farmer. Farmers plant plants. Plants are dying. Dying plants are brown. Brown is a farmer. Farmers plant plants. Plants are dying. Dying plants are brown. etc.
Hax: Sounds like hacks. Cool.
Steven Deschain: Shares a name with the author. Both are Roland’s daddy. Looks like Mordred isn’t the only one with two.
Before we move on, check out these Google gems I came across in my research:
Before this degenerates any more, there’s one more item on this list, one more name, say thankya: