What’s in a Name?

26 Apr

Well, everything!   As a parent (and a primogeniture), naming my children was a little stressful!  After all, the offspring will have to bear the joy or the burden of this name for possibly 100 years.   I often wonder if authors go  through a similar struggle when naming their characters.   It is possible that these names could last for even longer than a “real” child.   Melville’s characters are over 160 years old and still being talked about.

The names in Moby Dick run the gamut from funny (Stubb and Flask) to fun-to-say (Queequeg) to prophetic.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Elijah – the prophet echoing the biblical Elijah and his words of warning to Ahab.

Gabriel – the “angelic messenger” ship that gives the prophesy that Ahab will join their first mate in the depths for taking on Moby Dick.  (And I just might be a little partial to this name anyway – I gave it to my primogeniture.)

Ishmael – The cast-off son of Abraham in the bible, who was forced to wander in exile.  How appropriate!

Fadallah – OK, this might be a stretch, and remember, I have no notes in my edition of the book, but does Melville include “allah” on purpose to make us think negatively or think of untruth?

And, my personal favorite, Rachel – Melville puts it best – “She was Rachel, weeping for her children, for they were not.”


I could go on and on with this post, but I’ll leave it to you.  What were some of your favorite names in the book?



Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Moby-Dick


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3 responses to “What’s in a Name?

  1. Adriana @ Classical Quest

    April 26, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Peleg and Bildad — also Bible names. I love the scene when Peleg tells Bildad to “stop palavering”.

  2. Christina Joy

    April 26, 2012 at 10:55 am

    I loved the Rosebud – I loved that it stank, and that it was French. Perfection.

    • Adriana @ Classical Quest

      April 26, 2012 at 11:12 am

      Oh yes! “Bouton-de-Rose”! When Frank Muller read Stubb’s dialog, he Americanized the pronunciation of it.(bouton like “crouton” and emphasizing “de”). Hilarious.

      “Fine day ain’t it? Air rather gardenny, I should say; throw us a bunch of posies, will ye, Bouton de Rose?'”


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