Tag Archives: character list

Breaking the Rules

I’m thinking about breaking the rules.

I’m seriously considering it.

What’s causing this temptation to cheat?  The Russian names!

In the “How to Read a Novel” section of our guide-book, The Well-Educated Mind, SWB suggests that I keep a list of characters as I read.  In the past, I have done this faithfully (okay, I did completely forget to for Gulliver’s Travels), but I am having a doozy of a time keeping a list for Crime and Punishment.  The names!  Oh, The NAMES!

And I was warned. SWB says, “Sometimes (especially in Russian works) characters have two (or more) names; your character list can help keep them straight.”  I thought I was prepared.  I was wrong.

I finished chapter four last night.  In fifty-four pages I’ve met Raskolnikov, Rodya, and Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov.  Hey, what do you know?  It’s three names for the same person.  Silly me for calling him Rask in my notes.

Okay, so Rask’s name game isn’t too difficult to play, but what about Sonia?  Did you catch that her name is Sofya Semyonovna Marmeladov?   Her nickname is Sonia?  Because that’s so much shorter than Sofya (hear the sarcasm?)  I confess that when I wrote down Pyotr Petrovitch (Dounia’s fiancé), I missed that his last name was Luzhin until the next chapter when I couldn’t figure out why Rask was so angry at Mr. Luzhin.  Mr Luzhin?  Who’s that?  He wasn’t on my list.  I had to backtrack until I found my omission.

Today I sneaked a peek at Sparknotes.  I want their character list.  No! I’m not linking up to it.  If you’re going to cheat you’ll have to do it yourself.

I promise to tattle on myself if I do cave and print out that list.

Are you keeping everyone straight?


Posted by on July 25, 2012 in Crime and Punishment


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Name Game

Names are important. 

I would imagine that for an author the naming of one’s characters is vital to the telling of the story.  If I was an author I know I’d spend a long time stewing over the names of my book’s cast members.  I remember the challenge we had naming our children.  We spent months suggesting names and then ruling them out.  Hey, in our house, even Webkinz’s names are carefully-crafted.  We have a stuffed mouse named Pixie Squeaker and a stuffed pig named Isabella Mudbath.  See what I mean?  Thought-out names.

So when I got to chapter XI and met Mr. Fang, I couldn’t ignore the names in Oliver Twist any longer.  It looks like Dickens is playing a little name game.  Mr. Fang is the magistrate that deals with Oliver when he’s falsely accused of stealing Mr. Brownlow’s handkerchief.  Isn’t Dickens clever?  Mr. Fang likes to show his teeth by displaying his power in the courtroom.  When Fang asks Oliver his name and he’s too ill to respond, the official/lawyer/bailiff (what is his position anyway?) answers for Oliver and says his name is Tom White.  I like that.  White!  as in innocent or pure!

What about the names of other characters?

Remember the funeral director and his wife?  The Sowerberrys?  Sour berries?  Maybe dealing with death all the time has made their lives sour?

What about our Beadle Mr. Bumble?  For sure he is bumbling in his religious position of protecting the parish children and showing them God’s love and mercy.

In chapter XIV I met Mr. Grimwig, Brownlow’s friend.  This gentleman certainly has a “grim” disposition.

Oliver Twist.  The orphan’s journey through life is taking twists and turns.  It’s not the life anyone would want for any child.  Circumstances have twisted what should have been a beautiful, peaceful childhood.

Speaking of peaceful, I looked up the name Oliver.  It’s comes from the Olive Tree which symbolizes fruitfulness, dignity, and beauty.  Offering an olive branch signifies an offering of peace.  Hmmmm…  At this point in the novel, Oliver hasn’t experienced much peace.  I certainly hope there’s more peace to come for the orphan.

Alright, Dickens.  I’ve got my eye on you.  What other messages will you be giving us in the names of your characters?


Posted by on December 3, 2011 in Oliver Twist


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I want to read the Great Illustrated Classics!

The librarian of my children’s Lutheran school is a friend of this blog.  I enjoyed discussing Pride and Prejudice with her as she sped through the novel.  Volunteering in the library last week, I noticed that she had placed the Great Illustrated Classics version of Oliver Twist in a predominant location in the library.  The book was face out on the beginning fiction shelves.  She surely intended for a child to check out this version of our latest classic work.  Instead I snatched up the book to compare it to my intimidating copy.

Now Oliver Twist is a sad book.  Really sad.  Orphans and workhouses.  Doesn’t the children’s book cover seem friendlier than the illustration that’s on the cover of my Modern Library copy?

But it was these two pages that made me walk out of the school library with the children’s version tucked in my bag…

A character list!  You know how important one is for my reading. 

That evening when the plot became so terribly sad in the very first chapter of my reading, I looked in the Great Illusrated Classics version and for moment could pretend that with a concerned doctor and loving nurse, things were going to be okay for our newborn orphan.

I want to read the children’s version of Oliver Twist.

and to my librarian friend… I promise to give the kids a chance to read it.

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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Oliver Twist


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P&P character web: spiders not included

As a student of the Well-Educated Mind, I am required to keep a list of characters.  Author Susan Wise Bauer suggests that I not only list characters but give a brief description for each one.   I’ve tried a couple different ways of doing this. 

For Don Quixote I listed characters on index cards that I used as a book mark.  This got frustrating since there were so many characters and so few of them ever made a reappearance.  I think by the time I finished the book I had five index cards covered front and back with tiny script.  As an added insult, the cards continually fell out of my book, losing my place.

For Pilgrim’s Progress I used the same format with some of the same frustration.  Few characters return in later chapters.  At least in this book, the characters’ names are their descriptions, so that part was easier.

For Gulliver’s Travels I confess that I neglected to keep a list.  I was so wrapped up with end notes that I completely forgot about it.  Again, it wasn’t that big a deal because once Gulliver left a location, he never came back.

For Pride and Prejudice, the first character-based novel on our list, I planned to do a stupendous job.  SWB suggests when there are lots of related characters, one should make a family tree.  This sounded like a great way to maintain the list (and to gather blog post material!).  Sadly, I do not know anything about family trees, and it took me many chapters to figure out who was related to whom and how.  I abandoned that idea and created a list organized by family in my journal (the one I use for chapter summaries).

I finished the novel.  Still I dreamed of a P&P family tree.  Fortunately there’s google and Wikipedia

It’s not a family tree, but isn’t it beautiful?!  It’s more of a family web.  A family and friends web.

I love how it shows the relationships between the characters. 

Oh, what a tangled novel!  What a web!  Though I suppose it is a web without a spider… 


Unless you think of Lady Catherine as the spider, using her silken threads of wealth and power to compel others to do her bidding…

Maybe there was a spider after all.



Posted by on November 16, 2011 in Pride and Prejudice, Well-Educated Mind


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It’s All in the Name.

Select Characters from Part 1 of PP: Christian, Piety, Prudence, Charity, Faithful, Talkative, Hopeful, and Giant Despair,    

Select Characters from Part 2 of PP: Mercy, Great- Heart, Mr Fearing, Old Honest, Heedless, Mr Feeble-mind, Mr. Ready-to Halt, Contrite, and Standfast

as well as James, Joseph, Samuel, and Matthew

Now here’s where I begin humming “One of these things is not like the others… ”  or in this case “Four of these names are not like the others…”

Why do Christian and Christiana’s sons have Biblical names?  The children were born and named before they began traveling in The Way.  Did they take new names after their conversion? 

Because I’ve considered renaming my own children with descriptive words.  Somedays I may call them Bickers, Whiney, and Easy-tears.  Other days they may be Helpful, Obedient and Cheerful.


Posted by on August 18, 2011 in Pilgrim's Progress


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Can you back up?

Oh, Bunyan,  sometimes, your choice of words makes me smile.  Christian and Faithful have just met Talkative.  Let me use the text to describe this new character.

“He was a tall man, and something more comely at a distance than at hand.”

Excuse me?  Did Bunyan just say that Talkative looked better from far away?  Yes, that’s exactly what he said, because later he says it again when Christian and Faithful are discussing Talkative.

Faithful.  Well, he seems to be a very pretty man.
Christian. That is to them that have not thorough acquaintance with him, for he is best abroad; near home he is ugly enough:”…….

Maybe Talkative and Maritornes could have shared the congeniality prize.


Posted by on August 2, 2011 in Pilgrim's Progress


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Who’s Shamgar?

While at House Beautiful, Christian gets to see all sorts of Biblical relics.  The maidens there show him artifacts from well-known and not-so-well-known Bible lessons: Moses’s rod, Jael’s hammer, Gideon’s trumpet. 

“Then they then showed him the ox’s goad wherewith Shamgar slew six hundred men.”

Shamgar?  Who’s Shamgar?

Well, it turns out he’s mentioned twice in the book of Judges. “After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad.  He too saved Israel.”  Judges 3:31.

He’s also briefly mentioned in one verse of  “The Song of Deborah” two chapters later.

That’s it.  Wow!  That Bunyan sure did know his Bible. 

Now to look up what an ox’s goad is…


Posted by on July 30, 2011 in Pilgrim's Progress


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Reader’s Regress

Once there was which a Novel I did Day Dream.  In it did I see Reader that which carrying a Pencil and Journal did begin to make Lists and Summaries.  As he traveled along the turning Pages he was often misled by End Notes and Sides Notes.

End. then said End, Read me.  I am interesting and will tell you wherefore the Author has said These Things.

Read. but then Reader replied, I am to go on to the End and it is taking me ever and anon.  I must not go whithersoever into your Distractions, but stay on the Path that leads to the End.

Side. I bid you to read me, dear Reader.  For I will help you in overtaking your Reading Companions.  I follow the Short and Easy Path but will still tell you the Truth.

Then Reader told Side Notes, you may travel with me along the way to the End and you may continue to speak Truth to my Confused Ears, your Short Cuts notwithstanding.  For you art a Temptation to a Quick End which may cause my Reading Companions to bid me, ho, ho, So, ho and overtake me in the True Meaning of this Journey.

And then I woke up.  And then I Daydreamed again.  In my Day Dream Reader sought both Meaning and Plot.  Along the Way he espied many Characters on the Journey.  By the which he logged their Names and Pages into the Character List so as to remain Faithful to their Roles in the Journey.  But alas, as he approched Page 141 a Nagging Feeling doth overtake his Heart and soon he did meet up with Guilty Conscience who bade him look back in the Journal where dwelleth his Character List.  And alas, the list ended with Men from Page 65.  Reader began to weep and Lament his neglect.  He journeyed forth filled with Remorse, but unwilling to retrace his steps.  Just as Despair neared his overtaking in the distance he doth espy his good friend Editor.

Ed.  Why doth thou weep, my Dear Character.  Dost thou not know for what thou hast been laid at the back of thine Story?

Read. and Reader cried forth, I know of nothing that can fill up where I have left empty this Great List of Characters.

Ed. But do not despair, for Our Good Penguin Classics have prepared for you an Index wherein lie all the Characters and Page Numbers.  You will find them there, wrapped in Swaddling Cloths and Lying in a Manger.

And Reader was Greatly Relieved and continued on the Turning Pages of his Journey with Great Joy and Ease in his Heart as he neareth the End. But with some Trepidation at the necessity of Reading again this Journey for the sake of His Wife.


Posted by on July 20, 2011 in Pilgrim's Progress


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Character List Confession

I have been using an index card for my character list of Don Quixote.  Bauer suggests keeping “a list of characters: their names, their positions, and their relationships to each other.”  After fourteen chapters, I’m quickly running out of room on this handy-reference bookmark of mine.  Last night I read The Well-Educated Mind(‘s) notes on the novel and

“There are 669 characters in Don Quixote

I’m going to need more index cards.


Posted by on April 6, 2011 in Don Quixote


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