Popular Culture Review Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer 2013 - Page 118

114 Populär Culture Review from the reader— are mere devices that have little bearing on our understanding o f a character’s identity. The Meeting Point The “M an with No Name” theme seems to be exclusive to westem s because westems are a genre uniquely well fit for this motif. A quick study o f the American frontier, both the real west and the fictional west o f literature and film, makes that plain, and Frederick Jackson Turner is as responsible as any for both perceptions. “In this advance,” Turner said, “the frontier is the outer edge o f the wave— the meeting point between savagery and civilization” (60). It also happens to be the meeting place between descriptive names and family names. Descriptive names were an integral part o f native America. Names like Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse instantly provide a warrior’s image; Pocahontas was a childhood nickname, meaning roughly, “little wanton,” given her as a reflection o f her playful nature. Fiction, o f course, amplifies this naming Convention, and so we get in Cooper’s The Last o f the Mohicans a plethora o f descriptive names on the wildemess side: le Gros Serpent, le C erf Agile, Hawkeye (A.K.A. Pathfinder and Leatherstocking), le Renard Subtil. These names the characters eamed, and they butt up, in this story’s frontier meeting point, against distinguished family names such as Heyward and Munroe. These are the types o f names that have value in civilization— the names you are bom to, not the names that come from your actions or persona. O f course, “civilized” names have descriptive elements as well, but these are far removed from the people who hold them. Few people know someone named Smith or Cooper who actually shoes horses or makes barreis. Rather than literal meanings, civilized names hold Status and a sense o f value; a person with one name would often, with no other data considered, be assumed to have better qualities o f manner and morals than another from a different family. M uch o f this comes from wealth, family history and the fact that those with distinguished ancestors sometimes feit a responsibility to those ancestors and to the family name. W ister’s M ary Stark Wood is a very proud scion o f the historically distinguished Stark family, a direct descendent o f Molly Stark, who she admires fiercely despite never having known her. This Connection by itself could gain her entry to a half a dozen or so organizations that represent the elite upper ernst o f 19th-century American high society. A memorial to her ancestor occupies honored wall space; every important