Popular Culture Review Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer 2013 - Page 123

Who is the Man With No Name? 119 m eaning— m ore signification. This “A varicious Hero” is stränge in many ways: he m inds his o w n b usiness, he seldom talks, and he d o esn ’t answ er any o f the usual questions that m ovie characters ask about the stranger in tow n, including his nam e. Thus, a new er Standard for future film s is bom , albeit w ith m any o f the sam e qualities o f a m uch older Standard. W h a t’s in a Nam e? It’s valid to ask why namelessness in fiction should be an issue at all. Even given the fact that these characters, like real people, are normally given names at birth, and simply choose to withhold or change them, why should that matt er to the audience? Names in fiction are frequently disposable. In High Noon (Zinnemann, 1952), everyone in town knows and fears the name Frank Miller, but would it make any difference to the story if his name had been something eise? Since nothing happened in the film resulting from his being named Frank Miller, it is doubtful. In The Usual Suspects (Singer, 1994) the name “Keyser Soze” is o f vital importance; the entire plot hinges on the question “Who is Keyser Soze?” Yet the memorability o f the name itself is due mainly to its repetition in the film and the unusual nature o f the name to American audiences. The plot would work as well with* the name Andrey Glubokov. Despite being an Algebra professor’s name in real life, it could still have inspired tension and mystery in the context o f the film, especially as the primary audience had grown up during the Cold War. Had Andrey Glubokov been the name in the film, that is the name filmgoers would recognize today. In Oscar W ilde’s The Importance o f Being Earnest, the name Em est is really only important because it makes a pun. In some instances, characters are named as they are for particular reasons. A name may be a device to let us know more about the character; High Noon's character name, “Will Kane” labels a strongwilled man who does not bend. Specific names are also important to “mistaken identity” plots, and o f course for biographical stories or those featuring historical characters. Telling the story o f Am erica’s first President means using the name George Washington, not Harrison Bergeron. Names can also have purely symbolic meaning, like those o f the animals in Tw ain’s The Celebrated Jumping Frog o f Calaveras County.