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|What's in a name?
Written by Rachel G
(9/14/2009 6:50 p.m.)
In Ch.9 just after Willoughby's first appearance, Marianne is thinking of his many attractions including the idea that “His name was good...”. What does “good” mean in this context? What led her to make this judgement? Would he have seemed so attractive if his name had been Mr Bloggs?
In Ch.14 we learn that the name of Willoughby's cousin at Allenham is Mrs Smith – the commonest English surname.
Two characters in JA's other novels are also called Smith. The first is Harriet Smith in “Emma”, described by Mr Knightley as ”the natural daughter of somebody.”
The other is Anne's friend Mrs Smith in “Persuasion”. Sir Walter Elliott has this to say about her.-
”A Mrs. Smith. A widow Mrs. Smith; and who was her husband? One of the five thousand Mr. Smiths whose names are to be met with everywhere. ... A widow Mrs. Smith, lodging in Westgate Buildings! A poor widow, barely able to live, between thirty and fifty; a mere Mrs. Smith, an everyday Mrs. Smith, of all people and all names in the world, to be the chosen friend of Miss Anne Elliot, and to be preferred by her to her own family connections among the nobility of England and Ireland! Mrs. Smith! Such a name!"
I believe that JA did very little in her work without a purpose, so what was her intention when she chose such a commonplace name for Willoughby's elderly relative?
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