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The American

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The American

A literary technique that authors often times employ is giving to the characters a name to enhance the reader's understanding of that character. In The American, Henry James uses this style with most of his characters' names. Often times, the names may translate into an English word, or it could even just sound like an English word. The novel is better understood because of this and the reader can get more meaning out of each character and his or her personality traits. In whichever way James chooses to depict names, they intensify the reader's comprehension.

The main character, Christopher Newman, is a prime example of Henry James' use of this method. He is named after Christopher Columbus, the discoverer of America, as he says early in the novel, "Did you ever hear of Christopher Columbus?'my parents named me for him." (6). This is just relating him ever more to America and distinguishing him from a European. His last name "Newman" is very symbolic. He has traveled to Europe and Paris to basically become a "new man." He has given up his previous life of business and hard work, and is determined to live carefree and abroad. Newman changes day by day, and the reader follows along with these changes.

The name Claire de Cintr? also enhances the reader's knowledge of her as a person. "Claire" in French means "light" and "Cintr?" often can be translated as "crazy" or "insane." Claire is a light in many ways. She always wears white clothing, which can be very bright and seems to almost emit a glow when she is in a room. Her personality is also very lightening. She is well liked among everyone the reader is introduced to and always seems to attract the attention of people when she is in the room. Newman says, "'if you are going into a room with Madame de Cintr?, you needn't be afraid of being noticed yourself!" (139). Claire also can be seen by the reader to be a bit "crazy." She puts on a grand fa?ade to those around her, but she can be different. She seems to be very depressed behind the happy face that she puts on. Nobody will really speak of why her previous marriage was such a disaster, and this may be the cause of her depression. The reader can also assume that living with a mother and brother as the Marquise de Bellegarde and Urbain could drive any sane person a bit mad. All in all, Claire de Cintr? is a very fitting name.

There is also a deeper meaning behind Urbain de Bellegarde's name. "Urbain" can be translated just as it sounds ' to "urban." To many, urban life is often very distant and detached. This is just how Urbain Bellegarde is. He is a polite man, as is noted over and over by James. He is, however, not a very likeable man. His own wife, Madame de Bellegarde, ...

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