Arts and Letters
Final Exam Short Answers
1. The Idea of Naming
Unique names and titles contribute greatly to the success of fairytales. In classic fairytales, readers identify the protagonist as an icon, rather than a requisite to push the plot. Timeless “appellations,” such as “Cinderella,” “The Little Red Ridinghood,” “Snow White,” “Blue Beard,” etc. inheritably connect to public impression. Nowadays, every name has a story behind it, and the name itself is a story. In general, classical fairytale names feature descriptive adjectives, especially colors, which directly refer to the protagonist’s physical characteristic. As a result, names sound both natural and indigenous that readers can easily remember. Thanks to the widely recognized popularity, these vivid appellations now become universal symbols. For example, “Snow White” denotes unsurpassable beauty rather than a beautiful child “as white as snow.” In addition, “Cinderella” literally addresses to a maiden who works all day long in “cinder,” while nowadays the appellation represents any girl who successfully achieves materialistic progress through marriage, such as Princess Kate. Furthermore, these lively descriptive dictions greatly impact fashion and entertainment industry nowadays; Recently, Christian Louboutin, the famous shoe designer known for his trademark red soles, announced his latest challenge: to design a pair of modern glass slippers since woman has been longing for centuries to find a perfect fit. Names in classic fairytales serve more than a reference to the character, but an idol to carry the timeless stories forward. However, compared to the straightforward names in classics, modern fairytale names feature simplicity and artificial symbolization.
For more recent days, fairytale writers tend to simplify the names but focus more on the storylines themselves. Hans Christian Anderson, the celebrated fairytales authors in 19th century, emphasizes on the character’s identity such as “the little Mermaid, ” “The little match girl,” “Princess on the peas” instead of detailed physical descriptions. Another 19th century writer, Oscar Wilde also adopts straightforward appellations such as “the Giant,” “The happy prince” that inevitably weaken the visual impact on readers. However, the simplicity contributes greatly to the story telling itself, since readers now pay more attention to the plot. People memorize the happy princess as a selfless donor rather than a beautiful, grandeur statue. Also, the “little match girl” from Anderson wins worldwide sympathy not for the fact she sells matches, but for the suffering. Thus, during the 19th to 20th century, fairytale names move toward simplification and frankness.
Furthermore, in contemporary works such as Judy Budnitz’s Flying Leap and Donald Barthelme’s Snow White, writers either artificially embody names with symbolization, or utilize names as agent numbers. For example, in Judy Budnitz’s Hershel, readers intuitively connect the protagonist Hershel, who sells baby as a product through baking them in the oven, to the Hershey chocolate factory. What would happen if technologies allow human to reproduce as baking chocolates? On the other hand, names do not necessarily convey any information of the character. Barthelme assigns random names to the seven dwarfs such as Kevin, Edward, Huburt, etc. in Snow White that carry few significant annotations but effectively smooth the story telling. Thus, in modern days, authors add an artificial flavor to fairytale names that either designed for clarification purposes or for intentional symbolization. As a result, the impact of names gradually deceases from classics to modern works, since modern writers tend to focus more on the ideas rather than to establish a universally recognized icon.
5. Fairytale Family Tree
Although most fairytales initially contain violence, cruelty, and sexual descriptions, modern readers...