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Dark Name-Play in Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book winner of the 2009 Newbery Award winner of the 2009 National Book Award winner of a major prize for “Best Recorded Book”. by Don L. F. Nilsen English Department Arizona State University. How Nobody Owens Got His Name.

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by don l f nilsen english department arizona state university

Dark Name-Play in Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Bookwinner of the 2009 Newbery Awardwinner of the 2009 National Book Awardwinner of a major prize for “Best Recorded Book”

by Don L. F. Nilsen

English Department

Arizona State University

27

how nobody owens got his name
How Nobody Owens Got His Name
  • Silas said, “Suppose we pick a name for him, eh?”
  • Caius Pompeius stepped over and eyed the child. “He looks a little like my proconsul, Marcus. We could call him Marcus.”
  • Josiah Worthington said, “He looks more like my head gardener, Stebbins. Not that I’m suggesting Stebbins as a name. The man drank like a fish.”
  • “He looks like my nephew Harry,” said Mother Slaughter, and almost everybody in the graveyard had a name for the Owens child (24)

27

slide3
“He looks like nobody but himself,” said Mrs. Owens, firmly. “He looks like nobody.”
  • “Then Nobody it is,” said Silas. “Nobody Owens” (25).
  • And throughout the book the name “Nobody” was shortened to “Bod” by the good people, and to “Boy” by the bad people.
  • And Miss Lupescu calls him “Nimini” (211).

27

how are dead people better than most live people
How are dead people better than most live people?
  • Silas is talking to Nobody: “Soon enough you will master Fading and Sliding and Dreamwalking.”
  • “But some skills cannot be mastered by the living, and for those you must wait a little longer” (37).
  • In addition to “fading,” “sliding” and “dreamwalking,” Nobody is also learning “fear” or “frightening,” “haunting,” “watching stars,” and even “visitation” (189-190, 217).

27

it takes a graveyard to raise nobody
It takes a graveyard to raise Nobody.
  • Because everybody in the graveyard is supposed to take care of Nobody Owens, he is given the “Freedom of the Graveyard.”
  • Thus Nobody Owens can see in the dark and can travel from place to place like a ghost passing through solid objects and fences at will.

27

the man jack and nobody owens
The man Jack and Nobody Owens
  • The man Jack and Nobody Owens are the first two characters we meet.
  • “He could smell the child: a milky smell, like chocolate chip cookies, and the sour tang of a wet, disposable, nighttime diaper.” (9)

27

nobody owens and scarlett amber perkins
Nobody Owens andScarlett Amber Perkins
  • Nobody Owens would tell Scarlett Amber Perkins about “how Sebastian Reeder had been called to London Town and had seen the Queen, who had been a fat woman in a fur cap who glared at everyone and spoke no English.”

27

nick farthing and maureen quilling
Nick Farthing and Maureen Quilling
  • Nick Farthing “was practical, in a basic sort of way, an efficient shoplifter, and occasional thug.”
  • [NOTE: He liked to nick things]
  • “He had a friend. Her name was Maureen Quilling. Nick liked to shoplift, but Mo told him what to steal.”
  • [Note the similarity of “Farthing and Quilling” to “farthing and shilling”]

27

abanazer bolger
Abanazer Bolger
  • In order to provide a headstone for Elizabeth Hempstock, Bod finds the pawnbroker’s shop of Abanazer Bolger, which accepts “objects that may not have been acquired entirely honestly, and then quietly shifting them on” (120).
  • “Abanazer Bolger had thick spectacles and a permanent expression of mild distaste.”
  • “‘Honestly,’ he would tell people, sour-faced, ‘it’s not really worth anything at all. I’ll give you what I can, though, as it has sentimental value” (120).

27

color symbolism scarlett amber perkins and the indigo man
Color Symbolism: Scarlett Amber Perkins and the Indigo Man
  • Scarlet is the color of blood.
  • And this is how the Indigo man is described:
  • “His skin was painted (Bod thought) or tattoed (Scarlett thought) with purple designs and patterns.”
  • “Around his neck hung a necklace of sharp, long teeth” (52).

27

caius pompeius
Caius Pompeius
  • Caius Pompeius “had asked to be laid to rest on the mound beside the marble shrine, rather than to have his body sent back to Rome, and he was one of the most senior citizens of the graveyard” (16).
  • Caius Pompeius came to the graveyard a hundred years after the Romans first arrived in England (44).

27

mother slaughter and laughter
Mother Slaughter and Laughter
  • Mother Slaughter was “a tiny old thing, in the huge bonnet and cape that she had worn in life and been buried wearing” (22).
  • “So Bod picked the red and yellow nasturtiums, and he carried them over to Mother Slaughter’s Headstone, so cracked and worn and weathered that all it said now was…
  • LAUGH” (297).

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silas
Silas
  • Like Silas Marner, Neil Gaiman’s Silas was a caregiver.
  • Silas was the only one who could leave the graveyard, because he wasn’t all the way dead.
  • He could leave the graveyard at night and return with food and books for Nobody Owens (23).

27

silas educates nobody owens
Silas Educates Nobody Owens
  • “Silas appeared at the front of the Owenses’ cozy tomb carrying three large books—two of them brightly colored alphabet books, and a copy of The Cat in the Hat.”
  • “Silas gave Bod a quest—to find each of the twenty-six letters in the graveyard—and Bod finished it, proudly, with the discovery of Ezekiel Ulmsley’s stone” (38-39).

27

how is silas like stephenie meyer s edward
How is Silas like Stephenie Meyer’s Edward?
  • “I want to be like you,” said Bod, pushing out his lower lip.
  • “No,” said Silas, firmly. “You do not” (38).
  • “‘I,’ said Silas, ‘am precisely what I am, and nothing more. I am, as you say, not alive. But if I am ended, I shall simply cease to be. My kind are, or we are not” (179).

27

how are the sleers like j k rowling s slitherins and fluffy
How are the Sleers like J. K. Rowling’s Slitherins and Fluffy?
  • The name of the Sleers, like the name of the Slitherins, begins with a hissing sound, the sound of snakes and of Parseltongues.
  • Like Fluffy, the Sleers have three heads and guard the treasures of “the master.” The Sleers also must “protect the master.”
  • The treasure of Frobisher Mausoleum consists of the brooch, the goblet and the knife (56).

27

names of other ghosts in the graveyard
Names of Other Ghosts in The Graveyard
  • Also in The Graveyard can be found the headstones of Thackeray Porringer (who had died of apoplexy when he could not find a bucket of red and white striped paint),
  • and Euphemia Horsfall (who had lived and died during Victorian times)
  • and Tom Sands (who had lived and died during the Hundred Years War with France) (175-176).

27

the poet nehemiah trot and his onomastic advice to bod
The Poet Nehemiah TrotAnd His Onomastic Advice to Bod
  • BOD: “There’s a girl I used to know, and I wasn’t sure if I should find her and talk to her or if I should just forget about it.”
  • NT: “Oh! You must go to her and implore her and implore her. You must call her your Terpischore, your Echo, your Clytemnestra. And thus—and only thus—shall you win your true love’s heart” (232).

27

gulheim and ghoul gate
Gulheim and Ghoul Gate
  • In German, “heim” means “home.” So Gulheim is the home of the ghouls.
  • Every graveyard has a Ghoul Gate.
  • All Ghoul Gates are, “waterstained and bulging, with cracked or broken stone, scraggly grass or rank weeds about it, and a feeling, when you reach it, of abandonment.”

27

slide20
“If there is a statue on the grave it will be headless or so scabbed with fungus and lichens as to look like a fungus itself.”
  • “If one grave in a graveyard looks like a target for petty vandals, that is the ghoulgate” (61).
  • The “Hounds of Heaven” that came out of Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard included the Duke of Westminster, the Honorable Archibald Fitzhugh, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Emperor of China, and the 33rd President of the United States (74, 80).
  • “Bod said, “What are you people?”
  • “Ghouls,” said the Bishop of Bath and Wells” (81).

27

elizabeth hempstock
Elizabeth Hempstock
  • Chapter 4 is entitled “The Witch’s Headstone.”
  • It is about the unconsecrated Potter’s Fields that are next to the Graveyard for burying criminals and suicides and witches.
  • Elisabeth Hempstock was buried here.
  • “She wore a plain white shift. Her hair was mousy and long, and there was something of the goblin in her face—a sideways hint of a smile that seemed to linger, no matter what the rest of her face was doing” (99-103, 109)

27

slide22
Liza tells Bod that she had been identified as a witch, and had been “drownded and burnded and buried here without as much as a stone to mark the spot” (110).
  • When asked if she was a witch, she replied, “Of course I was a witch.”
  • “The Saturday after they drownded and toasted me, a carpet was delivered to Master Porringer, all the way from London Town, and it was a fine carpet” with strong wool and good weaving (111).
  • But it “carried the plague in its pattern” and in a week, most of the village was dead (112).

27

slide23
E. H.
  • But Elizabeth Hemstock didn’t have a headstone:
  • When asked what she wanted on her headstone, she replied,
  • “My name. It must have my name on it, with a big E, for Elizabeth, like the old queen that died when I was born, and a big Haitch, for Hempstock” (117).

27

miss lupescu
Miss Lupescu
  • Since Silas has difficulty taking care of Nobody, he makes arrangements for Miss Lupescu to take care of him:
  • He tells her that his name is “Bod,” which is short for “Nobody.”
  • She thinks his name is “Boy.”
  • When he says, “It’s Bod. Not boy,” she disapproves:
  • ‘boy.’ You will call me ‘Miss Lupescu’” (66).

27

miss lupescu is she living or dead
Miss LupescuIs she living or dead?
  • “Miss Lupescu was not pretty. Her face was pinched and her expression was disapproving. Her hair was grey, although her face seemed too young for grey hair. Her front teeth were slightly crooked. She wore a bulky mackintosh and a man’s tie around her neck” (66).
  • She spends a lot of time in this graveyard because she is a historian, researching the history of old graves (67).
  • Miss Lupescu is described as having a wolf-tongue, that speaks through wolf teeth, and she also growls (239). I wonder why?

27

slide26
“‘I am one of the Hounds of God,” said Miss Lupescu. ‘I will stand.’ She lowered her face into the shadows, flexed her fingers. When she raised her head again, it was a wolf’s head.”
  • “She put her front paws down on the rock, and, laboriously, pushed herself up into a standing position: a grey wolf bigger than a bear, her coat and muzzle flecked with blood” (247).

27

dance macabre
Dance Macabre
  • Chapter 5 of The Graveyard Book is entitled “Dance Macabre,” and in the CD version (read by Neil Gaiman) Camille Saint Saens’ Dance Macabre begins and ends each of the CDs.
  • Dance Macabre is written in the Devil’s Interval, which is half way between the most common intervals in music, the fourth (which adds a flat), and the fifth (which adds a sharp).
  • It’s a devil of an interval to play in because of the natural tendencies of a musician to go up or down to the more common intervals.

27

the macabray
The Macabray
  • Throughout chapter 5, a chant keeps recurring with the first line changing, and the second line resolving as “Come to dance the Macabray.” (144-158).
  • And then the living and dead get together to “dance the macabray.”
  • And they danced, “stepping together in unison, walking and kicking, a line dance that had been ancient a thousand years before” (159).

27

the woman in grey
The Woman in Grey
  • And on a white horse came the woman in grey, “wearing a long grey dress that hung and gleamed beneath the December moon like cobwebs in the dew” (160).
  • When Bod asks the woman in grey, if he can ride her horse, she responds,
  • “One day. One day. Everybody does.”

27

charles dickens jacquerie and neil gaiman s jacquerie
Charles Dickens’ “Jacquerie”and Neil Gaiman’s “Jacquerie”
  • Charles Dickens’ The Tale of Two Cities was set during the French Revolution.
  • In that novel, three of the characters were named Jacques 1, Jacques 2, and Jacques 3.
  • This is because at this time the lower classes didn’t deserve to have real names. All non-aristocrats were part of “le jacquerie.”

27

chapter 7 everyman jack the jacks of all trades
Chapter 7: “Everyman Jack”The Jacks of All Trades
  • There is a prophesy that Nobody Owens will kill the Jacks of all trades.
  • There is Jack Tar.
  • There is Jack Dandy.
  • There is Jack be Nimble
  • there is Jack Ketch
  • And there is “the man Jack,” whose real name is Jack Frost.
  • And they are all trying to kill Nobody Owens (211-294).
  • But you’ll have to read the novel to find out if they are successful.

27

web sites
Web Sites

A.L.A.N.: Adolescent Literature Assembly of N.C.T.E.

www.alan-ya.org

Journal of Literary Onomastics:

http://www.brockport.edu/english/onomastics.html

27

reference
Reference:

Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2008

27