Read the extract again – as many times as you feel you need to. Think carefully about the following and make some notes in your learning log:
There then follow a number of questions. I have answered each question directly:
- ‘He’, the man, and ‘the boy’ are nameless. Why? Does their anonymity change the way we feel about the characters? Can we still care about them without names? Do they still have an identity without a name?
Names bring a lot of preconceptions with them. If the boy were called Algernon, for example, readers might assume him to be British. Anyone familiar with the UK might go further and assume him to be upper-class. Depending on the prejudices of the reader they might even consider him a member of an “establishment” or possibly a future contender in Monty Python’s upper-class twit of the year competition. In fact, in some of the guides I have read about reading, the choice of a name for a character is considered important, in part, for this very reason. In her book “Write Away”, Elizabeth George explains that when she was writing In the Presence of the Enemy, she “…created a very hard-edged and determined career woman whom I called Eve Bowen. To me that was a nice, hard, assertive name offering no nonsense.”
McCarthy wants the reader to make no assumptions about these two characters. In fact by introducing them without names, he lends the characters a universal quality. As readers we are now curious about them. Are they related? Are they father and son? Importantly,they are man and boy who we are yet to know and understand.