Names are very important in No Name. The title itself gives a clue to the content of the novel and few pages are turned before Collins introduces the theme.

Magdalen! It was a strange name to have given her? Strange indeed; and yet, chosen under no extraordinary circumstances. The name had been borne by one of Mr. Vanstone’s sisters, who had died in early youth; and, in affectionate remembrance of her, he had called his second daughter by it — just as he had called his eldest daughter Norah, for his wife’s sake. Magdalen! Surely, the grand old Bible name — suggestive of a sad sombre dignity; recalling in its first association, mournful ideas of penitence and seclusion — had been here, as events had turned out, inappropriately bestowed? Surely, this self-contradictory girl had perversely accomplished one contradiction more, by developing into a character which was out of all harmony with her own Christian name!1

We are reminded that names should have a degree of appropriateness, that proper names, ideally, should give us some indication of the character or thing they nominate. And so our attention returns to the title, No Name with its implications about illegitimacy.


Legal Subject Uneven Number Extraordinary Circumstance Attention Return Sunny Side 
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  1. 1.
    Wilkie Collins, No Name ( Dover Publications, New York 1978 ), p. 17.Google Scholar

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© Philip O’Neill 1988

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  • Philip O’Neill

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