What’s in a Name?
In Morrison’s novel Beloved, Baby Suggs and Stamp Paid were figures of salvation. Each devoted their lives to providing for other people. Baby Suggs preached her sermons on self-love and helped the black community to push away past evils they had endured. Stamp Paid played an active role in the Underground Railroad by always extending a comforting, resurrecting hand to battered, escaping slaves. However, these two former slaves that always uplifted those around them had experience deep valleys in the past. Though this former life caused them great grief, there was one thing that brought them reviving life –a name. Both characters, hoping to start anew, renamed themselves to mark their freedom. So, what’s in a name?
By renaming themselves, Baby Suggs and Stamp Paid created a new sense of beginning. Their former lives of slavery, when they had been called Jenny Whitlow and Joshua, brought about loss of loved ones and brutality (Morrison 167, 218). In the novel Baby Suggs exclaimed,” Those white things have taken all I had or dreamed and broke my heartstrings too… There is no bad luck in the world but white folks” (105). Baby, wanting no connection to that horrid past, picked a new name that symbolized a life of freedom beyond the past’s walls. Just this simple act of renaming himself, Stamp Paid gained dignity he had never known before. He thought, “Whatever his obligations were, that act paid them off” (218). He was no longer under the control of a master because he paid for his own freedom. A slave did not assign these names. No, it was their free will to choose their own names; thus, they claimed the liberty to live life as they wished.
Joy, pure joy, was finally in Baby Suggs once she had a name of her own self for the first time. She rejoiced,” These my hands” (166). All her she had been property. She was never completely her own. On her ride to freedom with Mr. Garner, Baby Suggs told him she did not call herself Jenny Whitlow (167). This signified her refusal to remain in the chains of a life marked by slavery. With this fresh name, Baby Suggs snatched her freedom out from under her master and created a life of love. Jenny no longer remained, but Baby Suggs, who “had nothing left to make a living with but...