Importance of a Title

A reoccurring theme throughout this class has been the importance of a title. From Okonkwo’s desire to have a high recognition in his village to Lumumba wanting to lead Congo out of colonialism, they were both concerned with signifying an important position. In the novel All Our Names, the concept of a title is interpreted in various ways. Rather than desiring a label for all to hear, Isaac struggles on choosing a title that best suits him.

There are multiple quotes in the novel that regard the importance of titles.

“Every day following Isaac’s absence, I was reminded that without him I made an impact on no one. I was seen, and perhaps occasionally heard strictly by strangers, and always in passing. I was a much poorer for this than I had ever thought.” This shows “Langston’s” desire to have a high title. He wanted to be recognized and known for his accomplishments. He, like Isaac, Okonkwo, and Lumumba, wanted to make an impact. He wanted like the rest of them to be accomplished and remembered.

“I didn’t know his real name, but I knew him to be a kind, decent man, none of which would matter if she knew where he was from. I wanted to spare us both the disappointment.” Helen’s mother grows curious about where her daughter is spending her time while Helen shows disinterest in telling her mother about who she is seeing. Helen despite her knowledge of Isaac’s real identity learns to love him. Although she is initially curious and concerned about names, titles, and labels, she is able to look beyond his complications and appreciate him for the man that he currently is. On the other hand, she understands that her mother would not love him the way she does regardless of his name.

“I had 13 names, each name was from a different generation, beginning with my father and going back from him.” In the Ethiopian culture, your last name is always the first name of your father. This allows for each man to have a title. Women, similarly do not take their husband’s last name but go by their given name, followed by their father’s name even after marriage. This is done culturally so that each man is recognized and gains importance from the usage of his name. Rather than being categorized under a family name, each paternal figure is named when listing your ancestors.


Posted on September 25, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. It is very interesting that Mengestu’s novel has a protagonist who’s birth name is never revealed. Similar to the ways in which he writes the novel so that the government and the circumstances in Uganda are seen as able to be transported to another country, the central name, Isaac can be bestowed upon another relatively easily. Mengestu’s novel, All Our Names, emphasizes the lack of importance in one’s title in contrast to their character.

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