Fraught with significance: The meaning of names in Clifford Odets’ »Golden Boy«

Seminar Paper, 2005

12 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of contents


Main Part

1 Tom Moody

2 Lorna Moon

3 Joe Bonaparte

4 Tokio

5 Mr. Carp

6 Siggie

7 Mr. Bonaparte

8 Anna

9 Roxy Gottlieb

10 Eddie Fuseli

11 Mickey

12 Sam

13 Lewis

14 Drake

15 Driscoll

16 Barker




The present composition will describe and elucidate derivations and meanings of selected names in Clifford odets’ play »Golden Boy«. In this, the structure guides along the order of speech in the play. Further on the traced results will be analysed with regard to the contents to find out potential connections between the textual theme and the meaning of the respective names.

Main Part

1 Tom Moody

Tom is a short form of » Thomas «, meaning “twin”.[1] The incorporation of his surname into research leads to an interesting constellation: He changes his views regularly. Examinations in his emotional life like „I haven’t laughed for years.“ [Clifford Odets, Golden Boy (New York: Random House Inc., 1937) p. 242, l. 11-12] opposed by „Happy, the way I am.“ [p. 306, l. 7] shows his varied moods just as his attitude towards Joe: At the beginning he says that “we’re vitally interested in your future” [p. 277, l. 4], afterwards he tells him “I’m versus you! Completely versus !” [p. 297, l. 5] whereas he says at the end that “we got the next champ !” [p. 317, l. 27]. The last scene shows his changeability too: When the telephone rings and he expects that his fiancée Lorna is calling, he becomes “triumphantly” [p. 320, l. 3]. But as he notes that the call is for Mr. Bonaparte, he becomes quite disillusioned.

2 Lorna Moon

The name of Moody’s lover was coined by Richard Doddridge Blackmore for the title character in his novel » Lorna Doone « in 1869.[2] The similarity between the surnames might express a similarity between the protagonists: » Lorna Doone « is a member of an outlaw family,[3] Lorna Moon is “a tramp from Newark” [p. 238, l. 6-7]. Further on it seems possible, that her surname is derived from the adjective “lorn” and it’s archaic meaning “lost”.[4] When Joe confesses that he loves her, she says “Tom loves me.” [p. 266, l. 10]. Thereupon Joe switches the topic and talks about cars. This passage certainly summarizes the subsequent happenings and announces Lorna’s lost situation: She has the choice between a life with a man she does not love, and a future with Joe. The almost simultaneous mention of the topics love and cars functions as a prophesy of the lovers death. Also the surname characterizes Lorna. She is changeful as the moon. In the first instance she says „I love Tom“ [p. 291, l. 34], whereas she confesses later on that she loves Joe: „I love him, Tom.“ [p. 292, l. 23].

3 Joe Bonaparte

The protagonist’s first name is a short form of » Joseph «, meaning “increase”.[5] Also Joe develops during the play: He becomes a successful fighter, earns a lot of money and even captures Lorna’s heart. But at this summit the end of the “golden boy” is impending. The meaning of Joe’s surname, which of course reminds of Napoleon I., exactly fits to the meaning of his first name: Also the French sovereign increased with every battle, but on the zenith of his government, the end drew near. The dialogue with the sports writer Drake demonstrates another similarity between Joe and Napoleon I.: „You`re either a genius or an idiot !“ (p. 305, l. 5]. Joe acts very superciliously, just as the French ruler did in those days. Furthermore, an ambiguity can be seen in both figures: Napoleon’s codification of laws, the Napoleonic Code, and the numerous reforms constituted social milestones.[6] Whereas his rigorous fiscal policy and the domestic suppression brought discredit upon him, and after a disastrous winter campaign in Russia in 1812, he was forced to abdicate.[7] Concerning Joe, the ambiguity lies in his attitude towards music. At first he tells Lorna the following:


[1] Elizabeth Gidley Withycombe, The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names (3rd Edition. New York, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1977), 279.

[2] George Rippey Stewart, American Given Names: Their Origin and History in the Context of the English Language (New York, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1979), 177.

[3] Richard Doddridge Blackmore, Lorna Doone. A Romance of Exmoor. (London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1908), preface, xi.

[4] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (3rd Edition. Boston, New York, London: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992) 1082.

[5] Stewart, 161.

[6] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English, 1200.

[7] ibid.

Excerpt out of 12 pages


Fraught with significance: The meaning of names in Clifford Odets’ »Golden Boy«
University of Frankfurt (Main)
Introduction to Literature
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Fraught, Clifford, Odets’, Boy«, Introduction, Literature
Quote paper
Sven Köhler (Author), 2005, Fraught with significance: The meaning of names in Clifford Odets’ »Golden Boy«, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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