OF THE BABY NAME GEORGE
George Dorset is a character in Edith Wharton’s 1905 novel of manners, The House of Mirth. Like its heroine, Lily Bart, George is a victim of a society whose mores and values keep them in strict alignment with the unwritten code, and whose punishment for stepping outside that code is severe indeed. George is the epitome of the good husband of the times – he is quiet, wealthy, he indulges his wife’s every whim and he seems to overlook her infidelities. Even when one affair is made blatantly clear to him, he is convinced by her to stay in the marriage, loveless and mirthless though it may be. All to keep the machinery of society running smoothly.
George Emerson is the handsome protagonist in E. M. Forster’s 1908 novel, A Room with a View. Along with his father, the elder Emerson, George is a free thinker in a shackled time, a man who appreciates women for their intelligence as well as for their beauty. Although of a lower social order than the object of his love, Lucy Honeychurch, he nonetheless wins her through his passion and and charm, and persuades her to elope with him, in full defiance of a social agenda that is clearly running out of steam.
George is one of the main characters in Thornton Wilder’s iconic Pulitzer Prize winning play, Our Town, first performed in 1938, and a staple of high school theatrical productions ever since. George is the all-American boy in the early twentieth century, in spades. He is a star baseball player and the president of the senior class. He’s a typical boy, sometimes neglecting his chores and his homework, but ultimately a well meaning, good-natured boy, with expectations of being a farmer in his little town. He marries his childhood sweetheart, Emily, to whom he proposes over an ice cream soda. When tragedy strikes, and Emily dies in childbirth, George takes on the symbolic grief of the world, and represents for us the playwright’s message: that life is precious and short, and is to be lived as fully as possible every single moment.
George is a slave of a cruel master in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 anti-slavery novel, which was outsold only by the Bible in the 19th century. He has an impenetrable dignity that cannot be destroyed by his brutal treatment at the hands of the white slave owner. Handsome and well spoken, George endures many humiliations in silence, but when his wife and child are sold, he escapes to Canada with them. After attaining an education, he and his family move to France and eventually to the nation of Liberia in Africa, and he turns his back on the nation that would whip him into submission. For today’s reading audience, he offers a telling counterpoint to the very Christian, long-suffering Uncle Tom, who stays with his “folks” and forgives all his tormentors. George Harris not only eschews white society; he also dares to challenge a God who would allow such evils to exist in the first place. We think he’s right.
George Knightly is the protagonist of Jane Austen’s novel, Emma, written in 1816. He is a wealthy, kind, well mannered man of high moral character – every mother’s dream of a son-in-law – who stands in contrast to the initially self-centered nature of the young Emma. He is, after all, seventeen years her senior, and wastes no time in pointing out her faults to her, all the while being very much in love with her himself. After a lot of meddlesome matchmaking on Emma’s part, mistakenly placed suspicions, petty jealousies and the like, the two get together when Emma finally comes to her senses. And how’s this for a good son-in-law? He moves in with Emma and her father at their estate so that the old man will not need to miss his daughter. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore!
George Milton is a main character in John Steinbeck’s 1937 novella, Of Mice and Men. He is a migrant worker during the Great Depression who befriends and cares for the mentally disabled Lennie Small, with tragic results. He is an intelligent, thinking man, whose dream is to own a ranch, a dream that Lennie shares. George is basically a loner, but he is able to connect to humanity through his friendship with Lennie, and George’s kindness toward the big, hapless man is an indication of the basic goodness in his heart. In the end, the reward for his labors is the loss of Lennie, the loss of his dreams of a ranch, and the ultimate loss of a piece of his own soul.
George is a wealthy young African-American man who is courting Benetha Younger in Lorraine Hansberry’s ground-breaking play, A Raisin in the Sun, which debuted on Broadway in 1959. It was also made into a film, a musical and a television production. George represents those in African-American society who are willing to neutralize their heritage in order to assimilate into the larger white society. In so doing, he jeopardizes his chances with Beneatha, who is ever growing, learning, evolving and embracing her culture wholeheartedly.
George Osborne is the dashing and utterly self-absorbed young man in William Makepeace Thackeray’s 1847 satirical novel, Vanity Fair, one of the many who fall victim to the charms of Miss Becky Sharp. He is an unfortunately profligate character who marries against his father’s wishes, flirts with other women, spends all his money, is disinherited, and dies in battle, leaving a wife and son without any means of support. Seemingly irredeemable, he does have one trait that endears him to us – he is extraordinarily good looking! (Well, sometimes that counts…)
George Wilson is a minor but pivotal character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 classic, The Great Gatsby. Poor George is a poster boy for the axiom “Bad things happen to good people”. He is a hard working man who is faithful to his wife (in fact, he adores her), and what happens to him? He finds out his wife is having an affair, he confronts her, and she dashes into the street and is killed by the fateful oncoming hit-and-run automobile. Mistakenly thinking it is Jay Gatsby who was the driver; George kills Gatsby and then turns the gun on himself. What a bum rap!
George is the title character in Sinclair Lewis’1922 satire of American culture, Babbitt, about a conforming, conservative, materialistic social climber in a Midwestern city who has a successful real estate business, a nice house, a wife and 2.5 children. It’s not enough. Perhaps due to a mid-life crisis (he is 46 years old), George begins to explore the possibilities of an alternate life style (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). He switches to a liberal political view, hangs with the local Bohemian crowd, has an affair, and in general, tries to find an answer to the emptiness and meaninglessness of his life. Naturally, this behavior shocks all his former friends and associates (who knows where this kind of thing might lead?), and he is shunned, barred from his clubs, and his business suffers. Well, that’s not much fun, either. It takes the sudden, serious illness of his wife, Myra, to bring him back to his senses. Lickety-split, he dashes home and devotes himself to her care. All is forgiven and he is welcomed back into the fold. The lingering hopes for a richer life are put on the back burner, and he dons again the cloak of respectability. The only shred of hope left to him is that his teen aged son has dropped out of college and eloped with his girlfriend, and Babbitt somehow finds this act of rebellion a beacon of light for the boy’s future and a safeguard against the dreaded life of conformity. We guess.