OF THE BABY NAME PHILIP
Philip, or “Pip”, is the main character in Charles Dickens’ beloved novel, Great Expectations, published in serial form between 1860 and 1861. He is a young orphan boy when he meets the escaped convict, Magwitch, who coerces him into stealing food for him and freeing his shackles. A little later, Pip is taken on by Miss Havisham as a companion for her adopted daughter, the cold and snobbish Estella, and it is here he begins to realize his social limitations. As a young man, Pip is an apprentice blacksmith when he is told that an anonymous benefactor has arranged for him to go to London and “train” to be a gentleman. Seizing the opportunity, Pip starts down a road of conscious social acceleration, only to find that it is a road paved with disappointments. Eventually learning the identity of his benefactor, falling into debt and becoming gravely ill, Pip learns, albeit painfully, one of life’s commonest truths – social status does not necessarily endow one with the nobility of character that leads to happiness and fulfillment. He is able to find true love with a humbled Estella, and, we hope, he can shed that nickname and wear his fine name, Philip, proudly.
Philip Marlowe is the fictional detective created by Raymond Chandler for a series of novels, beginning with The Big Sleep in 1939. The books have also made their way to films and television, with memorable screen portrayals by Robert Mitchum, Humphrey Bogart and Dick Powell. Philip Marlowe is the very embodiment of the hardboiled, wise-cracking, hard-drinking cynical good guy. Under the tough exterior beats the heart of a poet and a lonely philosopher. He is attractive to women and appreciates them, but he is not fooled by any of their larcenous ways. With men, he is not averse to taking on a fight, but does not usually instigate the violence that finds its way to him. He respects the spirit of the law, but finds ways around the letter of the law in his quest to honor justice and ferret out corruption. Philip Marlowe represents a genre that we take for granted by now, but he was among the first, and remains among the freshest.
Philip Carey is the protagonist of Somerset Maugham’s most famous novel, Of Human Bondage, published in 1915. It was adapted to the screen, with the 1934 version, starring Leslie Howard and Bette Davis, being the most notable. Philip is a young man struggling with his individuality, sensitivity and differences (he has a club foot) in a society still imbued with the rigid Victorian standards of collective conventionality and prudery. His childhood has been a lonely, orphaned one, and his young adulthood is equally difficult. He struggles to realize his desires to be an artist, to lead a bohemian life, to enjoy the pleasures of a romantic relationship, but he seems destined to be thwarted on all fronts. When he meets Mildred, a vulgar, uneducated waitress, he becomes obsessed with her, and tries to honor her every demand with increasingly slavish devotion. Mildred is irredeemably cold and devious – she shows no kindness for Philip, accepting his largesse but marrying another and eventually having a child, losing it and turning to prostitution before her untimely death. In his own self-absorbed way, Philip Carey grows and matures throughout all these experiences, and finally decides upon an existential view of life that allows him to eschew his once grand dreams and settle down. In his own words, he finally decides that “…the simplest pattern, that in which a man was born, worked, married, had children, and died, was likewise the most perfect.”
Philip is Sleeping Beauty’s prince – that handsome, charming fellow created by Walt Disney Studies in the 1959 animated film, based upon Charles Perrault’s 17th century fairy tale, itself based upon common folk lore. In the Disney film, he is called Prince Philip because of most Americans’ familiarity with then young Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Philip has been betrothed to Princess Aurora since her birth, but they have never met. A wicked fairy has put a curse on the baby princess that by her sixteenth birthday, she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. Aurora’ s three good fairy godmothers do their best to offset the curse by mitigating it – instead of dying, she will fall into a deep sleep – and they spirit her off to the woods to hide her. You know the drill – Philip and Aurora meet in the woods, he thinking she is a peasant girl, and they fall in love. Bad fairy returns to lure Aurora away and produces a spinning wheel for her evil purposes. Philip goes to battle against Bad Fairy and prevails, finally placing the winning kiss on Aurora’s cold lips. Voila! They live happily ever after, of course. Until post-modern feminism got its hands on the legend. We get it – young women should not be fooling around with domestic appliances like spinning wheels, and all-women communities in the woods are good. If a young woman should fall asleep, it’s probably because she needs the rest, and she doesn’t need any tights-clad prince to kiss her awake, thank you. As for settling scores with bad fairies, she can do that by herself, too. But – but – but – somewhere in little girls’ DNA lives an insatiable appetite for these tales, so enjoy it while it lasts. Hail Prince Philip!