OF THE BABY NAME ROSA
Miss Rosa Dartle is a minor but significant character in Charles Dickens’ masterpiece, David Copperfield, first published in novel form in 1850. Rosa gets the short end of Dickens’ stick – she is portrayed as a bitter, withered spinster who harbors a secret love for David Copperfield’s schoolmate, James Steerforth, whose family had taken her in as a companion. She is also described by David as dark and skinny, and he puts particular emphasis on the disfiguring scar on her lip and chin – well, guess who put the scar there – the ill-tempered, spoiled Steerforth. Yet she loves him still – such are the ways of the heart – and continues to love him all the while he is carelessly seducing the innocent Emily, and all the while he pays Rosa no more attention than he would a piece of furniture in the house. For our part, we find her refreshingly sarcastic, quick of wit and tongue, even if her love object is beyond our understanding. It is no wonder that her sense of inferiority and jealousy lead her to violent fits of verbal abuse – better that than craven acquiescence to her lot. At any rate, James Steerforth meets his righteous end, and on poor Rosa’s behalf, we cheer.
Rosa Coldfield is a character in William Faulkner’s 1936 novel, Absalom, Absalom, who initially narrates the story of Thomas Sutpen, which mirrors the lifespan of Southern plantation culture against a Gothic background. Here are intrigue, miscegenation, madness mayhem and hints of incest. Rosa is the sister of Ellen Coldfield, who marries Sutpen and bears him a son and a daughter. When Rosa’s sister dies, and Sutpen’s son has gone into self-imposed exile after killing his half brother, who has Negro blood and who wants to marry his sister (see, we told you), Sutpen proposes to Rosa. One little catch – he wants Rosa to bear him a son before he marries her, so that he may be sure of a male heir. Rosa, wisely, takes this as an insult (ya think?) and leaves him. Needless to say, this turns her into something of a bitter minded woman, and she obsesses over the issue for years to come. It is she who brings the young Quentin Compsen out to the family home to tell him their story and try to fathom their secrets. This she does, but with dire results to herself, and she dies soon after, yet another victim of that particular Gothic cult of the South.