Major Major Major Major in the movie adaptation of Catch 22
Certain authors are sadistic name-givers. They hold no quarter for their brightest creations. Not only is the writer’s hero sent on a quest through the ether, but the character’s first name is exactly the same as the character’s last name. Sometimes the character doesn’t even have a “quest,” per say, but a two-bit role as a secondary companion.
The technique, called reduplication, is one of the most brilliant and devious I’ve seen in fiction. So that you may go on in life enjoying the pleasure of your own normal name, here are three characters that will make you double- and triple- and quadruple-take upon reading.
1. Humbert Humbert: Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is a “dolorous and hazy” exploration of how sympathetic a reader can be for a murderous, pedophilic man like Humbert Humbert. The two-trochee’d title reveals much about Nabokov’s “protagonist,” hinting at his consistent duality when Humbert doesn’t blatantly do it himself (calling upon other pseudonyms like “Mesmer Mesmer” and “Otto Otto” to alleviate any possible confusion).
While there are two people living within Humbert’s skin – one a sophisticated professor of literature and another a twisted paranoiac with a complex for “nymphettes” – clearly it is Nabokov’s duplicative dubbing that has doomed Humbert from his not-so-humble start.
2. Katurian Katurian Katurian: Martin McDonagh’s play The Pillowman holds the misery of a macabre and dystopian power struggle within every performance. It also hosts the second-most ridiculous reduplication on this brief list: a writer named Katurian Katurian Katurian. As if his pain-aggregate of a name isn’t enough to bog him down, he’s being interrogated by detectives of a police state for child murders reminiscent of his grim Grimm (ha!) fairy tales. What a horrendous existence. Nevertheless, The Pillowman is a remarkable work, especially to read, as it ventures into the cold and existential journey of a writer bound to his absurd identity and demise by coincidence and failed well-meaning.
Want to know how Katurian received his atrocious name?
“My parents were funny people,” he says. Absurdism indeed.
3. Major Major Major Major: The desperation of a Major—to the fourth power.
Finally, there is the Major. Or Major Major, as his friends might call him. Or Major Major Major, if you want to be anthroponymically correct. But if you’re a lowly private or corporal you better address him in full: Major Major Major Major (Rank, First, Middle, Last).
Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 is an oddity on everyone’s list of books with the most bizarre names (think of the dutifully resistant-to-danger Yossarian). At the behest of Heller, more like the Marquis de Sade for his sinister regulation of the Catch-22 universe, Major gets the worse name without the last laugh. That laugh goes to his father, who names him Major Major Major as a joke. The elder Major might just have gotten along with Mr. and Mrs. Katurian. However, the Major will forever suffer in Heller’s pages at the end of every awkward addressal he receives.
Conclusions? These characters were poster children for the insanity of the human condition, as well as its inherent humor. Whether or not these characters have the capacity for appreciating their monikers, they’ll never realize the dramatic irony that has fashioned their lives—which is a good thing!
Who did I miss? Let me know below, but only respond if you, too, have the misfortune of a reduplicated name.