What's in a Name?
If someone stumped your book club with a thought-provoking question—or you have one yourself—our literary guide Gene Bell-Villada has got a great answer!
Oprah's Book Club member carinosa5752 wrote: I was intrigued by your interpretation of Amaranta's personality. It occurred to me that perhaps García Márquez named her Amaranta—alluding to the word amarga which means "bitter" in Spanish—since she evolved into a bitter old spinster later in our story. Is there symbolism in the names of the characters?
Gene Bell-Villada responded: The possibility that the name Amaranta might contain the Spanish word amarga has been raised by several critics. It's worth considering.
In general, I would say that the author largely avoids name symbolism in this book. Instead he chooses names because they are distinctive—you'll find no one named Juan or Maria or Gonzalez in its pages. Sometimes the name is humorous, as with the Conservative bureaucrat Apolinar Moscote, whose surname suggests the Spanish word for "horsefly."
On other occasions the author uses names from real life. Cotes and Iguarán are both taken directly from his family history. And there's the quartet of drinking buddies in the final chapters, Alvaro, Alfonso, German, and Gabriel, based on the real names of GGM's closest and most lasting friends.
The only possible name symbolism I detect in One Hundred Years of Solitude is in Pilar Ternera and Petra Cotes, the two women who represent sex in the novel.
Published on February 27, 2004