Literature, Language, and Life

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The Impact of Titles

The Title: Lodge’s Ideas applied to Kate Chopin’s short stories

David Lodge begins his perspective on titles by stating that “The Title of the novel is part of the text.” It is the first part of the text that we encounter; it’s what draws us in and has the ability to “attract and condition the reader’s attention.” In Kate Chopin’s short stories, many of the titles are intriguing and create a picture in the reader’s mind before they even begin to read the text. Subconsciously, the reader begins to make assumptions about the text and once they have finished reading, there is always an attempt to understand how the title connects with the text. For example, in Kate Chopin’s Beyond the Bayou, the reader automatically assumes that there is something beyond the bayou that is unappealing to the main character. As Lodge said, “titles could indicate a theme . . . promise a certain kind of setting and atmosphere . . .” It is evident through the title that the main character will struggle with a problem and will have to go beyond it. The text then brings meaning to the title. Beyond refers to what is unknown to the character and represents the limits of individual experience and the Bayou is the watery land (marsh) on which the main character, La Folle, resides. Titles can also be symbolic or metaphorical titles. In Kate Chopin’s Dead Man’s Shoes, the main character Gilma, doesn’t have to literally ‘fill’ the dead man’s shoes, the dead man being his deceased master “le vieux Gamiche.” Metaphorically speaking, Gilma had to “fill the dead man’s shoes” by becoming the master of the land that le vieux Gamiche had left in his name. The titles have an impact on the reader and according to Lodge, “bring into sharper focus of what the novel is about.” Kate Chopin was able to bring to focus the main points of her stories through the use of the titles.


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