Oct 12, 2009

Russo's Bridge of Sighs: Name Symbolism

The Streets of Thomaston, NY?

Bobby Marconi Runs to Daylight?

Should anyone use any of the following as part of a paper for a course, please ask your teacher if any footnoting is necessary or appropriate.

My comments on Richard Russo’s Bridge of Sighs continue to be of interest to readers over the last few months. So here are a few notes I jotted down concerning names and their potential symbolism. I thought they were for my own interest, but who knows?

These are a bit like a study guide, and for that, one The One Hand, I say, “Shame on me.” But that equally famous Other Hand says, “What’s wrong with questions about possible or actual symbolism for serious readerss of the work in question?”

In reading and listening to Bridge of Sighs, I began to notice at some point the nature of the names. The following thoughts crossed my mind, pretty much in this random order. I’d be interested to hear additions or challenges to these:

Karen Cirrillo: she’s fond of, or addicted to, Parliament cigarettes (the brand of a fine old girlfriend of mine, by the way). So might Karen’s surname suggest cigarillo? And if so, so what? What else might it suggest?

Nancy Salvatore, Karen’s mother: Surely her surname implies something related to salvation of some kind, but so far, I can’t take it further than that. Whom or what is she saving? Might she be the one being saved? How so?

Gabriel Mock (and son): Holy cow. How symbolic can you get? Gabriel was a biblical, horn-blowing, heralding angel in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. If that’s relevant, how so? And how could it not be relevant? In life as well as art, you don't get to name someone Gabriel without some awareness of the symbolism. It would be a bit like naming someone Shithead or Freckle-Brain and claiming you didn't mean anything by it.

And Gabriel “Mock”? A mocking trumpet? A mocking archangel? Still more holy cows. Dozens of cows blowing trumpets. At least two pastures full of holy, horn-blowing cows! What could be more symbolic?

But how? Who is mocking whom about what? Surely there’s a racial overtone, and the elder Gabriel does, in an affectionate (but also disgusted?) way mock Lou-Lucy’s comings
and goings . . . .

Lynch, the surname of the hero family. Shall we stop at its Irish heritage? They are Irish-American. So what? (Then again, Mrs. Tessa Lynch is not Irish-American . . .). Shall we go on to talk about hangings and strangulation? That kind of Lynching? If so, how might that be relevant?

Bobby's surname is Marconi, like the co-inventor of the radiotelegraph system, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in 1909 (Wikipedia). Of all the Italian names possible, does someone want to persuade me that Marconi is an accident, whether or not Russo intended to involve the inventor?

Stay tuned. More on all this in a day or two.

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