The student news site of Bellarmine Preparatory School

The Bellarmine Prep Lion

The student news site of Bellarmine Preparatory School

The Bellarmine Prep Lion

The student news site of Bellarmine Preparatory School

The Bellarmine Prep Lion

What’s in a name?

People say not to judge a book by its cover, but isn’t that just an excuse for books with bad covers?

Perhaps if the cover is unsalvageable, the book can make its way back into a reader’s good graces with a smashingly intriguing title. When asked if the title of a book affects whether or not she wants to read it, junior, Elise Kleine said, ” The title affects it a lot, because it gives me a little insight into what the book is about, and it also allows me to judge an author’s writing style– if their title isn’t good, why should the rest of their book be?”

Many authors understand the importance of titles and vacillate between a few options before stumbling upon that one golden name.

“Lord of the Flies” was originally titled Strangers from Within.

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George Orwell’s publisher convinced him that The Last Man On Earth just wasn’t commercial enough, hence the title of the dystopian classic “1984.”

Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” was originally entitled Atticus, but she decided her tale was about more than one character.

Scott Fitzgerald considered Trimalchio in West Egg; Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires; On the Road to West Egg; Under the Red, White, and Blue; Gold-Hatted Gatsby; and The High-Bouncing Lover before eventually deciding on “The Great Gatsby.”

Imagine reading, watching, and talking about Trimalchio in West Egg instead of the ever-simple Gatsby. It just wouldn’t be the same.

Or maybe it would.

Perhaps certain titles only sound nicer because they are familiar; maybe if Trimalchio in West Egg had been Fitzgerald’s final choice, everyone would scoff at the idea of “The Great Gatsby.”

Let’s put this theory to the test.

The World’s Room
“A Farewell to Arms”
They Who Get Shot

Based upon title, which of these books would you rather read?

Hannah Lovejoy, sophomore, said, “I would pick The World’s Room because it sounds like an adventure and I love worldly kinds of books. Plus the others sound like more negative stories.”

Steve Hogan, sophomore, said, “They Who Get Shot because it sounds interesting.”

Tessa George, sophomore, said, “A ‘Farewell To Arms.’ I don’t know why. I just like that title.”

As it turns out, The World’s Room and They Who Get Shot were two of Ernest Hemingway’s title ideas for his classic novel “A Farewell To Arms.” Those who answered the question assumed these were three different books about three completely different stories, all because of the titles, and they all chose different titles as their favorite.

Now, to stage the question differently: which of these is the best title for “A Farewell to Arms”?

Shannon Constantine, junior, said, “”A Farewell to Arms’ because the original title serves the novel well.”

Alex Waskey, junior, said, “I think ‘A Farewell to Arms’ because it best reflects the plot and theme.”

Both Constantine and Waskey have read the novel, so they are bias toward the familiar name. It is, of course, possible that one of the other choices might suit Hemingway’s story better, but accepting new names is difficult. The titles we know and love are always ostensibly the best fit.

So, what’s in a name? A lot, actually. The titles of novels steer the reader’s first impression of their content likely more than cover art or the summary in the front flap.

A title is like a person’s name. It becomes him or her. To separate a title from its story seems cruel, but it unleashes the truth that the name makes a difference. Titles matter.