Scarlett by any other name would have been sweet.

Scarlett O’Hara was originally called Pansy. If Margaret Mitchell had kept that name, would her epic novel ever have become so popular? I doubt it. A Pansy would be sweet and biddable with rare moments of stubbornness, but she could never be as strong-willed as Scarlett, and she would never have caught and kept the attention of such a worldly man as Rhett.

Unlike women characters, men tend not to have exotic names. They usually have common, clipped names, which work well enough in most cases, but what if Rhett had been called Jack or Clint or even Brad? Millions of women would probably still have fallen in love with him, but they certainly would not have found him so intriguing.

Clothes may make the man and woman, but their names (in fiction, anyway) define them.

Though Scarlett fits the name of the character in Gone With the Wind, it could not be the name of a medieval heroine. In those days, almost all girls were named Mary, with Elizabeth coming in a distant second.

I suppose if Gone With the Wind were written in the 1980s, Scarlett’s name would have been Heather. Odd to think that in another forty years, youth will scorn that name as being old-fashioned, fit only for elderly women, much like Effie is today. (I shudder to think how many babies being born right now are being named Britney, Lindsay, or Paris.)

But I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that names matter and should be chosen wisely. A book may not be rejected because of a character’s name, but why take the chance?

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