“Have you thought of a name for her yet?” Mr. Go ask, nodding at Baby Girl.
I make a face. It be a big deal, naming someone. But I been thinking Nola, for New Orleans, or Enola for East Orleans. “Enola,” I tell him. “Enola Jeanne Marie, so she always know where she come from.”
“Enola,” Mr. Go repeat, rolling the word in his mouth like he drinking it. “I think that sounds just fine.”
This conversation takes place between Fen and Mr. Go, right before Fen, Daniel, and Baby Girl try to head for the Wall. In this moment, Fen finally gives Baby Girl a name, Enola. This scene is significant for a few different reasons. From a reader’s perspective first of all, it subtly shifts the way we see Fen and Baby Girl’s relationship. Fen isn’t just protecting Lydia’s baby anymore; she is protecting Enola. While the reader is already attached to Baby Girl at this point in the novel, the simple fact that Fen names her adds another layer of connection between her and Baby Girl.
Additionally, it’s interesting to note how briefly and seemingly innocuously this moment comes up. The fact that Baby Girl finally has a name should be a big deal, but the author chooses to illustrate this moment with relatively sparse language.The understated quality of the moment aligns well with how Fen has been portrayed throughout the novel. While you can tell that she has already grown to care for Baby Girl, her moments of care have up until this point mostly been illustrated trough her devotion to Lydia’s memory, her determination to get Baby Girl to safety, or through how she handles Baby Girl, rather than through her words.
I hold baby girl to me. Got to feed her soon, got to lay her down for some real sleep. I count the days she been alive. “I ain’t risking Baby Girl catching the Fever. I gotta get her to father John first thing tomorrow, before she stuck here forever.” (Page 261)
Despite the sparse language of the naming scene, however, this moment represents one of the first times that we see Fen really verbalize how much she cares for and thinks about Baby Girl. While the moment may seem sudden, Fen explains that she has actually been thinking about a name for Baby Girl for a while, indicating how much Fen thinks about Baby Girl beyond just getting her to safety. Fen decides to name her after East Orleans “so that she always knows where she come from.” It’s a surprisingly sentimental gesture from Fen, hinting for the first time that parting with Baby Girl will end up having a strong emotional effect on her. Fen’s words are also especially poignant when you consider how much Fen and the people in Orleans treasure the memory of the legend of New Orleans and what the city once was. Fen chooses to give Baby Girl a name that represents that treasured history and it’s legends, further acknowledging the depth of her feeling toward Baby Girl.
This moment also serves as a turning point for the way that Fen talks about Baby Girl for the remainder of the novel. From this moment on, Fen steadily becomes more verbally protective of Enola, such as when she defends her from the O-neg tribe a few pages later (My face go cold as stone. “She ain’t for sale. (Page 282)) and culminating in the scene in with Father John near the end, when Fen nearly cries as she tells Baby Girl that she loves her and says her good-byes. (Page 303)