Orleans (235-324)

“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.”

(Page 272)

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)

-Marjorie Eyong


6 thoughts on “Orleans (235-324)

  1. I love your analysis about the naming of Baby girl and Fen. Naming is a very powerful action in which many people put a lot of thought into. By naming Baby Girl, Fen is deepening the connection she already has. I agree with you analysis of the name Enola and its significance. Despite Baby Girl being very young, she has already been through a lot with Fen and the name signifies that. The name forever binds these two together. Parents name their children to shape their identity and self-esteem. Fen names her Enola so that her identity is grounded to Orleans and Fen, no matter where she ends up.

    -Serina Thomas


  2. I found the naming of Enola to be fitting for another reason: near the end of World War II, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The bomber that dropped the weapon was the Enola Gay. The reason it is fitting is because both Hiroshima and the Delta area are devastated by a catastrophe, though the causes were different. The “Jeanne Marie” part of Baby Girl’s name refers to one of stories Lydia would tell Fen. It’s good to see that she has not forgotten her friend completely and is willing to honor her time with Lydia. Such a shame she has to say goodbye to the baby, according to you she was adding “another layer of connection between her and Baby Girl”.

    Jiapeng Zhao


  3. I found this passage very interesting. I really like your analysis of it. The naming of a baby is a very important stage in his/her life. I felt that the connection Fen has with Baby Girl was just to keep her safe for Lydia, but we see in this passage their relationship deepening. Also Fen knows what it’s like to not have parents and not really know where you came from, so the fact that she’s naming Baby Girl after East Orleans shows that she wants Baby Girl to know where she came from and where she belongs.


  4. I definitely agree that this was a big changing point in the story for the relationship between Fen and Baby Girl, now there is this connection to Fen that Baby Girl will live with for the rest of her life; her name. Not only does this show that Fen loves Baby Girl enough to be responsible for giving her a name,especially because that is usually a job that the mother and father of the baby has, but she also cares enough to give her a name that has a lot of meaning behind it. You also see that Fen’s decisions no longer even entertain the idea of selfishly giving up Baby Girl for her own survival. Now it seems that most of her motivation is to get Enola to safety.


  5. I love that you choose to highlight the name Enola, i feel like that name was perfect for Baby girl, there is now a strong connection a bond, by having Fen name her, its as if she has officially given her a role within their society. By naming Baby Girl it gives her more accountability and makes her seem more of a person rather than just an object that she needs to get to safety,
    -Nicole Crippen


  6. I love this analysis–I have found myself impressed by how many of the most consequential moments in this novel happen in such a flash: this naming, Father John’s death, Fen’s rape (only a few lines), Lydia’s own death, and so on happen quite quickly. What draws the reader to their significance is the speed with which they hit the reader. This may in fact be quite a bit closer to real life than the slow-motion nature of significant events in novels we may be more used to, were the most pivotal points in a story receive the most attention.

    –Patrick Gibson


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