[ilds] [RG 2003 Justine 1.1 - 1.7]

James Gifford gifford at ualberta.ca
Fri Apr 6 12:11:44 PDT 2007

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Date: Wed, 4 Jun 2003 17:28:03 -0400
From: Charles Sligh
To: Anna Lillios 
Subject: Names & Naming (Justine 1.1 - 1.7)

I'll follow up on Bill Godshalk's post, which called our attention to the
ghostly associations latent within Darley's choice of "Justine" as a name
for Melissa's child (1.7).  Bill asks:

"Why would he call Melissa's child -- apparently fathered by Nessim (as we
later learn) -- after Melissa's arch-rival?  Is it because the child has
(apparently) been fathered by Justine's husband?  Or is the narrator rather

Bill's questions remind us of the powerful role of names and naming in
_Justine_ and _The Alexandria Quartet_--a set of novels which, I have always
felt, are jewel-colored containers, specially labeled by a series of very
evocative names.

And the importance of names is especially evident here, in the opening
paragraphs of _Justine_, where readers must begin by asking "who is
speaking/writing this narrative?"  That is, the novel begins with a series
of absent, or undefined, names.  Darley's name is not clarified until much
later;  the "Justine" for whom the novel is titled only coalesces gradually,
washing up wave by wave in suggestive memories.

*** FOOTNOTE:  It is clear from later textual changes to the _Quartet_ that
LD carefully considered the way this withholding of names effected such an
impressionistic layering.  (See below for more.) ***

In all of my re-readings of _Justine_, I have always been struck by the way
that the title itself looms just over the reader's shoulder. Recovering the
first impressions of a new reader, I discover that I am always looking or
listening for clues as to "who" JUSTINE might be, and why she gives her name
to the book.  When do I get to "see" her, hear her described?

And then the narrator--our as yet unnamed Darley--announces:

"Of course it will be Justine--who else?" (1.7)

As Bill prompts us in his posting, we must beg to ask the narrator "why 'of
course'?" and "why couldn't be anyone 'else'?"

Once readers have passed through the remaining text, I think, Darley's
choice may become more clear, at least from an aesthetic standpoint.  This
name, Justine, consciously opens up a key point of valence--a specialized
point of poetic associations, an intersection of meanings--in a novel
wherein the reader learns to see names, events, objects, personalities, and
even perspectives as multivalent.

Thus this "mythical child" (_Justine_ 4.2), as she is called by Darley in
the later printings of the _Quartet_, calls up associations with the former
lover, Justine, who carries with her name a string of connections to the
larger mythology and philosophy and history (Sophia, Cleopatra, Lais, Charis
&c.) of Alexandria--even to the "person" of the City.

Something similar happens with the names Caddy and Quentin in Faulkner's
_The Sound and the Fury_.

Whether it is wise for the guardian to choose "Justine" as a name for the
little girl is, of course, an entirely different question, well-worth
asking.  What does it say about Darley's thinking?

Or the place of children within LD's works?  I am particularly thinking of
this "Justine," then I recall Justine's lost child, then those little
child-prostitutes, then the young Justine, then little "Mark," the
sacrificial lamb in _Tunc_.

*** And here follows a textual observation.  If we read from the earliest
Faber printings of _Justine_, or from most of the Dutton/Penguin printings,
following Darley's dropping of her name in 1.1--"thinking of my friends--of
Justine and Nessim, of Melissa and Balthazar"--there is often in subsequent
sections a reluctance to name the women described.  A fine example occurs in
1.4: "Here so often _we_ met.  There was a little coloured stall in summer
with slices of water-melon and vivid water-ices _she_ liked to eat" (my
emphases).  In the early printings the name of the woman recalled goes
noticeably, achingly unpronounced.  The effect creates an almost voyeuristic
sense, the creation of a desire in readers to place a name on the unnamed
individual described.  In later printings, after the sentence ending with
"his kisses," LD inserted an emphatic "Melissa!", thus clarifying the woman
described; the difference in experiential effect--the delayed decoding, if
you will--is profound, I think.

***(See also the similar insertions of "Justine!" (1.10) and "Justine"


Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
University of Virginia
cls9k at virginia.edu

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