Are Names Crucial to Our Identity?

Everyone has a name. Whether it is something super unique, something plain, or something that’s been in the family for generations–it’s something we use to identify ourselves, and for others to identify us by.

In “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll, Alice has an encounter with a gnat where the two talk about different names for insects. Alice admits that she has never known an insect to answer to it’s name, mainly because where she came from, insects don’t talk. The gnat asks what the use of having a name is, if one doesn’t answer to it. Here is where Alice poses her own question about identity. She says having a name is useful for those who name things and asks, “If not, why do things have names at all?”

Why do things have names? Is it because people need a way to categorize animals (and other things) to make them easier to identify? Is it to serve some sort of creative purpose, letting us express ourselves by the names we give others?

To me, names help identify individuals and serve as a symbolic contract between society and an individual. I’m sure many people could agree with this, although having a name could mean so much more…or so much less.

Just because you have a name, doesn’t necessarily mean that is the sole way to express your identity. You could be called anything else and still be you.

So do names make you who you are? I think they could be an important part of someone’s identity, but definitely not the only part. Basically, we have names so that others can address us. We have names to identify ourselves. We have names because our parents gave them to us and it’s something we’ve done for so long that we don’t even think about why we do it.

I don’t think I have a solid answer to Alice’s question, “why do we have names at all?” I can see the benefits of having a name BUT I can also see that not having a name wouldn’t really change who you are all that much.

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