recognizing names

One thing I found interesting about Pattern Recognition--especially as it includes a world of screen names--is the use of names. Obviously we touched on Cayce in class, but only briefly. What struck me most about Cayce was that, just before she explains the pronunciation of her name, she actually tells Voytek, "Call me Ishmael" (Gibson 32). Never having actually read Moby Dick (my high school was rather terrible), I would have just been confused by this statement except that in another of my classes, we just recently read a different novel with a very similar reference. For those of you in the dark, like I was, "Call me Ishmael" is the first line in Moby Dick. What we immediately know about Ishmael--and Cayce?--is that he is a survivor of the story he is about to recount. I suppose this is encouraging as far as Cayce is concerned because her story is told in present tense, as if it is all happening *right now*. The idea that she will survive the events of the novel, whatever they may become, is nice to note. The other interesting thing about this line is that, from the way it is phrased, the reader can never know whether or not Ishmael is the narrator's real name. This certainly ties into the idea that "Cayce," according to her, should actually be pronounced "Casey," but she says it as "Case." This, coupled with the fact that the only other Gibson I've read featured another Case as narrator (interesting pun), adds to the ambiguity of her actual name. To go even further, it can be said that no one has any one true name, as the nature of names is that they are ambiguous: is our narrator Cayce, Cayce Pollard, or CayceP? And those are only the names we are given in the novel--we aren't told her middle name (unless I missed that somewhere), and she might have other nicknames as well.

Of course, Cayce is not the only name of interest in Pattern Recognition; certainly the title suggests the reader will be looking for connections and importance in all names (as well as other things). We are very briefly introduced to Parkaboy on page four, the name not really fitting with his description later on as "a man with reddish, receding hair, combed straight back," who purposefully describes himself as a "middle-aged white guy" (337). His "real" name is Peter Gilbert, which does seem to fit this description better. Interestingly, however, "Parkaboy" appears very fitting to his online personality, the way he writes in emails and forums--kind of silly but with a solid intelligence behind it. It makes me want to think of the physical person as Peter Gilbert and of the personality as Parkaboy; yet of course, they are one and the same. It does show, however, that if we were left to pick our own names, we might pick names that more accurately fit who we are.

Then there is Hubertus Bigend, who seems to fit his name in some perfect way: "a nominal Belgian who looks like Tom Cruise on a diet of virgins' blood and truffled chocolates" (7). His girth apparently fits his name, though he either does not see the humorous connection or (more likely, given pattern recognition) he refuses to acknowledge it. Cayce also knows Bigend as a "Lombard," "which Cayce had at first thought might be a reference somehow to his Belgian-ness, until learning, upon finally asking, that it was Margot's acronym for 'Loads of money but a real dickhead' " (57). In this case, of course, the name is quite applicable, and once again goes to show that names made up later in life better portray the person than names given at birth (though Bigend's name comes close to this). This does point out the problem with trying to give associations to people's names in novels--for a character's name to mean something about him or her, it actually must be a name that would not be theirs in reality. What I mean is, in the real world, names don't usually say something about a person's character, the way they often do in a novel. Thus, the more "realistic" a novel is, the less the names will mean. How disappointing.

Haha, I caught the Moby Dick reference too, even though my high school was just as lame. I also think that "Case" is an interesting choice for a name to use for two who is essentially on a search for himself (in Neuromancer) and another who is recounting a story that she survived (Pattern Recognition). The name makes me think of a case as in a case file/dossier, or in the sense that a person diagnosed with an illness has a "case" of it or is an incidence of it...we as readers are being presented with a life to examine and draw lessons/messages or conclusions from. I think that both "Case" characters are examples of the effects of humanity being superseded by technology, and possibly serve as warnings of what people might be evolving towards.