I chose the title of the play not to name it after the main character, but specifically because it isn’t really her. Her full legal name is Victoria Cornelia Stanton Hawking, and no part of it belongs to her. I had a vague sense of this when I first picked the title of the play, but more I think about it, the more I realize just how completely, tragically true that is.
I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries on Victorian times recently, specifically ones about the queen. She was a fascinating lady, that’s for sure, and the more I learn, the more I think Mrs. Hawking would not care for her. The queen was of German extraction, and was likely the first time an English baby girl was given the name Victoria. If my calculations are correct, our heroine would have been born right around the time the queen was crowned. Her father, Gareth Stanton, was a high-ranking officer in the colonies, and so likely would have patriotically named the girl in her honor. So her given name came from a woman of whom I can’t see her having a high opinion. Meaningless.
Her middle name, Cornelia, I see as being her mother’s name. The woman died young and Victoria has no memory of her. And from everything she heard growing up about what a proper lady she was, Victoria would likely not think much of her either. Meaningless.
Stanton is her father’s surname, a symbol of his power over her when she was young. One of the driving forces behind her push to never be caged or controlled, to subvert the patriarchy and the rule of men, is her unending rage at her father, her eternal desire to get back at him. She had no attachment to his name. Meaningless.
And then there is the name she currently uses, has no choice but to use, that of her husband, Hawking. Her feelings for Reginald Hawking are complex, but she did not love him– she is not, I think, capable of romantic love –and she resented him intensely for the life that his love and marriage pressed her into. And now, even though he is gone, she still has his name, the mark of his will imposed over her identity. The name is a small thing to her, I think, in comparison to everything else, but still, the primary name by which the world knows her is meaningless to her.
I mentioned once that one of my all-time favorite Batman moments was one on Batman Beyond. One of the bad guys tries to make Bruce Wayne think he’s crazy by putting a voice in his head. But he knows it couldn’t possibly be from his own mind, because the voice called him Bruce. He doesn’t call himself Bruce. :-)
But as much as Mrs. Hawking is my Batman, she doesn’t have a superhero “chosen name” sort of thing. So… what does she call herself? If she has so little attachment to her given names, who is she in her own head?
I think I need to ponder this.