(My apologies for the late arrival of this misfired synapse. I hit “save” rather than “publish” on Friday. Tis the season for abnormally high levels of brain drain.)
Whitehead draws some interesting connections between renaming a town, an adhesive bandage and a toy village. When asked about the town, our narrator says:
Winthrop is a traditional place-name, insisting on the specific history of the area and locating it in one man. The man embodies an idea, and the name becomes the idea. Standard stuff. The name New Prospera is what you might call the contemporary approach. Break it down into parts, and each part is referring to a quality they want to attach to the town. They bring the external in, import it you might say, to the region. (105)
Can Winthrop, one man who has long since passed on as has his defunct barbed wire company, represent an entire history of a town’s existence? Can the name New Prospera change what type of town the place becomes, erasing history and potentially creating something new?
Ehko International’s toy village, retooled, recrafted, revisiting the past in all that it had been and all that had been lost, according to the narrator, cannot be renamed. With the red, white and blue bricks of possibility, to create a new theater would also create new cinema, to dismantle the police station could perhaps dismantle crime, as if making a thing at once furthers its existence as well as calls into play its dichotomy. “In the end, nothing was so pleasing as the image on the cover of the box and this was a lesson to be learned” (122).
This is symbolic of the struggle between the town’s third faction vying for power over the first two (with overlap between all three), rallying for the original name of Freedom. As Regina says, “If I ask you your name and you tell me something other than what it is, that’s a lie? It should go back to Freedom. That’s its true name? (127). Perhaps it is a lie. Perhaps it is merely a new stage of history. One thing is for sure, everybody is talking about the full history of the place and that history, including the part about Freedom is not lost… yet.
Enter the second to last toe on the narrator’s foot. Having stubbed it, our nameless nomenclature consultant places Apex, a multicultural adhesive bandage, over the injury. As he describes it:
The brown adhesive bandage was such a tone that it looked as if he’d never had a toenail at all. That he had never stumbled. Did it hide the hurt? Most assuredly so. (131)
Like the town, can the new name brand hide the hurt of those disappointed citizens who will lose the identity battle? Doesn’t the the name New Prospera fall short of assimilation as does the clear adhesive Band-Aid? Does it matter?
My guess is that it matters a great deal. Apex may have hid the hurt, but I suspect that the toe continued to fester considering the fact that we know it was amputated. As with the town, a name may hide the hurt feelings of those who lose the battle for each name, and yet those citizens with attachments to what lands in the discard pile will fester with resentment. If the town’s name does return to Freedom, I suspect New Freedom will be in order. If New Luna, the soft drink, was a bit of foreshadowing, this is one way of encompassing the history and possibility all in one. As the narrator says, “The good ones always come back” (51). We shall see.