Meet Harker Dawes. He’s a ne’er-do-well businessman, a fool, a bungler, a clown, and his job is comedy relief as a support player in multiple novels of my Hometown Novels Series. I would contend that he is the kind of character I can’t write a good story without. And why does he have a name like Harker? Well, it’s Charles Dickens’ fault.
What do I mean by that? Well, if you’ve never read a novel by Charles Dickens… Why the heck not? I mean seriously… A Tale of Two Cities is one of the best novels ever written by anyone. The history, themes, and tightly woven plot threads of that novel… pale in comparison to some of the funny names Dickens uses to tell that tale. Jerry Cruncher, porter for Tellson’s Bank, is also a grave-robber in his spare nights. He is constantly losing his temper with Mrs. Cruncher for “flopping against him” (which is how he characterizes how she prays for him). He is an essential clown in that narrative. Prim and proper Miss Pross is Lucie Manette’s hand maiden who is so fiercely loyal she ends up taking out the vengeful villain of the tale, Madame Defarge, for threatening her precious Miss Lucie.
And that notation is just the beginning of the long list of silly names used for critical supporting characters in his books. There is a wealth of them in every book you pick up; Uncle Pumblechook, Herbert Pocket, Abel Magwitch, and Joe Gargery in Great Expectations… certainly not leaving out Philip Pirrip (Pip) the narrator and main character of the tale.
Wackford Squeers is the perfect name for the abusive headmaster of Dotheboy’s Hall in Nicholas Nickleby.
A Christmas Carol not only contains Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim Cratchit, but also Old Fezziwig, a former boss who loves to dance at the Christmas parties he throws.
David Copperfield has wonderful character names like Edward Murdstone the evil stepfather, Wilkins Micawber the ne’er-do-well surrogate father figure (based on Dickens’s real father), jovial Mr. Dick, and the slimy, villainous Uriah Heep.
The multi-syllabic names he uses are not only comical or sinister or both, but uniquely descriptive of the characters themselves, defining for us in nonsense syllables what those characters seem to be all about.
So, that is why his name is Harker Dawes. It stands in for, “Hark, there will be guffaws.” The perfect moniker for a very imperfect man.
In the same book as Harker, you can find heroic Agnes Brikkleputti the social worker who chases four orphan runaways from Chicago to Norwall, Iowa and risks death in a blizzard to bring the orphans their medications. She is the putty that holds those four bricks together.
So, you should not be surprised if you read something Mickey has written and you run across a silly name. It is evidence that he might be Dickens reincarnated.