Sometime during last summer, I decided to sign myself up for Goodreads Quotes of the Day. I had previously been spending hours reading through the quotes listed on that website, looking for ones I like, and figured that the Quote of the Day was an excellent way to curb the time I was spending but to accomplish the same end – reading a quote that I liked. April 11th’s quote was from Great Gatsby – “Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away.” I love the book, so I read the background information on the quote that was listed underneath in the email. It read as follows “The Great Gatsby was published to mixed reviews and poor sales. Other titles that F. Scott Fitzgerald considered: Trimalchio in West Egg, Gold-Hatted Gatsby, and The High-Bouncing Lover. I mulled over each of these titles in my head, trying to picture the book under one of those names. I found myself rejecting every one of the alternative titles, preferring instead the actual. This got me thinking – what is the true purpose of titles?
I want to say that titles are unimportant. I want to say that if you’re going to read something you’re going to read something, regardless of whether or not you’re hooked by its name. I want to say that titles are stupid, of exaggerated importance, and completely unnecessary to the actual content. I want to say these things because I hate writing titles. I absolutely believe that they are all of those things. I’ve wasted too much time staring at my computer or looking up quotes for title ideas to be at all encouraged or inspired by the thought of creating or selecting a title.
Even though I want to deplore titles completely and swear off writing them for the rest of my life, I know that nothing good could come of that. A title is, in fact, a name – and is as important to the piece of writing as our names are to us. What would I be without my name? I would be an idea – someone who loves to write, plays piano, has two younger siblings, brown hair, and green eyes. I would be all of these things and, true, without my name these things would be no less important, but the summing nature of a name makes everything seem more complete.
A title is like packaging on a present. You note the size and shape of the box, and then tear it open to see what’s inside, with an idea already formed in your mind with regards to what you’ll find.
Certainly, titles of essays are less important to the nature of an essay than names are to the nature of a person. But would I be the same if my name were Lindsay, or Sarah, or Samantha? I say no – but perhaps this is only because I have never known myself as any other name but Bailey. Either way, the wrongness of any other name for Great Gatsby besides Great Gatsby gave me a new consideration for the importance of titles, and I’ll try to complain less when I’ve got to think of them.
Today’s Goodreads Quote of the Day: