Émile Zola: Germinal
"So, you fancy going over the road for a bit of looting and pillage?"
"What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
They were standing in the shadows, waiting for the sun to dip under the horizon, waiting patiently, as always. Times like this Mr. Brown got talkative.
"See my dear Will, what the bard is alluding to is how the names we give things aren't inherent, not ‘true’, but a construct, and meaning exist only because we as a society have agreed upon the name of things."
Will had no idea what Mr. Brown meant, but nodded. He knew that Mr. Brown considered himself cultured and well read.
"... and just as the name of a thing is not the thing itself, the appearance of it isn’t either - as Monsieur Magritte so aptly demonstrated. See, the name "chicken" is just an abstract, and a picture of a chicken is just an idea of a chicken."
Will wasn't sure what "abstract" was, although someone once shown him a book with pictures that were just blotches of colors, and told him they were abstract paintings. Some were kind of pretty, but a chicken was definitely nothing like one of those pictures. He was sure of that. He did like the idea of a chicken, but he liked an actual chicken even more.
Will didn't know about "the bard" or the other man Mr. Brown mentioned, but that didn't matter. Will was a good listener; he didn't interrupt or ask stupid questions. He managed that by not asking any questions at all. Will knew that Mr. Brown liked going on about things, and no more than occasional grunts were required from Will to keep up the appearance that Mr. Brown wasn't just talking to himself.
Will considered himself a practical man. He knew naught of "constructs", but he knew names mattered. Well, maybe not what they were, but how they were used. Take them for example: Nobody who knew him, called Mr. Brown anything else but Mr. Brown. Not to his face anyway. Even those who didn't know him, called Mr. Brown 'Sir'. Meanwhile, nobody ever called Will anything other than Will, and only those scared of him ever called him ‘Sir’. Even though they physically looked similar, there was never a question who was the boss, and who was just the muscle.
Will was woken up from his thoughts by silence. Mr. Brown stopped talking. The sun was finally gone, leaving nothing but a violent smear of color behind. Mr. Brown stretched his limbs and looked at Will.
“So, you fancy going over the road for a bit of looting and pillage?”
They stole across the dusty road like two shadows, unseen and unheard, under the fence and into the chicken coop.
Half an hour later Will sat down on his haunches and took in the sight of feathers, splotches of white, red, and brown. He squinted and cocked his head sideways.
“I think I understand what you meant by “abstract”, Mr. Brown.”
3 months ago