Why Cordelia?

You can read about me and my goals here. For those who are also wondering where my alias comes from, here’s a brief explanation.

There are actually two Cordelias I admire, and I’ve adopted them as my personal role models:


Cordelia #1

Anne Shirley of the of the Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery is a brilliant example of the kind of indomitable spirit I long to be. She’s an incorrigible dreamer who approaches everything with an energy and enthusiasm that refuses to stop. If we could all see as much potential in the everyday as Anne does (and care as little about we look to the rest of the world), we’d be in damn good shape.

When orphan Anne comes to live with the Cuthberts, she quickly learns that they actually meant to get a boy, so her first night at Green Gables is likely to be her last. As all of her dearest dreams come crashing down around her, Marilla Cuthbert asks her the routine question, “What’s your name?” And because Anne is Anne, she answers thusly:

The child hesitated for a moment.

“Will you please call me Cordelia?” she said eagerly.

Call you Cordelia! Is that your name?”

“No-o-o, it’s not exactly my name, but I would love to be called Cordelia. It’s such a perfectly elegant name.”

“I don’t know what on earth you mean. If Cordelia isn’t your name, what is?”

“Anne Shirley,” reluctantly faltered forth the owner of that name. “But oh, please, do call me Cordelia. It can’t matter much to you what you call me if I’m only going to be here a little while, can it? Anne is such an unromantic name.”

I love it. In the midst of utter heartbreak, Anne still tries to make things a little better by realizing one of her pet dreams. That dream might be a little silly. It might make her seem kind of odd. But she doesn’t care; she wants to be called Cordelia, just because she thinks it would be lovely. (Or, if she can’t be Cordelia, she’d at least like to be called “Anne spelled with an E” because “A-n-n looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished.”)

Cordelia #1 reminds me that life is what you make of it (and you can make it truly awesome). She reminds me that living life your own way sometimes makes you look a little crazy, but that doesn’t really matter. Just call me Cordelia, and I’ll be happy enough.


Cordelia #2

Shakespeare’s King Lear is not one of my favorite plays (a little too bleak, a little too much eye gouging). But one of its central characters struck me so strongly when I read it that she is my second inspiration.

Cordelia is the youngest of King Lear’s three daughters, and his favorite. His two eldest are selfish and scheming and basically waiting for him to die so they can divide his wealth—so when Lear asks his daughters one day to describe how much they love him, the older ones pull out all the stops: long, flowery passages about how their love is deeper than the deepest ocean, blah, blah, blah

You expect Cordelia to top them both, since she genuinely does love her father. But when her turn comes, Lear is sorely disappointed. Cordelia flat-out refuses to say anything because she doesn’t want to degrade her feelings (or herself) by stooping to her sisters’ level. It would be easy enough to tell her father she loves him the most (in her case, it’s actually true), but she’d rather be banished forever than play along with a game she doesn’t agree with.

It’s a little harsh, but I admire the integrity behind it. In my quest to live deliberately, Cordelia #2 reminds me to be ruthless. To refuse to do things just because I’m supposed to or because everyone else is doing them. To be true to myself. To honor my own feelings. To take no crap.


Combined, these two Cordelias are the perfect mix of everything I want to be: honest, optimistic, bold, take-no-mercy.  If I can be half the Cordelias they are, things will be better already.