"“My name’s not Alan,” the boy said. “It’s Squid. And that’s X-Ray"
Names and their power is one of this book's themes
Public DomainNames and their power is one of this book's themes - Credit: InverseHypercube / Wikimedia Commons

The power of names is a theme revisited several times in this book. Many characters either change their name or use a pseudonym. In this way, the boys at the camp regain a sense of control in circumstances where they are extremely disempowered. The names they choose are sometimes strange, but often carry associations of strength, skill and power, or reflect their position amongst the others. Names such as ‘Squid’, ‘Magnet’, ‘Armpit’ and ‘Caveman’, suggest force and barbarity. They sound slightly unpleasant, the boys’ way of stating that they are dangerous: society’s rejects. Zero’s name reflects how he is seen by the other boys at the camp. The boys’ real names, however, are something precious, something that makes them vulnerable. Later Zero will give his real name to Stanley like it is a gift.


Other characters' names are important too. Stanley Yelnats is the same forwards and backwards, suggesting that both these characters (great-grandfather and great-grandson) are caught up in a loop of fate. Kissin’ Kate is another character who takes on a pseudonym in order to re-invent herself. At camp, Mr. Pendanski is ‘Mom’ because he is the one who tends to show more concern for the boys’ welfare. ‘Mr. Sir’ is an attempt to establish authority, and the Warden is simply ‘the Warden’, emphasising her power. The adults’ anonymity at the camp also brings a slightly sinister note. Are they hiding something?