The majority of the key central characters in this novel change their name at significant moments, and this is partly to indicate a new start or a new stage in their life and a moving on from the past, and perhaps a moving away from the past and its associations. For example, Paul Dempster, when the narrator finds him performing in a circus, does not answer to his original name anymore and only responds to Faustus Legrand:
He had been Faustus Legrand for more years than the ten during which he answered to his earlier name. I spoke of his mother; told him that I had seen her not long before I came abroad. He did not answer.
The silence with which Paul responds to the narrator when he is told of his mother indicates that part of the name change represents a rejection or a leaving behind of his upbringing and his mother. Name changing is therefore a method that allows the central characters to reinvent themselves and give themselves a new identity, moving on from the past and embracing a future where they will not feel hampered by their former selves. This is of course the case with both the narrator himself and also Percy Boyd Staunton, who both change names at significant stages in their lives for this reason.