The main characters in the short story “Checkouts” by American writer Cynthia Rylant are a girl and a boy, both whose names are not revealed anywhere in the story. In the story they are described as the “…the bag boy and the girl with the orange bow…”. This is characterization and description without the revealing of proper family names and it does give the reader a bit of a better view of these two.
The girl is not happy that her family moved her to Cincinnati, Ohio. She pines in a way for her former life, wherever that was, as it is not revealed in the story. While the girl remains nameless, she is an individual with a mind of her own. This is revealed when she decides that she won’t let her parent’s know that she enjoys grocery shopping. She doesn’t want them to know everything about her, and therefore, control her. Cynthia Rylant shows here that although the girl is nameless, she is not a ‘nobody’ and she has opinions and feelings unique to her.
She meets up with the ‘bag boy’ at the supermarket when he drops her jar of mayonnaise. This is the beginning of what she sees as her love for him. The male protagonist of this story also remains nameless. It’s as if the author is saying that the two are representative of so many young boys and girls, men and women in society today. Being nameless allows readers to decide who they think these two really are based on these characters’ thoughts and actions, without any predetermined information about them. We do learn, though, that the ‘bag boy’ notices her hair, which is “red and thick.”
Cynthia Rylant gives some other details that describe these two main characters, without resorting to giving us their names. The ‘bag boy’ has slender fingers, hair that falls into his eyes, and worn brown-colored shoes. Moreover, he doesn’t wear socks. The indication is that the girl dresses more proper, based on her strict upbringing. She revolts in a way by seeking out the ‘bag boy’s’ untidy look. Her character is revealed more when she comes into the supermarket one day with a yellow flower in her hair, instead of the orange bow.
Therefore, the author expertly reveals the two main characters in this story bit by bit, without ever resorting to the use of proper names. They are illustrative of how many people are in contemporary society and in the case of this story, their names are not necessary.