"What's Your Name, Girl?" is essentially a story about Marguerite's identity. The essay begins by detailing her education and preparation into adulthood as a lady, but right off the bat, the reader is made aware that there is an underlying story of a struggle encompassing something larger than the world of "dainty doilies" and "crocheting" through Angelou's initial set up of the economic and social disparity that she faces.
I think the crucial event in the story is the robbing of Marguerite's identity. When Mrs. Cullinan, a symbol of wealth and barrenness, decides to shorten Marguerite's name merely for convenience, Marguerite's initial feelings of pity towards Mrs. Cullinan turns to anger, and rightly so. Names are considered one's identity, and especially with a long history of derogatory names that the black race has endured, their identity through their names are even more pronounced. Angelou points this out when she writes, "it was a dangerous practice to call a Negro anything that could be loosely construed as insulting, because of the centuries of their having been called blackbirds, crows, boots, and spooks." By shortening the name, it's as if Mrs. Cullinan is denying Marguerite's identity. .
Marguerite finally gets Mrs. Cullinan to say her correct name by destroying Mrs. Cullinan's favorite plates, which ironically, Marguerite spent the first part of her training working so diligently to learn the names and recognize each different type of piece. Marguerite does not accept Mrs. Cullinan's world of soup spoons, goblets, sherbet glasses, butter knives, objects which Mrs. Cullinan has no problem calling by their correct name. .
Another interesting point is the subservience of Miss Glory. Her name was changed as well, but she likes it and even closely echoes the words of Mrs. Cullinan's. "It's shorter too." I noticed that after Marguerite broke the plates, Miss Glory says, "You mean to say she broke our Virginia dishes?" I"m not sure if Angelou used that word intentionally, but she could have easily put down the instead of our.