Eve Names the Animals

by Susan Donnelly
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How are the attitudes in "Eve Names the Animals" and "Adam's Task" projected by devices in the poem?

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Both of these excellent poems concern the different ways that Eve and Adam named creatures at the beginning of the history of the earth, and the kind of attitudes that are expressed through that process of naming. Key in "Eve Names the Animals" is the way in which Eve took a much more creative, intuitive approach than Adam, who she somewhat dismissively mocks by saying that "Words / He lined up according to size" and then listing the series of mistakes he makes. For Eve, however, names are meant to capture the essence and the identity of the animals that they apply to. Consider the following metaphor that Eve uses to describe her own naming process:

I strung words
by their stems and wore them
as garlands on my long walks.

We can see from this metaphor that naming is a creative endeavour that is compared to weaving garlands out of flowers. It is an act of creation itself as beauty is formed through the words that are created.

In "Adam's Task," on the other hand, the sheer humour of the various names that Adam comes up with for the animals that he names demonstrates the key message of the poem: work can be fun. The central section of the poem that conveys this message is as follows:

Were, in a fire of becoming,
Laboring to be burned away,
Then work, half-measuring, half-humming,
Would be as serious as play.

Note the simile in the final line of this quote. Work becomes "as serious as play" as Adam surveys creation and takes real delight and joy in having to come up with the names for all of these animals and creatures. Work doesn't necessarily need to be boring and applying ourselves to our task with our full energy can make it fun.

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