Eve Names the Animals

by Susan Donnelly
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In "Eve Names the Animals" and "Adam's Task," how are attitudes projected by devices within the poems collectively?

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These two brilliant poems compare and contrast different attitudes towards naming animals and the task that God gave Adam, according to the Book of Genesis in the Bible.

In "Eve Names the Animals," both Adam and Eve are shown to have made mistakes in their naming of their animals, but notice the way in which Eve's approach to naming animals is so different from Adam's. For Adam, "Words / He lined up according to size," suggesting that names are, at best, a rather blunt instrument that do not try to capture the essence of the animal. For Eve, on the other hand, naming is instinctive and an act of creation:

To me, lion was sun on a wing
over the garden. Dove,
a burrowing, blind creature.

Even though the names are different than from those we have received, the way these names summon up a very distinct and certain image of these animals shows very clearly how Eve's approach to naming is one of creation, as she wears the names she picks "as garlands."

In "Adam's Task," on the other hand, it is clear that naming is one massive task that provides Adam with endless amusement. Consider the large variety of highly creative names that he comes up with. My personal favourite is the McFleery's Pomma:

Thou, verdle; thou, McFleery's pomma;
Thou; thou; thou -- three types of grawl;
Thou, flisket, thou, kabasch; thou, comma-
Eared mashawok; thou, all; thou, all.

There is a similar sense of creativity in this poem as we imagine Adam coming up with ludicrously sounding names for what he sees around him. This device of name-creation shows very clearly the way that work can be fun, which is of course one of the central themes of this poem, as through Adam's zeal for naming work is shown to be "as serious as play."

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