In "Eve Names the Animals" by Susan Donnelly, the speaker uses words in her own way. How is this way similar to or different from the way that Adam uses words?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The task of naming the animals and giving order to the natural world through that process of naming is something that is famous from the Biblical account that the Book of Genesis explores. However, this poem powerfully challenges such patriarchal assumptions, as Donnelly, speaking through the persona of Eve, shows that her own way of naming was very different. Consider how Adam is shown to have named creatures:

I swear that man
never knew animals. Words
he lined up according to size,

while elephants slipped flat-eyed
through water

and trout
hurtled from the underbrush, tusked
and ready for battle.

Eve overtly criticises the naming of Adam, suggesting that he "lined up according to size" the names that he gave them, leading to some hilarious or tragic mistakes as elephants and trout are confused. Eve, on the other hand, is very creative about the way she describes how she named creation:

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

To Eve, in comparison with Adam, naming is an opportunity to show creativity and to capture the sense and essence of the animal being named. For Adam, there is no sense of imagination or trying to make the name fit the animal and its attributes. Instead, you line them all up by size and name them accordingly. Eve's system of naming is shown to be more intuitive and to reflect the personality and characteristics of the animal that the name applies to.

 

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