Eve Names the Animals

by Susan Donnelly

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In Susan Donnelly's "Eve Names the Animals," what does the final line suggest about the poem?

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In Susan Donnelly’s poem “Eve Names the Animals,” the final line sums up and explicitly expresses one of the major themes of the work. In the poem, Eve discusses all the different names she had given to various creatures in the Garden of Eden.  Her names often differed greatly from the names by which we know these creatures today. At one point, for instance, she mentions the name she gave an animal that we know today as a “dog”:

Only spider accompanied me,
nosing everywhere,
running up to lick my hand. (18-20)

Likewise, she calls what seems to be a butterfly by the name of “lion” (1) and what seems to be a mole by the name of “Dove” (2). Presumably Adam had already given all the creatures the names by which we presently know them, but Eve apparently rejects his names and invents her own:

I swear that man
never knew animals. Words
he lined up according to size . . .   (4-6)

In other words, she disagrees with – and apparently refuses to use – the names Adam had already given to the animals.  The rest of the poem offers a kind of list of all the alternative names she has chosen in place of Adam’s. By the end of the poem, however, she finds her choices “withered” (34).  This word may imply either that Adam has rejected her new choices or that he simply proceeded to call the animals by the names he had originally given them.  Or perhaps the word “withered” implies that Eve herself lost interest in the names she originally chose and invented new names with which to replace them.

In any case, the last line of the poem simply states, “I liked change” (35). This line can be interpreted in several different ways. In one sense, it reveals that Eve “liked change” so much that she was willing to literally contradict Adam and change all the names he had already given the creatures. In another sense, the line may suggest that Eve “liked change” so much that she enjoyed giving newer, different names even to the creatures she had already labeled. The final line contributes to the whimsical tone of the poem, implying that Eve was a more carefree, more inventive and imaginative person than Adam.  More ominously, however, the final line may also remind readers that it was Eve’s enjoyment of change that (according to the traditional story) ultimately led to the loss of paradise.


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