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She Unnames Them By Ursula K. Le Guin

Essay by 24  •  December 30, 2010  •  521 Words (3 Pages)  •  2,014 Views

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The use of language to name the world seems to have two sides. On the one hand, things are given names as an expression of intimacy and respect; and on the other, they are given names to create distance and separation. In the story, "She Unnames Them," barriers are broken down as the names for animals are taken away.

Adam (the first man in the world according to the Bible), was instructed by God to name the animals. Eve takes all the names back because they were either wrong from the start or they went wrong. As she does this, the barriers between herself and the world are dismantled.

Although the story is very short, it took me a little while to realize that Eve is actually the one telling the story of how she frees the animals of their name. According to her, most of the animals "accepted namelessness with the perfect indifference with which they had so long... ignored their names." Whales and dolphins slid out of their names gracefully; the insects "parted with their names in vast clouds and swarms of ephemeral syllables..."; the names of the fish "dispersed in silence... throughout the oceans." The pets were the ones that had trouble giving up their names (cats swore they only had the names they named themselves and dogs and talking birds liked their given names, until they realized that it was an issue of personal choice).

In the story, the conclusion to Adam and EveÐŽ¦s relationship seems very interesting. The importance of Eve unnaming the animals is enabling her to become closer to nature and ultimately forsake her domesticity. However, there is also the gesture of woman reclaiming language. According to the Bible, man was created first, then the animals and then woman. Man was allowed to name the animals, thus granting man a power of language that woman was not given. By unnaming the animals, Eve in this story seems to reclaiming that power in a way. Now, she feels

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