Sunday, November 24, 2019
She Unnames Them by Ursula Le Guin, an Analysis
'She Unnames Them' by Ursula Le Guin, an Analysis Ursula K. Le Guin, a writer predominantly of science fiction and fantasy, was awarded the 2014 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She Unnames Them, a work of flash fiction, takes its premise from the Biblical book of Genesis, in which Adam names the animals. The story originally appeared in The New Yorker in 1985, where it is available to subscribers.Ã A free audio version of the author reading her story is also available. Genesis If youre familiar with the Bible, youll know that in Genesis 2:19-20, God creates the animals, and Adam chooses their names: And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam would call every living creature, that was the name thereof. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. As Adam sleeps, God takes one of his ribs and forms a companion for Adam, who chooses her name (woman) just as he has chosen names for the animals. Le Guins story reverses the events described here, as Eve unnames the animals one by one. Who Tells the Story? Even though the story is very short, its divided into two separate sections. The first section is a third-person account explaining how the animals react to their unnaming. The second section switches to the first person, and we realize that the story all along has been told by Eve (though the name Eve is never used). In this section, Eve describes the effect of unnaming the animals and narrates her own unnaming.Ã Whats in a Name? Eve clearly views names as a way to control and categorize others. In returning the names, she rejects the uneven power relations of having Adam in charge of everything and everybody. So, She Unnames Them is a defense of the right to self-determination. As Eve explains to the cats, the issue was precisely one of individual choice. It is also a story about tearing down barriers. Names serve to emphasize the differences between the animals, but without names, their similarities become more evident. Eve explains: They seemed far closer than when their names had stood between myself and them like a clear barrier. Though the story focuses on the animals, Eves own unnaming is ultimately more important. The story is about power relations between men and women. The story rejects not just the names, but also the subservient relationship indicated in Genesis, which portrays women like a smaller part of men, given that they were formed from Adams rib. Consider that Adam declares, She shall be called Woman,/Because she was taken out of Man in Genesis. She Unnames Them Analysis Much of Le Guins language in this story is beautiful and evocative, often evoking the characteristics of the animals as an antidote to simply using their names. For example, she writes: The insects parted with their names in vast clouds and swarms of ephemeral syllables buzzing and stinging and humming and flitting and crawling and tunneling away. In this section, her language almost paints an image of the insects, forcing readers to look closely and think about the insects, how they move, and how they sound. And this is the point where the story ends. The final message is if we choose our words carefully, well have to stop taking it all for granted and really consider the world - and the beings - around us. Once Eve herself considers the world, she must necessarily leave Adam. Self-determination, for her, is more than just choosing her name; its choosing her life.Ã Ã The fact that Adam doesnt listen to Eve and instead asks her when dinner will be served might seem a little clichÃ ©d to 21st-century readers. But it still serves to represent the casual thoughtlessness of taking it all for granted that the story, at every level, asks readers to work against. After all, unname isnt even a word, so right from the beginning, Eve has been imagining a world that is unlike the one we know. Sources Genesis 2:19. The Holy Bible, Berean Study Bible, Bible Hub, 2018. Genesis 2:23. The Holy Bible, Berean Study Bible, Bible Hub, 2018. Le Guin, Ursula K. She Unnames Them. The New Yorker, January 21, 1985.