Short Story #258: She Unnames Them by Ursula K. Le Guin

Title:  She Unnames Them

Author:  Ursula K. Le Guin


Photo of Ursula K. Le Guin.  Source:
A woman has gone about unnaming all the animals and many of them are perfectly fine with that.  However, some animals had some resistance to the idea.  Yet others are happy to return their names.  Some of the more human-friendly pets such as dogs and birds were resistant to giving up their names.  The narrator explains that in unnaming them, she now feels closer to them as their names stood as a barrier to connecting to them.  The names created fear.  Her implied name is Eve (or Lilith) but it is never said for she too returns her name to Adam, thanking him but acknowledging she doesn't need it.  Adam accepts her decision with little second thought until it comes time for dinner.  She explains that she is going with "them" and it's here that she realizes it might be a bit complicated to actually communicate without words and to fully express herself--that she is in new terrain and must tread carefully.


Le Guin's point that names both provide us with identity but also cleave us in some definitive ways from one another is a fascinating one.  It is of course something we see significantly when we use labels for groups based around gender, race, religion, etc.  We become bound by those names and though we can connect with others, we often are in some ways hindered by our names and the others' names.  However, it is clear that the lack of names isn't quite the solution either as our nameless protagonist finds herself challenged to explain herself with the loss of a name.  Thus, civilization and language are both damning and useful.  

Short Story #258 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/23/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.