28 pages 56 minutes read

Ray Bradbury

Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1949

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.


The Meaning of Names

The original title of the story, “The Naming of Names,” indicates its central interest in the relationship between a name and the thing it describes—i.e., what power a name holds. Early on, Harry muses how “the Earthmen had felt a silent guilt at putting new names to these ancient hills and valleys” that used to have Martian names (634). The guilt of this renaming arises despite the fact that there are no Martians left by the time the Earth people arrived, which suggests that the features of the land itself—the “hills, rivers, Martian seas left nameless in spite of names” (634)—are what have been mistreated, as if the new names improperly describe them. By the end of the story, the settlers from Earth have begun calling these landmarks by their Martian names again, as if agreeing with Harry’s early claim about the link between places and names on Earth: “[T]he American settlers had shown wisdom, using old Indian prairie names: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Idaho, Ohio, Utah, Milwaukee, Waukegan, Ossea. The old names, the old meanings” (634). The suggestion is that the name evokes the essence of a place, or its true nature, and to change that name is to misrepresent it.