Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Left Hand of Darkness

Original Essay:

LeGuin uses dualism almost constantly within The Left Hand of Darkness, except in regards to gender. There are two main nations, two political outlooks, two religions and even two main types of weather (snow and rain), but only one gender. This contrast makes the androgyny of the people of Gethen more striking. In their long trek over the glaciers, Estraven and Ai find another pair of opposites which are coexisting – that of fire and ice. The title then adds two other opposites implicitly into the story – that of left and right, with that of light and dark. Finally she compares the singular and uniquely created Gethen with the multitude of the Ekumen.

In other instances, LeGuin carefully sets up opposites, not all of which match our predefined notions, for example, war is contrasted to civilisation instead of peace, and therefore, she says, civilisation is not the opposite of 'primitiveness'. Instead, she suggests that these two ideas, civilisation and primitiveness, are "degrees of the same thing", and thus to lack one of these is not to throw Existence out of balance, but is just a level of difference. This idea of difference is also explored by Ai and Estraven, who discuss whether there truly is a difference between a Gethen 'wholeness' and a Hainish 'dualism'.

Through these pairings, as well as through the non-opposite of androgyny, LeGuin’s own personal philosophy shows through. LeGuin’s believe in Taoism led to her writing a story where the male and female are in perpetual balance. Difference is not in opposition to balance, but necessary to it. The lines recited by Estraven from 'Tomer's Lay', states that the left hand of darkness is Light, and Dark is the right hand of light, echoing closely the Taoist concept of Yin and Yang. As Estraven says near the end, "Duality is essential, isn't it? So long as there is myself and the other".

Works cited:

The Left Hand of Darkness / Ursula le Guin
Challenging destiny"Review of Feminist SF (Part 1 of 2)" / James Schellenberg
Fantastic visions: On the necessity of feminist utopian narrative / Tracie Anne Welser [University of South Florida MA thesis, Dept of Women’s Studies, 2005]
On Violence, Utopia, Ethic and Sex: The Left Hand of Darkness, The Word for World Is Forest, The Dispossessed, and Related Short Fiction / Science Fiction Research Association
Analysis of Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand Of Darkness/ Rebecca Rass
The feminine and the Tao: an interview with Ursula K. LeGuin / Brenda Peterson
Catastrophe of Language in "Herland" and "The Left Hand of Darkness" / Alparslan Nas

Edited and updated essay:

To be added later

No comments:

Post a Comment