42 pages 1 hour read

Ursula K. Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1969

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Chapters 1-5Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 1 Summary: “A Parade in Erhenrang”

On a planet called Gethen (called Winter by outsiders), in a nation called Karhide, the interplanetary ambassador Genly Ai walks in a parade honoring the construction of a new infrastructure project. Genly Ai is native to a planet called Terra, another version of Earth. Genly embed himself within King Argaven XV’s royal procession, and professionally observes the pomp of his surroundings. He finds the sights dizzying and the parade music discordant. When the parade stops, the king installs a ceremonial cornerstone to mark the occasion. In the meantime, a friendly associate, the highly influential Lord Estraven, current prime minister in service of the king, helps Genly piece together the symbolic notes of the ceremony. Though Winter is a cold place, Genly is hot beneath the sun, dressed as he is in heavy, fine clothing.

The ceremony ends, and Estraven takes the unusual step of inviting Genly to his house for dinner. In this and other conversations, Genly is annoyed at the subtle politics employed by the people of Karhide. On his way home, Genly notes the continually falling snow, and observes two young people in kemmer, the common mating state in which the genderless Gethenians transform, once a month, into biological sexes corresponding to male and female.