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 16-20Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 16 Summary: “Between Drummer and Dremegole”

Estraven keeps notes as they travel. He is impressed by Genly’s sacrifice, leaving behind everything in the Ekumen in order to move at relativistic speeds and form diplomatic alliances with strange planets. Estraven learns that Genly’s parents have been dead for 70 years because of his space travel and time relativity.

The travel is rough, and Estraven and Genly must backtrack around impassable formations. Sometimes snow stops them for a day or more. Though their physiognomies are different and have different needs in terms of shelter and exposure, they compromise as friends. They travel between two dangerous formations: a mountain called Dremegole and an ice river called Drummer. The way between is filled with difficult boulders. Both the volcanic mountain and the river erupt in smoke and icy mist, limiting visibility. Through this narrow pass, they make the risky decision to save time on their journey by traveling up and through a plateau. They backtrack often, losing time looking for an approach up the steep incline, but after several days they find themselves on a long, flat plain of ice. They travel east, toward Karhide.

Supplies run low as they make slow progress. Estraven enters kemmer, making for awkward conversation in their two-person tent.