42 pages 1 hour read

Ursula K. Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1969

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Important Quotes

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“I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination.”

(Chapter 1, Page 1)

This opening sets up the difficulty and necessary improvisation of communications between alien species on Gethen. Throughout The Left Hand of Darkness, official reports are often not as effective as fabulist stories for getting at the truth of what the Gethen and the Ekumen share in common.

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“Do you know the saying, Karhide is not a nation but a family quarrel?”

(Chapter 1, Page 6)

As Estraven notes, politics work differently on Gethen than among the Ekumen. In Earth’s past, grand-scale political diplomacy prevented war. On Gethen, grand-scale war is unknown, and so politics take on an informal and sometimes personally deadly aspect.

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“For it was impossible for me to think of him as a woman, that dark, ironic, powerful presence near me in the firelit darkness, and yet whenever I thought of him as a man I felt a sense of falseness, of imposture: in him, or in my own attitude towards him?”

(Chapter 1, Page 12)

Genly’s notion of identity is inseparable from the notion of gender. Through Genly’s acknowledgement of the role of his own attitude in his difficulty to understand Gethen genderlessness, LeGuin explores how concepts of gender inform cultural norms and human interactions.