Le Guin's Revolution Essay

1560 words - 7 pages

Science fiction encourages people to think concretely about what their ideals involve. In the case of The Dispossessed Le Guin challenges the reader to consider the ramifications of separating from a greater (hegemonic) society to create another. The solidity of Le Guin's vision and the complexity of her storytelling is no surprise to a seasoned reader of science fiction. I believe Le Guin uses the two opposing societies to tell a larger story of a need for permanent revolution through challenging the concepts of possession, profit, dominance, and hierarchical organizations of culture. These four features are largely an inevitability of human organization and nature. In this paper I aim to ...view middle of the document...

The form of the novel is circular as it ends where it begins. This could be read as an allegory to the way each of the societies starts and ends, revolution. The plot of the novel centers on the life of Dr. Spivak. The first chapter starts mid-plot, then childhood in the next chapter. The chapters alternate from that point on, describing events before and after Spivak’s departure. Each chapter progresses in its own chronological structure. This allows each society to exist on its own independent continuum with Spivak as the main point of intersection between cultures. Life in the worlds of the Hainish peoples may exist on separate continuums but they are connected not just by communication but also by the circular function of life. Each culture is a different state of the human condition, which is why permanent revolution is a necessity in the Hainish universe.
Eventually Spivak’s past reveals him to be someone who asserted his own freedom against the seemingly necessary coercions of an anarchist utopia. When he is denied the publication of his time theories, Shevek decides to take direct action on his own by founding a publishing collective. In the earlier moments of his lifetime we see that the roots of domination are deep in human nature: Shevek and group of peers experiment by putting a friend in a makeshift prison: “The simple lure of perversity brought Tirin, Shevek, and three other boys together” (Le Guin 35). The perverse joy and social bonding the boys experience from their experiment reenforces the idea that dominance is a natural human trait and not just learned, the boys were raised in a cooperative society and had no social models beyond historical texts to base their actions on.
Shevek resists anarchist coercion to not carry out a visit to the planet Urras, from which Anarres rebelled some two centuries earlier in the "Odonian" revolution. Shevek insists on making this trip for two reasons: he hopes to find an openminded intellectual atmosphere, and he hopes to lay the groundwork for reconciling the two societies. Both of these projects go against the general will of the Anarres population; at the onset of Shevek's departure there is an anarchist mob at the spaceport protesting. Though it is a mob, it is a disorganized one; the participants appear to not know how to effectively fit themselves together in any mass protest. Despite the disorganization during protest Anarres shows that organization is inevitable. One city on Anarres ultimately becomes the informal hub of the moon despite efforts to prevent it. Even Odo acknowledges these inevitabilities. While Anarres aims to avoid pyramidal hierarchy through a circular approach to life, it still largely falls in a hierarchical structure. Anarres' people came from a complicated, sophisticated, patriarchal, and largely capitalist society of human persuasion: “They know that their anarchism was the product of a very high civilization, of a complex diversified culture, of a stable...

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