The Left Hand of Darkness: Gethenian Society Essay

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The Left Hand of Darkness: Gethenian Society

Upon finishing the novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin, what stands out the most in my mind is the strange and complex Gethenian society. There are many aspects, some of which we are accustomed to, and others we would never consider a part of our society. There are things we have never heard of, like kemmer and shifgrethor. As well things every society should have like politics and human interaction. Politics are an important part of the Gethenian society. The political structure varies from country to country, the main two countries being Erhenrang and Orgoreyn. Erhenrang has one supreme ruler, King Argaven, and the equivalent of a prime minister, whereas Orgoreyn, is
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The only other violence mentioned is that between the two countries. They are feuding over land. People have been killed because of it.

They kill one another readily by ones and twos; seldom by tens or twenties; never by hundreds or thousands."(Le Guin, 96) It is not a war but more of a power struggle. According to the story the Gethenian people have never had a war. Something called shifgrethor is another large part of this society. It is something that every Gethenian practices. Shifgrethor is a way to be competitive and show your prestige. It is, "Evasions, challenges, and rhetorical subtleties used in conversation."(Le Guin, 33) Shifgrethor can result in a, "perpetual conversational duel,"(Le Guin, 33) and is sometimes waived to get to the truth of a matter. The most important aspect, the one that defines Gethenian society is kemmer. "It rules the Gethenians, dominates them. The structure of their societies, the management of their industry, agriculture, commerce, the size of their settlements, the subjects of their stories, everything is shaped to fit the somer-kemmer cycle."(Le Guin, 93) Before explaining what kemmer is, I need to explain that Gethenians are androgynous, or ambisexual. They are never gender specific except when in kemmer.

There are three main phases of kemmer: secher, thorharmen, and thokemmer. During the first stage the individual remains androgynous. There are hormonal changes and their sexual
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