Theme Of Ambiguity In The Left Hand Of Darkness

Decent Essays

Ursula LeGuin’s novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, explores several complex themes and concepts. It drops a traveler and informer for the large agency of Ekumen, Genly Ai, into Gethen, a world where most things, from the weather to the government systems, are totally different. The most significant of these, and the one that Genly struggles the most with, is the androgynous residents of Gethen. In his quest to accept his surroundings, he finds that he must stop seeing things as black and white, and find comfort in the grey areas. This links directly to LeGuin’s main theme, that ambiguity is necessary for growth and fulfillment. This essay will be exploring how LeGuin uses ambiguity and binary systems to expand on this idea in her …show more content…

However, this neutrality and gender ambiguity gives way to several positives in regard to the political and social climate of Gethen. In a report by a previous scout to Winter, the reader is asked to “consider: everybody has the same risk… there is no unconsenting sex… there is no division… into strong and weak halves” (93-94). In this view, the ambisexuality of the Gethenians is endlessly rewarding. There aren’t oddly unbalanced sexual standards due to the heightened investment on the female’s part commonly seen in bisexual societies. This allows for a more level playing field for sexual partners, and less predetermined obligation when entering into intercourse. Also, since everyone is only in kemmer, the height of sexual energy, for brief periods of time, and biologically can only engage in intercourse with others also in kemmer, there is no rape on Gethen. It would be physically impossible. This is marvels beyond bisexual societies, in which a fear of rape or sexual assault may influence many decisions one makes. Because of these two-- and many other-- factors, Gethenians do not have any gender based divisions into stronger and weaker halves of relationships. Because they are ambiguously gendered, Gethenians do not have any repressive or confining gender roles to compete with. Everyone is equal, regardless of how many children they have birthed of …show more content…

He refers to the citizens with default masculine pronouns, occasionally describing them as “feminine,” which he tends to regard with distrust. When Estraven, his accomplice, attempts to form a friendship with him, Genly remarks, “What is a friend, in a world where any friend may be a lover at a new phase of the moon” (213). He continues to say that he is “no friend to… any of his race” and that Gethenians are “changelings in the human cradle” (213). This highlights Genly’s most obvious flaw as a member of a bisexual society. He finds the ambiguity of the Gethenian gender to be hard to trust or understand. His use of masculine pronouns might be seen as an attempt to identify with the residents of Gethen, or maybe to make them more like himself. This, though, exposes his willingness to disregard the unfamiliar. This cling to the binary leads him to push away perhaps his most valuable comrade, Estraven. He also distrusts any glimmer of non-masculinity in the people he interacts with, again showing his resistance to accept the mechanics of this new environment in which he finds himself. As a result, time and time again, Genly disregards the advice of Estraven, deciding to rely on his own judgement instead, which is based on an extremely concrete binary system. More often than not, this lands Genly in a worse situation than previous. For instance, Estraven urges

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