All In Good Storytime

category: Literature

Page Fifty-Five--Winter

2/15/2019


In the 55th episode of All in Good Storytime, we begin reading "The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula K. Le Guin. In chapters 1-7 we are introduced to the kingdom of Karhide on the planet Gethen/Winter. It is here that we meet Genly Ai from the Ekumen, the space UN, an Envoy sent to convince Gethen to join their alliance. Much of these opening chapters is devoted to describing the particular nature of the Gethenians who are ambisexual and alternate between two sexes.

We begin by discussing the use of male pronouns for characters who do not conform to such strict gender norms. The Gethenians only show a preference for one gender during "kemmer," their fertile period. If this novel had been written today it likely would have used gender neutral pronouns but as this novel was written 50 years ago and is told from the perspective of the one character from another planet who does identify as male it is understandable that it doesn't meet our modern standards.

We draw parallels between the increasing rise of fear and patriotism in Karhide that led to Estrevan's eventual exile to our current situation in America. We also compare the specific storytelling structure of "The Left Hand of Darkness" to our previously discussed book, "Slaughterhouse-Five." We dunk on Genly Ai for being so selfish and for insulting the Gethenians when he is a mere visitor. We question how he was chosen as the messenger meant to convince Gethen to join the Ekumen. In our spaghetti corner, we guess that the fortune tellers are right that Gethen will join the Ekumen in five years but that this will signal the destruction of the interplanetary association.

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