The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

In The Dispossessed, Ursula Le Guin story takes place between a planet and its moon, Annares and Urras. The social and cultural life on Urras and Anarres are completely different from each other. In contrast to the anarchist ideology in Annares, a capitalist ideology exists in Urras. Urras, the original planet, establishes private property and class disparity. Futhermore Anarres is a planet of scarcity, dryness, low vegetation and no animals except for some fish, worms and holum trees (Le Guin, 130).

On the other hand, Urras is lush and beautiful, comfortable to live on, with plenty of natural resources.

A group of revolutionaries following the ideas of Odo saw Urras as an unjust society and started a revolution. Because of their anarchist ideology Odonians were seen as a danger to the authority of law and national sovereignty on Urras. As a consequence, fear of anarchism leads to the decision giving Anarres to the Odonians. Annares, is Urras moon, and was settled by an anarchist woman named Odo who established an anarchist society devoid of any organized government.

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In spite of its almost uninhabitable ecology, the utopia in this novel is Annares, which emphasizes independence, freedom, economic equality and gender equality.

Annares functions as a system where it is expected that the individual will contribute to the whole out of an individual desire to do so. Annares then favors collectivism over individualism. Le Guin depicts the story of two planets through an Annaresti scientist named Shevek. After many years of separation and animosity for Urras, Shevek decides to go Urras for research purposes.

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Shevek is excited to exchange knowledge and ideas with the scientists on Urras, while at the same time he wishes to rebuild friendship between the two planets.

Annares is the place where people ran away from a capitalist ideology and built an utopic world that they could live in freedom. But the free world that they begin to live in cannot be compared with Urras environmentally because of its scarcity, infertility and dryness. While Annares is lack of nature, Urras is an utopic paradise with its ecology.

The surface of Urras was five-sixth water. Even its deserts were deserts of ice, at the poles. No need to economize; no drought (Le Guin 2003, 64).

Man fitted himself with care and risk into this narrow ecology. If he fished, but not too greedely, and he cultivated, using mainly organic wastes for fertilizer, he could fit in. But he could not fit anybody else in. There were no herbivores for carnivores. There were no insects to fecundate flowering plants. (Le Guin 2003, 186).

In The Dispossessed, people on planet Anarres are focused on the cooperation and on working only for improving the circumstances of their country and society. On Anarres, where the protagonist Shevek was born, natural resources are scarce and survival of people on this planet is very difficult. The viewpoint toward life and people is shaped according to this restricted world. People have to live and work cooperatively rather than individually in order to come up with these limited ecological conditions. In other words, Annaresti society needs communist ideology to survive in this barrel planet.

In spite of reproachable sides of communist ideology due to some sort of its rules, Le Guin represents some positive features of the system, such as the power of cooperation and solidarity between individuals and people. This does not imply that she was necessarily pro-communism, or that she was trying to glamorize it. She was writing about it truthfully, showing the possibilities but also the limitations”. (Zinchenko, Julia V. 4) Everything necessary for comfortable living is run by the people and communities, without economic intentions. “Because they are done together. . . .

And other reasons. You know, life on Anarres isn’t rich, as it is here (Le Guin, 149). Le Guin, through the explanations of her protagonist Shevek during his journey to the rich planet Urras, narrates the difference between two planets in a very simple way. For instance, Shevek is very surprised, when he learns that not only there are special clothes to wear just for sleep (pajamas), which he was given upon boarding of the spaceship bound for Urras, but that these clothes are not washed or recycled, but simply burned (Le Guin 13). For him, such a behavior is a sign of waste. This suggests that his own world is not rich or plentiful, and people have to use everything for as long and as much as possible.

Therefore, it is concluded that the limitations of nature and sources affect the Annaresti society’s point of view towards the usage of belongings. As literary critic, Barry Pegg, writes, The novels suggest that climate and topography should be seen as underlying human cultural systems.99 The limited natural resources and production system on Annares, create some obstacles in practising anarchist ideology in the society. If a man/woman has a thought to refuse working with the community, then he/she is going to be labelled as egoist and will be externalized by the society as the living conditions and production opportunities are not enough to run life by himself or herself. If he/she wants to go ahead with this anarchist society, then he/she has to act collectively not individually. In a conversation between Shevek and an Urrasti woman named Oiie, they talk about the labor system of Annaresti society and the rules.

What happens to a man who just won’t cooperate?

Well, he moves on. The others get tired of him, you know. They make fun of him, or they get rough with him, beat him up; in a small community they might agree to take his name off the meals listing, so he has to cook and eat all by himself; that is humiliating. So he moves on, and stays in another place for a while, and then maybe moves on again. Some do it all their lives. (Le Guin 2003, 150)

In The Dispossessed, the ecological conditions on Annaresti society influence people in different ways. Because of insufficient vegetation, frequent droughts, and deficiency of animal life on Anarres every citizen is canalized to sacri?ce her or his individual desires for the community in return for making his or her planet more habitable. Odonians the name of Annaresti people – are no longer exactly free, as they are frequently pulled away from their jobs, lives, and partners to go off on rotating work responsibilities, and yet are prevented from ever finding true satisfaction in the work they do.

To make go of life, Divlab (the administration of the division of labor) directs people to the jobs in accordance with the needs of the planet. And an Anarresti knows he/she has to be ready to go where he/she is needed and do the work that needed to be done. Shevek is the protagonist in the novel. He is a very successful physicist and teaches physic on the planet Annares. His brilliant career at physic receives great respect from the Annaresti society. He studies on a very important physical theory, Theory of Simultaneity. His research deals with instantaneous time-space communication, which would enable the intergalactic exchange of ideas. By accomplishing his theory, Shevek aims at changing the whole universe and bringing the humanity of all planets together without walls.

However, his adviser, Sabul, finds this information non vital to planet’s survival due to the harsh conditions on the Annares. Sabul tells Shevek that he has studied on the theory since a long time but he is no longer going to teach physic, because he is needed to work in another part of the planet and this will be more beneficial to the future of the planet. Despite all the objections, Shevek resigns himself to the fact that he has to put off his studies on the theory.

Do you consider the work you’ve done here functional?

Yes. The more that is organized, the more central the organism: centrality here implying the field of real function. Tomar’s Definitions. Since temporal physics attempts to organize everything comprehensible to the human mind, it is by definition a centrally functional activity.

It doesn’t get bread into people’s mouths.

What you have to face is the fact that at this point there is no physics to be done. Not the kind you do. We’ve got to gear to practicality. Sabul shifted in his chair. We’ve had to release five people for reposting. I’m sorry to say that you’re one of them. There it is. What would have been the use? – said Sabul, almost melodious in self-exculpation. No one’s taking on new teachers. Teachers and students are working side by side at famine-prevention jobs all over the planet.  (Le Guin 2003, 265,266).

Salas is a friend of Shevek in the novel. Like every other human living on Annares, Salas works according to the directions of Divlab. In fact, Salas desires to compose his own music, but he is precluded by music syndics, since Music Syndics claims that his compositions are not in harmony. Nevertheless, Bedap, Salas friend, thinks that the reason for syndic’s rejection is different. He supposes that the music Salas performs is not the thing that society needs. In his point of view, Salas had better do something more useful for ccommunity. Because the work he does, or the product he gives needs to make living conditions in Annares better in terms of environment. Consequently, Salas gets no work on music, the work he wants to do. Instead, he is progressively given manual labor tasks where he is expected to utilize his energy more usefully spent on the planet’s survival.

Music syndics don’t like my compositions. And nobody much else does, yet I can’t be a syndicate all by myself, can I?

Bedap spoke more gravely; They can justify it because music isn’t useful. Canal digging is important, you know; music’s mere decoration (Le Guin 2003, 153).

Le Guin is known as an outstanding figure of Feminist literature “Ursula K. Le Guin went on to become known as one of the early feminist voices in fantasy and science fiction” (Jankowski 2018). Consequently in The Dispossessed, she portrays a society which treats both genders equally. In society of Annares women have a different statue from that is in Urras, as they are not isolated from planet. On the contrary, they are a part of existence of Annaresti society. It was a woman named Odo taking away anarchist people from Urras to Annares. Women exist in all the parts of agriculture and industry on the planet. Both men and women take the same assignments and they are treated equally, besides, there are no traditional gender roles. For instance, there are no concepts like “wife” or “husband” but partners.

For example Takver, Shevek’s partner, starts working on behalf of her community when she is just eight. Because she is not expected to stay at home and wait men for maintaining her life. “Takver at eight had picked straw and rocks out of holum grain at the mill for three hours a day after three hours of school. Little of her practical training as a child had been towards personal enrichment: it had been part of the community’s effort to survive” (Le Guin 2003, 184). There are no traditional expectations based on gender from any of the individuals. Females have children, but motherhood is accepted as a preference rather than an obligation. Rulag, Shevek’s mother, chooses to continue her career instead of looking after her son ” She smiled faintly. “Yes, I could have kept in touch with you. Do you hold it against me, my not having done so? “Hold it against you? I never knew you.” (Le Guin 2003, 122)

In Annares, women may be free in their decisions about the way they want to live. They are not obliged to live with their partners or children until the end of their life. If they choose to leave their family and go anywhere they want, it is possible. But the separation does not only take its source from freewill. In Le Guin’s novel, Takver is the partner of Shevek and also a scientist. They have two babies and both of them don’t have any idea of separation. But after a while, as the conditions on the planet Annares get harder, Takver feels obliged to take such a decision. To help her society overcoming these hard times, Takver does not hesitate to leave Shevek and their common household when the famine hits Anarres, and everyone struggles to survive. Her education and expertise are needed in one of the parts of the planet, and she decides to leave and struggle.

“she had received an emergency posting to the Comestible Algae Experimental Development Laboratories in Northeast, for an indeterminate period. She wrote: I could not in conscience refuse now. I went and talked to them at Divlab and also read their project sent in to Ecology at PDC, and it is true they need me because I have worked exactly on this algaeciliate-shrimp-kukuri cycle” (Le Guin 257).

The harshness of ecology in Annares not only enforces women to work away from their family for the sake of their planet’s survival, but also they have difficulty in maintaining their life as a biological human beings. Takver is pregnant for her first child, and the climate on Annares worsens. As a result, a state of famine arises among people. As she has to work with other people to overcome the difficult ecology in Annares, it becomes harder and harder to take nourishment for a healthy pregnancy process. Sometimes she gets late to the meals or there is not enough food to supply with the eating needs of people. Accordingly, this famine mostly affects pregnant women at the sam time.

Takver was pregnant. Mostly she was sleepy and benign. “I am a fish,” she said, “a fish in water. I am inside the baby inside me.” But at times she was overtaxed by her work, or left hungry by the slightly decreased meals at commons. Pregnant women, like children and old people, could get a light extra meal daily, lunch at eleven, but she often missed this because of the exacting schedule of her work (Le Guin 237).

As it is stated above, the ecological structure in Annares and Urras is completely different. While Urras is a kind of ecological utopia, Annares is a dystopia. However, when they are compared with each other in terms of freedom, the situation becomes reversed. In Urras, there is a capitalist ideology and men are treated as regards of their wealth. Efor is a servant assigned to Shevek during his stay on Urras. He is a good example of class division on Urras. During a conversation between Shevek and him, he shares a memory about his daughter when she is in a hospital. He depicts the hospital as a place for lower class like him. “Our kind. Dirty. Like a trashman’s ass-hole,” Efor said, without violence, descriptively. “Old. Kid die in one. There’s holes in the floor, big holes, the beams show through, see? I say, “How come?” See, rats come up the holes, right in the beds.” (Le Guin 283).

After listening Efor, Shevek comes to a conclusion that his ancestors were right to leave Urras, despite the famine and drought of Annares. This means that, they favour living in an equally treated uninhabitat world over living in a wealthy world of injustice. “This was the Urras he had learned about in school on Anarres. This was the world from which his ancestors had fled, preferring hunger and the desert and endless exile.” (Le Guin 284)Likewise, women are not seen as equal to men in a world of rich environment and property. Shevek is leaving Anarres in a spaceship and meets an Urrasti doctor. Meanwhile, they start a conversation about the differences between two planets. Shevek notices that there are no females on the spacecraft, and asks Dr. Pae the reason, and he surprisingly answers as “running a space freighter was not women’s work.” (Le Guin 17). After that Dr. Pae asks Shevek: “Is it true, Dr. Shevek, that women in your society are treated exactly like men?” (Le Guin 17). Shevek and Dr.

Pae are surprised to realize the contrast in behaving women on two planets. While the conversation on gender role in societies of both planets going on between Shevek and Dr. Pae, as a scientist, Shevek asks about the position of Urrasti women in science. “I met women at the party last night-five, ten-hundreds of men. None were scientists, I think. Who were they?” “Are all the scientists here men, then?” (Le Guin 73). Dr. Pae answers that all the scientist on his planet are men, women are only assigned in school’s of girls. And he explains the reason as the insufficiency of women in math and abstract. Women are relatively seen incapable of working in science. “certainly, they’re all men. There are some female teachers in the girls schools, of course. But they never get past Certificate level. “Can’t do the math; no head for abstract thought; don’t belong. You know how it is, what women call thinking is done with the uterus! (Le Guin 73)

This is clearly a sexist approach and discrimination against female on Urras. Being surprised with the answers of Dr. Pae Shevek says that women are the most important theorists and heroes on his planet. With this special part of The Dispossessed, Le Guin perfectly emphasizes that as long as equality does not exist in an ecologically and materially utopic world like Urras, actually it is a dystopic in the sense of freedom and gender equality.

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The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin. (2019, Dec 06). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-dispossessed-by-ursula-le-guin-essay

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

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