20 Quotes from The Dispossessed
I thought I was done. I thought four parts and 7,500 words would be enough. But as I completed the last piece, I realize there was still so much more within The Dispossessed that spoke to me, and so much more than I wanted to share.
So I took the easy way out and created a list post.
I’ve come back to the following twenty passages time and again, discovering new nuances and insight within them. I chose them because they work both in text and on their own. I’ve inserted my brief thoughts with each, but I would love to hear what you think as well.
“You are our history. We are perhaps your future. I want to learn, not ignore. It is the reason I came. We must know each other. We are not primitive men. Our morality is no longer tribal, it cannot be. Such ignorance is a wrong, from which wrong will arise. So I come to learn.” (p. 75)
Welcome to the final part in the series exploring one of my favourite novels: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. You can read the previous entries here:
In this last piece, I’ll touch on the theme of reconciliation that runs through the novel and look at one of its key recurring image: the wall. Finally, I’ll explore how the idea of the promise, as expressed by Le Guin’s ideas and embodied by the protagonist Shevek’s actions, has implications for my own personal journey in forging a meaningful and fulfilling life.
“We have nothing but our freedom. We have nothing to give you but your own freedom. We have no law but the single principle of mutual aid between individuals. We have no government but the single principle of free association. We have no states, no nations, no presidents, no premiers, no chiefs, no generals, no bosses, no bankers, no landlords, no wages, no charity, no police, no soldiers, no wars. Nor do we have much else. We are sharers, not owners. We are not prosperous. None of us is rich. None of us is powerful. If it is Anarres you want, if it is the future you seek, then I tell you that you must come to it with empty hands.” (pp.300-301)
Welcome to my continuing series exploring Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia. You can check out my history with the novel and part 2 of the analysis. This piece details the protagonist Shevek growing up in the anarchic world of Anarres, the nature of his unique society, and the journey he undertakes to find meaning and purpose in life.
“Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planets of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe… Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Urras, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.”
- Eos edition paperback cover
Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed alternates between two narratives across time and space. One revolves around the protagonist Shevek in the present as he travels to and learns about the world of Urras; the following piece looks at this story. The second narrative tells the story of Shevek’s past and his life growing up on the world of Anarres, an anarchic and egalitarian society – I’ll explore that in the next post. Finally, I’ll be examining the whole story in a third and final piece through one of the novel’s central theme: Reconciliation.
My honeymoon with The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia was an intense and extended one. Ursula K. Le Guin’s Nebula and Hugo-winning novel proved immensely alluring to me – its rendition of post-capitalistic civilization; its probing into the nature of revolution and power; its look at the possibility for change. The novelty and power of its ideas captivated me so much that I devoured an essay collection dedicated to them, and The Dispossessed quickly became one of my favourite novels of all time.
When I recently returned to the story through the audiobook narrated by Don Leslie, I found the infatuation that had so arrested me had faded. The ideas, once so vivid and vital in my mind, had lost their lustre, becoming old-hat and common sense. At the same time, I began to notice the novel’s shortcomings, despite my best efforts not to: There was an awful lot of exposition, its real world parallels were obvious and dated, and Le Guin’s prose, while still beautiful, contained neither the mythic flourish of The Left Hand of Darkness nor the practiced grace of later works like Lavinia. I had to face the painful possibility that I was perhaps outgrowing one of my most treasured tales.
Outside the locked room is the landscape of time, in which the spirit may, with luck and courage, construct the fragile, makeshift improbable roads and cities of fidelity: a landscape inhabitable by human beings.
It is not until an act occurs within the landscape of the past and the future that it is a human act. Loyalty, which asserts the continuity of past and future, binding time into a whole, is the root of human strength; there is no good to be done without it…
…The thing about working with time, instead of against it, he thought, is that it is not wasted. Even pain counts.”
The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia
Storytelling and reconciliation. Joy and meaning. Fidelity and time and journey. The quotes over the past three weeks highlight the themes I hope to explore as I revisit one of my favourite novels of all time, next time on Ekostories.