The Dispossessed (Hainish Series)

( 28 )

Overview

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 planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life. Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Anarres, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of ...

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Overview

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 planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life. Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Anarres, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I appreciated the opportunity to use the policymaking emphasis of the textbook so that the students could see the centrality of the presidential office in facilitating changes in our governance system in domestic and in international politics." - Murel Jones, Virginia State University

"The greatest strengths of the book include…the historical overview of the presidency… (and) the suggested readings at the end of each chapters…" - Dr. Curtis R. Berry, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

"…clearly written…covering all the topics utilized in most presidency classes." -Bruce Altschuler, SUNY Oswego

"The three greatest strengths are (the) breadth of topics covered, its readability, and its practical application to the study of the presidency." - Jeff Cummins, California State University, Fresno

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061054884
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/28/1994
  • Series: Hainish Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 153,304
  • Lexile: 820L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Ursula K.  Le Guin

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was born in 1929 in Berkeley, and lives in Portland, Oregon. As of 2014, she has published twenty-one novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry, and four of translation, and has received many honors and awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, and PEN/Malamud. Her most recent publications are Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems and The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories.

Biography

Speculative fiction, magic realism, "slipstream" fiction -- all these terms could apply to the works of Ursula K. Le Guin. Unfortunately, none was in common use when she started writing in the early 1960s. As a young writer, Le Guin weathered seven years of rejections from editors who praised her novels' elegant prose but were puzzled by their content. At a time when the only literary fiction was realistic fiction, as Le Guin later told an interviewer for The Register-Guard in Portland, Oregon, "There just wasn't a pigeonhole for what I write."

At long last, two of her stories were accepted for publication, one at a literary journal and one at a science-fiction magazine. The literary journal paid her in copies of the journal; the science-fiction magazine paid $30. She told The Register-Guard, "I thought: 'Oooohhh! They'll call what I write science fiction, will they? And they'll pay me for it? Well, here we go!' "

Le Guin continued to write and publish stories, but her breakthrough success came with the publication of The Left Hand of Darkness in 1969. The novel, which tells of a human ambassador's encounters with the gender-changing inhabitants of a distant planet, was unusual for science fiction in that it owed more to anthropology and sociology than to the hard sciences of physics or biology. The book was lauded for its intellectual and psychological depth, as well as for its fascinating premise. "What got to me was the quality of the story-telling," wrote Frank Herbert, the author of Dune. "She's taken the mythology, psychology -- the entire creative surround -- and woven it into a jewel of a story."

Since then, Le Guin has published many novels, several volumes of short stories, and numerous poems, essays, translations, and children's books. She's won an arm's-length list of awards, including both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, and a National Book Award for The Farthest Shore. Over the years, she has created and sustained two fictional universes, populating each with dozens of characters and stories. The first universe, Ekumen, more or less fits into the science-fiction mode, with its aliens and interplanetary travel; the second, Earthsea, is a fantasy world, complete with wizards and dragons. As Margaret Atwood wrote in The New York Review of Books, "Either one would have been sufficient to establish Le Guin's reputation as a mistress of its genre; both together make one suspect that the writer has the benefit of arcane drugs or creative double-jointedness or ambidexterity."

More impressive still is the way Le Guin's books have garnered such tremendous crossover appeal. Unlike many writers of science fiction, she is regularly reviewed in mainstream publications, where her work has been praised by the likes of John Updike and Harold Bloom. But then, Le Guin has never fit comfortably into a single genre. As she said in a Science Fiction Weekly interview, "I know that I'm always called 'the sci-fi writer.' Everybody wants to stick me into that one box, while I really live in several boxes. It's probably hurt the sales of my realistic books like Searoad, because it tended to get stuck into science fiction, where browsing readers that didn't read science fiction would never see it."

Le Guin has also published a translation of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, a book that has influenced her life and writing since she was a teenager; she has translated fiction by Angelica Gorodischer and a volume of poems by Gabriela Mistral; and, perhaps most gratifyingly for her fans, she has returned to the imaginary realm of Earthsea. Tehanu, which appeared in 1990, was subtitled "The Last Book of Earthsea," but Le Guin found she had more to tell, and she continued with Tales from Earthsea and The Other Wind. "I thought after 'Tehanu' the story was finished, but I was wrong," she told Salon interviewer Faith L. Justice. "I've learned never to say 'never.' "

Good To Know

The "K" in Ursula K. Le Guin stands for Le Guin's maiden name, Kroeber. Her father was the anthropologist Alfred Kroeber; her mother, the writer Theodora Kroeber, is best known for the biography Ishi in Two Worlds.

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    1. Hometown:
      Portland, Oregon
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 21, 1929
    2. Place of Birth:
      Berkeley, California
    1. Education:
      B.A., Radcliffe College; M.A., Columbia University, 1952
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

The Dispossessed

A Novel
By Ursula K. Leguin

Harper Collins Publishers

Copyright © 2003 Ursula K. Leguin All right reserved. ISBN: 006051275X

Chapter One

There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb, it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an, idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall.

Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.

Looked at from one side, the wall enclosed a barren sixty-acre field called the Port of Anarres. On the field there were a couple of large gantry cranes, a rocket pad, three warehouses, a truck garage, and a dormitory. The dormitory looked durable, grimy, and mournful; it had nogardens, no children; plainly nobody lived there or was even meant to stay there long. It was in fact a quarantine. The wall shut in not only the landing field but also the ships that came down out of space, and the men that came on the ships, and the worlds they came from, and the rest of the universe. It enclosed the universe, leaving Anarres outside, free.

Looked at from the other side, the wall enclosedAnarres: the whole planet was inside it, a great prison camp, cut off from other worlds and other men, in quarantine.

A number of people were coming along the road towards the landing field, or standing around where the road cut through the wall.

People often came out from the nearby city of Abbenay in hopes of seeing a spaceship, or simply to see the wall, After all, it was the only boundary wall on their world. Nowhere else could they see a sign that said No Trespassing. Adolescents, particularly, were drawn to it. They came up to the wall; they sat an it. There might be a gang to watch, offloading crates from track trucks at the warehouses. There might even be a freighter on the pad. Freighters came down only eight times a year, unannounced except to syndics actually working at the Port, so when the spectators were lucky enough to see one they were excited, at first. But there they sat, and there it sat, a squat black tower in a mess of movable cranes, away off across the field. And then a woman came over from one of the warehouse crews and said, "We're shutting down for today, brothers." She was wearing the Defense armband, a sight almost as rare as a spaceship. That was a bit of a thrill. But though her tone was mild, it was final. She was the foreman of this gang, and if provoked would be backed up by her syndics. And anyhow there wasn't anything to see. The aliens, the off-worlders, stayed hiding in their ship. No show.

It was a dull show for the Defense crew, too. Sometimes the foreman wished that somebody would just try to cross the wall, an alien, crewman jumping ship, or a kid from Abbenay trying to sneak in for a. closer look at the freighter. But it never happened. Nothing ever happened. When something did happen she wasn't ready for it.

The captain of the freighter Mindful said to her, "Isthat mob after my ship?"

The foreman looked and saw that, in fact there was a real crowd around the gate, a hundred or more people. They were standing around, just standing, the way people had stood at produce-train stations during the Famine. It gave the foreman a scare.

"No. They, ah, protest," she said in her slow and limited Iotic. "Protest the ah: you know. Passenger?"

"You mean they're after this bastard we're supposed to take? Are they going to try to stop him, or us?"

The word "bastard," untranslatable in the foreman's language, meant nothing to her except some kind of foreign term for her people, but she had never liked the sound of it, or the captain's tone, or the captain. "Can you look after you?" she asked briefly.

"Hell, yes. You just get the rest of this cargo unIoaded, quick. And get this passenger bastard on board. No mob of Oddies is about to give us any trouble." He patted the thing he wore on his belt, a metal object like a deformed penis, and looked patronizingly at the unarmed woman.

She gave the phallic object, which she knew was a weapon, a cold glance. "Ship will be loaded by fourteen hours," she said. "Keep crew on board safe. Lift off at fourteen hours forty. If you need help, leave message on tape at Ground Control." She strode off, before the captain could one-up her. Anger made her more forceful with her crew and the crowd. "Clear the road there!" she ordered as she neared the wall. "Trucks are coming through, somebody's going to get hurt. Clear aside!"

The men and women in the crowd argued with her and with one another. They kept crossing the road, and some came inside the wall. Yet they did more or less clear the way. If the foreman had no experience in bossing a mob, they had no experience in being one. Members of a community, not elements of a collectivity, they were not moved by mass feeling, there were as many emotions there as there were people. And they did not expect commands to be arbitrary, so they had no practice in disobeying them. Their inexperience saved the passenger's life.

Some of them had come there to kill a traitor. Others had come to prevent him from leaving, or to yell insults at him, or just to look at him; and all these others obstructed the sheer brief path of the assassins.

(Continues...)


Excerpted from The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Leguin
Copyright © 2003 by Ursula K. Leguin
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

Chapter One

There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb, it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an, idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall.

Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.

Looked at from one side, the wall enclosed a barren sixty-acre field called the Port of Anarres. On the field there were a couple of large gantry cranes, a rocket pad, three warehouses, a truck garage, and a dormitory. The dormitory looked durable, grimy, and mournful; it had nogardens, no children; plainly nobody lived there or was even meant to stay there long. It was in fact a quarantine. The wall shut in not only the landing field but also the ships that came down out of space, and the men that came on the ships, and the worlds they came from, and the rest of the universe. It enclosed the universe, leaving Anarres outside, free.

Looked at from the other side, the wall enclosed Anarres: the whole planet was inside it, a great prison camp, cut off from other worlds and other men, in quarantine.

A number of people were coming along the road towards the landing field, or standing around where the road cut through the wall.

People often came out from the nearby city of Abbenay in hopes of seeing a spaceship, or simply to see the wall, After all, it was the only boundary wall on theirworld. Nowhere else could they see a sign that said No Trespassing. Adolescents, particularly, were drawn to it. They came up to the wall; they sat an it. There might be a gang to watch, offloading crates from track trucks at the warehouses. There might even be a freighter on the pad. Freighters came down only eight times a year, unannounced except to syndics actually working at the Port, so when the spectators were lucky enough to see one they were excited, at first. But there they sat, and there it sat, a squat black tower in a mess of movable cranes, away off across the field. And then a woman came over from one of the warehouse crews and said, "We're shutting down for today, brothers." She was wearing the Defense armband, a sight almost as rare as a spaceship. That was a bit of a thrill. But though her tone was mild, it was final. She was the foreman of this gang, and if provoked would be backed up by her syndics. And anyhow there wasn't anything to see. The aliens, the off-worlders, stayed hiding in their ship. No show.

It was a dull show for the Defense crew, too. Sometimes the foreman wished that somebody would just try to cross the wall, an alien, crewman jumping ship, or a kid from Abbenay trying to sneak in for a. closer look at the freighter. But it never happened. Nothing ever happened. When something did happen she wasn't ready for it.

The captain of the freighter Mindful said to her, "Isthat mob after my ship?"

The foreman looked and saw that, in fact there was a real crowd around the gate, a hundred or more people. They were standing around, just standing, the way people had stood at produce-train stations during the Famine. It gave the foreman a scare.

"No. They, ah, protest," she said in her slow and limited Iotic. "Protest the ah: you know. Passenger?"

"You mean they're after this bastard we're supposed to take? Are they going to try to stop him, or us?"

The word "bastard," untranslatable in the foreman's language, meant nothing to her except some kind of foreign term for her people, but she had never liked the sound of it, or the captain's tone, or the captain. "Can you look after you?" she asked briefly.

"Hell, yes. You just get the rest of this cargo unIoaded, quick. And get this passenger bastard on board. No mob of Oddies is about to give us any trouble." He patted the thing he wore on his belt, a metal object like a deformed penis, and looked patronizingly at the unarmed woman.

She gave the phallic object, which she knew was a weapon, a cold glance. "Ship will be loaded by fourteen hours," she said. "Keep crew on board safe. Lift off at fourteen hours forty. If you need help, leave message on tape at Ground Control." She strode off, before the captain could one-up her. Anger made her more forceful with her crew and the crowd. "Clear the road there!" she ordered as she neared the wall. "Trucks are coming through, somebody's going to get hurt. Clear aside!"

The men and women in the crowd argued with her and with one another. They kept crossing the road, and some came inside the wall. Yet they did more or less clear the way. If the foreman had no experience in bossing a mob, they had no experience in being one. Members of a community, not elements of a collectivity, they were not moved by mass feeling, there were as many emotions there as there were people. And they did not expect commands to be arbitrary, so they had no practice in disobeying them. Their inexperience saved the passenger's life.

Some of them had come there to kill a traitor. Others had come to prevent him from leaving, or to yell insults at him, or just to look at him; and all these others obstructed the sheer brief path of the assassins.

The Dispossessed. Copyright © by Ursula K. Leguin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

Introduction

Shevek, citizen and acclaimed physicist of the world Anarres, believes that he must free his people from the walls that they have built around their anarchist state, blocking out all other worlds. A freethinker and believer in the power of revolution and the individual's right to self-rule, Shevek must risk all to discover the truth about the land that his people escaped from, Urras.

But all is not as he believes on the glittering world of Urras. Coddled within the ivory towers of its university, Shevek is prohibited from seeing the real world of Urras, the world of the poor and indigent from which his people came. Although shunned by his Odonian society for his cutting-edge theories, the Urrasti hold him captive for his knowledge of the General Temporal Theory, a theory that could bring the Urrasti all the power and fortune they desire.

Aware that he has only traded one set of walls for another, Shevek must make an even more dangerous journey if he is truly to succeed in his ultimate mission of fostering understanding and true brotherhood among the races. Enlisting the aid of sympathetic Urrasti and aliens from Terra and Hain, Shevek succeeds in evading the propertarian Urrasti and shares his knowledge with the universe. For it is only when there is a true understanding, that he can finally return home to a new world.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Throughout the novel, the reader is introduced to numerous characters. Who was your favorite and why? Did you have a favorite race of people? Who did you identify with the most?

  2. Shevek believes that he made a mistake in putting his trust,his life, in the hands of the Urrasti. Do you agree? What else could he have done? Did he find his utopia in the end?

  3. There are many morals and words of wisdom for today's society throughout the novel. What are they? Should they be viewed as warnings? Which one was most important to you?

  4. Do you believe that the Odonian society is somehow more moral than the Urrasti? How are the power structures disguised in the Odonian societal model? What is the importance of owning nothing?

  5. Shevek states, "Revolution is our obligation; our hope of evolution." If a society is founded upon revolution, as Shevek believes, is it the people's responsibility to maintain the mindset that made the initial revolt possible?

  6. Every struggle has its "Odo." Who is the Odo for the following struggles: Civil Rights, Women's Liberation, South African Apartheid, to name a few. Can you think of others? Who are they?

  7. What do you think is a more effective tool of governing, popular opinion or laws? Is it our fear of getting caught or of being shunned by our neighbors and society that keep us honest?

  8. How does Shevek grow throughout the course of the novel? How effective is the use of flashbacks in every other chapter? Can they really be considered flashbacks once you understand the theories of time with which Shevek is struggling?

  9. What role does the family structure play within Odonian society? How are Shevek and Tekver revolutionaries in this aspect?

  10. Were you surprised when Shevek decides to go to the Hainish and not the Thuvians, being the enemies of the Urrasti? How do you think each culture will use his theory?

About the Author

A multiple award-winning author, editor, and anthologist, Ursula K. LeGuin was born in 1929 in Berkeley, California -- the daughter of writer Theodora Kroeber and anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber. She went to Radcliffe College, did graduate work at Columbia University and attained a 1953 Fulbright Fellowship. Le Guin married historian Charles A. Le Guin and has three children and three grandchildren. She has lived in Portland, Oregon since 1958.

Throughout her illustrious literary career -- 19 novels, short stories in nine collections, two volumes of translation, 13 books for children, three collections of essays, and numerous honorary degrees, teaching posts, and awards -- Le Guin has held to the highest standards in her writing, taking risks that would bring great rewards and praise from her contemporaries.

Having received countless awards -- a National Book Award, five Hugo Awards, five Nebula Awards, the Kafka Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Howard Vursell Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the L.A. Times Robert Kirsch Award to name a few -- Le Guin has also had three of her books become finalists for the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Le Guin's first major work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness, propelled her instantly to the forefront of her field. Since then, she has used the context of her work to delve into such issues as gender roles, morality, and the individual's ordinary grief. Working in so many forms -- from poetry and prose to screenplays and voice text for recordings -- Le Guin has transformed the genre in which she works countless times over. An intensely private figure like many of her characters, Le continues to create her fantastical worlds for all ages.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 28 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2000

    One of the best Sci Fi books of all time

    This book shows us more about our world, and the walls we build up that limit and narrow our lives, than any philosophy I have read, without the exception of F. Nietzche. Our assumptions about human nature are deeply questioned, and an incredibly humanitarian option is presented to us (one which has been swallowed by the defeat of 'communism'). To her credit, Le Guin does not present either side in this 'debate' in a narrow way, and questions all sides deeply. She gives a view of a utopia that is the most plausible and likely of any I have encountered (largely due to its imperfection). It is a utopia where what we gain is much more important than what we lose, yet the gains are imperiled as the tendency to institutionalize manifests itself within the society. The Marxist idea of a need for constant revolution is made real, so that, after reading this book, we will perhaps be able to make real in our world (and in ourselves) the state of constant revolt, which is the only answer to the problems of entropy, ennui and bureaucracy which plague our modern civilization. Lets not wind up the way we do in The Dispossessed.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2012

    eBook has Errors

    I have been trying to read this book, but unfortunately, this eBook has errors that cause areas of text to be blocked out or unreadable. This occurs both on my Nook Color and my new iPad via the Nook app. I have been unable to get this issue rectified and can find no customer service help for quality problems like these.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2012

    A little dated, but a good read

    Interesting story, although dated. It's interesting how LeGuin forecasts social advances, but not technological ones. This is a real contrast to most other older scifi, where the tech has advanced but women still wear garter belts.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2003

    Best Sci-Fi book I read

    I was lucky to start reading Ursula K. L'Guin with this book. Then I read all the others, but this one has always remained special. I read probably 30 SF books and I think this one was the easiest to read, most understandable, most humanist and the one that thaught and reminded me of what it means to be a scientist and to be socially responsible.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2000

    Five Stars

    No doubt about it, five stars. A whole new concept and perhaps the best science fiction I ever read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2012

    Utopian backfire

    Classic le Guin. Thoughtful and engaging.

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  • Posted July 9, 2011

    Fantastic

    Fantastic book, Le Guin is the master of soft Science fiction. the worlds really come alive.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2009

    Way below her standard. Never fouind the plot.

    Maybe next time.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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