Ursula and creatures. Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin critiquessociety’s expectations for men by creating characters that do not match thetypical gender standards during this time in the 1900s. “Le Guin’s steady industry hasproduced an extraordinary body of work.
She is one of the most accomplishedwriters in the US and arguably the greatest living author of science fictionand fantasy.” (Kizilos). Le Guin uses her own ideas and perspectives oncurrent “society ways” to make our world visualize a better place withoutsexism, racism, etc. As an inspirational author she uses her own lifeexperiences and perspectives to create stories to fuel readers inspiration tohave the valiancy to make a change or justenjoy an entertaining story on reality altering worlds and creatures. Ursula K. Le Guin is the daughter of the distinguishedanthropologist A.L.
Kroeberand writer Theodora Kroeber. Le Guin was born in to a respected house of writers withgreat expectations. Her parents influence/pressure on her to write is what leadher into the business. She started mainly with short stories and poems forherself and never pictured herself writing for the entertainment of others.Until, she was later asked to write a novel letting other escape from societyand enter a fantasy world of Earthsea. It took a while for her writing to berecognized, but once it was became huge.
Anthropology is the study of humansocieties and their culture and development. Anthropology highly influenced herwritings of fantasy and fiction. She attended Columbia university where shelearned to explore these ideas. Later she wrote many novels on alien societiesthat had secret ideas and themes that lead to a spark in the world and how sheleft her footprint on society.Sexism is the prejudice ordiscrimination specifically placed on a sex.
What if someone told you that youcould not complete a curtain activity or do something simply because you were afemale? Throughout the history of the world there have always been people whoare seen above others. The 1900s U.S. was not any different from the rest ofthe world. Women, of all races, were “segregated” from men. They experiencedunequal pay and rights which led to the disrespect of their kind (women).
Foryears women came together to fight perspective put on them and fight the unjustbattle of sexism. Ursula K. Le Guin experienced this and fought with words forwomen of her time.
Even though, Le Guin never wanted to be a writer, she wrotefor her own entertainment and later wrote for others at a request. Later shenoticed conflicts in her society of great sexism and chose to use that as aconstant motif in her stories. She used the current societies to build herstories and portray them in a feminist outlook, connecting to her own life. LeGuin declares herself a feminist writer but not directing choosing a clear sidein her novels and discriminating.
Thought out her life and novels Le Guin hasbeen navigating feminism and gender roles. She states that she tries to haveequality in her stories and not be bias. She uses fantasy as a way to distractreader from their current situations and the dull world they live in.In Ursula’s first ever written novelshe uses the sexist society to reflect the characters and plot of Wizard of Earthsea, “Who knows a man’sname, holds that man’s life in his keeping.
Thus to Ged, who had lost faith inhimself, Vetch had given him that gift that only a friend can give, the proofof unshaken, unshakeable trust.” The main characters throughout this novel aremales. The main character was a male named Ged who had a great destiny tofulfill. The people along the way to help him were his best friend Vetch(male),wizard teachers (male), and a wise warlock named Ogion, who guided him to theWizard school. The only time a woman comes into play is to distract him andlead him into temptation.
While wandering through the woods Ged comes across agirl, who he tries to impress with his magic, “He thought she was mocking himwith this question, because the falcon had not fully obeyed his summon” (Le Guin 28). Women’s role in the societywere caretakers who looked out for their husbands and did chores “sidekicks inlife”. The only time a woman comes into play is to distract him, jibe, and lead him into temptation.Ursula’s audience wanted to beinspired and wanted her to change the world with her words, but first sheneeded to teach people that they needed to first accept themselves beforeothers can. In the novel Wizard ofEarthsea culture acceptance and self-acceptance is the ground the novel ispaved onto and the societal role of males. “The witch praised him and the children of the village beganto fear him, and he himself was sure that very soon he would become great amongmen.
” (Le Guin 21). The society acceptance was around the same of thetype in the 1900s, women had no rights or importance just men. Le Guin createdher novel like this to show people what it was like for them. The main conflictof Ged’s was self-acceptance, “Gedhad neither lost nor won but, naming the shadow of his death with his own name,had made himself whole: a man: who, knowing his whole true self, cannot be usedor possessed by any power other than himself, and whose life therefore is livedfor life’s sake and never in the service of ruin, or pain, or hatred, or thedark.” (Le Guin 256). Throughout the novel of The Wizard of Earthsea, a constant theme was self-acceptance. Gedhad never accepted the responsibility of using his power for righteous reasonsand this led him to stray and not believe in himself creating his worst enemy.Once Ged finally embraces the darkness as himself he is in control andvanquished the problem.
Ursula Le Guin uses this to tell her readers that noone can ever control you, force you, or influence you to do something if youfully know and accept yourself. Those who accept themselves are the mostpowerful and no one can delude themor tell them how to act. The lives of those who have control over themselvesare the true and have no suffering because they do as they will, not otherswill. Wizard of Earthsea was a groundbreaking novel of itstime and was strongly recognized for the societal impact it had. The novelreceived the Hugo and Nebula awards. This was Ursula’s first ever attempt atfantasy and science fiction. It was a typical fantasy about wizards and magicand dragons. “He turned theboat around, working her carefully round with spell and with makeshift oar lestshe knock up against the underwater rocks or be entangled in the outreachingroots and branches, till she faced outward again; and he was about to raise upa wind to take him back as he had come, when suddenly the words of the spellfroze on his lips, and his heart went cold within him.
He looked back over hisshoulder. The shadow stood behind him in the boat.” (Le Guin 70).
LeGuin had not chosen her feminist ideas quite yet when she wrote this, but sheclearly represents the boat as a female. Putting her thoughts into disguise onfeminism and how the boat represents a woman supporting Ged. In this novel sheuses all male main roles, (except one). Serret, the female who convinced Ged toshow her his power, is used to represent temptation and danger. Le Guin kind oftries to portray the current society in this story of gender roles andself-acceptance.An overarching theme in Le Guin’snovels was cultural acceptance and sexism. After the popular novels of Earthsea, Ursula switched her focus frommagic and fairy tales to aliens, as in TheLeft Hand of Darkness.
This alienplanet has an androgynous(genderless) population who changes sex with theseason and mates annually, they are ruled by a peaceful King. The genderlesstheme of the novel eliminated several conflicts among society. Le Guin stronglyinfluences this books society with her views on gender equality. She made asociety that was truly equal with its inhabitants and eliminated war. Thesociety is mostly peaceful. “Damn that cold blooded trader…let him starve inthe cesspits Mishnory hunting garbage let his bowels rot…” (Le Guin 33). Lawsand traitors were taken very seriously by King Argaven on his planet, Gethen.Once a season they choose a gender and mate.
After they go back to normal life,it’s not acceptable to defy the law and you’ll be several punished. Forexample, two brothers refused to give up their love for one another and werebanished. “Light is the left hand of darkness and darkness the right hand oflight. Two are one,life and death, lying togetherlike lovers in kemmer, like hands joined together, like the end and the way.
“(LeGuin). The brothers during mating season fall in love and refused to endthe relationship after the King and government told them too. The one killedhimself and suicide is extremely not ok and the other one was banished into thebarren ice.Gethen’s government was notaccepting, quite like many governments back in the 1900s and even today.
Peoplewere not allowed to love, they had to give up gender and focus on moreimportant societal ideas. The overlying plot of the story was getting theplanet to join the government system. A person was sent, Genly Ali, to get themto join the Ekumen, he was the only person with a gender and experienced the weirdplanet and its stubbornness not to join. King Argion does not want to joinbecause the Ekumen in an exchange of trade and technology and he fears change,which makes him hesitate joining. Le Guin made the planet of Gethen to be abeautiful barren iceland, that seemed perfect on the outside, but once you tooka closer look was not. She represents how the world we live in can seembeautiful, but once you take a closer look is ugly. “A profound love between two people involves, afterall, the power and chance of doing profound hurt.” (Le Guin 249).
Ursulagave us a novel about a seemly peaceful and equal society, what everyone aroundher was asking for. But the world she gave us was a planet, Gethen, made of iceand snow made to be beautiful. Was it actually beautiful? She is trying to givea society that people think they want with equality, but the people are withoutlove so how could they be happy? Le Guin shows us that we can really only haveone and not both and both is what leads us to greed and suffering. The Author ties religion andsuffering in her novels as well. In a critical interview with Ursula she tellsus her perspective on religion. She does not believe in basing an entire lifeon a false God and avoiding writing things that could offend curtain religiousgroups. It is strange because she made TheLeft Hand of Darkness have an strong religious outlook tying into the plot.Handdara and Yomeshta are the two religions of Gethen.
For some reason, shedecides to use religion in a strong political factor in this book. I think shewants the readers to show the effects that little things we think areinsignificant can actually be a huge deal. Contradicting to this religiousstandpoint in Left Hand of Darkness inher other novel The Wizard of Earthsea shegives the characters a mythical religion that represents her own religiousbeliefs and traditions.
As a child Ursula had little viewson religion, all see knew was books. Growing up in a family of writerinfluenced her perspective on the world. In an interview about her earlychildhood she tells us she would often read anything she could get her hands onand when that was not enough make up her own stories.
In her older age when shebegan serious writing a new idealism was found. Le Guin has no belief in a Godor greater being that people should revolve their lives around. She stronglybelieves that her writing should not have to follow a moral code or worry abouthow it affects ethics. Her writing in meant to be equal and solely forentertainment and inspiration. The idealism that she focused on was Taoism,which is a Chinesephilosophy based on the writings of Lao-tzu, advocating humility and religiouspiety. Le Guin believes in a certain type of religion regarding a sortof life force or power that peacefully flows through all people, not anall-powerful God to be worshipped. She avails this in her books to display fantasy worldsand all powerful forces in them like magic.
Fiction writing is seen for entertainment purposes only;however, Ursula Le Guin destroyed those expectations and boundaries when shewrote her beautiful empowering novels centered around fantasy. Theinspirational novels critique society and its expectations in an entertainingand unexpected way. Tom Shipley states “most important fiction since the war.”Le Guin’s writing shook the ground for science fiction of her time and thegenerations to come and is a mastermindof her time. She truly made masterpieces with her stories and showed the worldwhat a better place we could make it. Her influence through writing hasinspired feminist and all other groups around the world to stand up for whatthey believe in. All authors write for entertainment, informative, orpersuasive purposes. During the time of the book publications people(men) then wereangered of her gender movement, but now they are inspired by her will andbravery to put a risky idea into the world.
Although reporters love Le Guin andher stories written to the world many people are angered by them. Because shedoes claim to make society’s equal and not include bias towards matters, butclearly does with sexism and racism. Ursula K. Le Guin is a powerful writer whohas inspired several generationsof readers and changed genres for the good of the world. “Her imagined worldsparadoxically provide an escape from the everyday while also being meditationsupon the cultural and social limitations of 20th century life.” (Kizilos).
She has inspired people of allbackgrounds to accept themselves and be brave to put their ideas out into theworld because no one can tell you what you cannot be if you truly believe inyourself.