"A man wants his virility regarded, a woman wants her femininity appreciated, however indirect and subtle the indications of regard and appreciation. On Winter they will not exist. One is respected and judged only as a human being. It is an appalling experience."Like some readers, Genly Ai, the protagonist of this brilliantly written leisurely-paced cerebral sci-fi classic, for a while just cannot seem to move past the ambisexuality aspect. Ai is an ambassador to the planet Gethen to convince its leaders to join the interplanetary union Ekumen. The inhabitants of Gethen differ from other humanoid races in two aspects: (1) they have adapted well to tolerate the Ice Age climate of their world, and (2) they are ambisexual. For the majority of lunar cycle they are essentially neuter, and for several days they enter a sexual phase, kemmer, during which they attain either male or female characteristics and become capable of sex.
"What is a friend, in a world where any friend may be a lover at a new phase of the moon? Not I, locked in my virility: no friend to Therem Harth, or any other of his race. Neither man nor woman, neither and both, cyclic, lunar, metamorphosing under the hand's touch, changelings in the human cradle, they were no flesh of mine, no friends; no love between us."
[Sidenote: Remember the whole relatively recent conundrum about Canadian parents who decided to raise their child without telling the society the child's gender? They received death threats for that attempt, so ingrained is the gender division among us].Ai is not a bad guy. He is just lost, confused, and isolated - a human, in the other words. He is so out of his comfort zone he does not comprehend how to deal with the society that he views as passive, where there is less competitiveness, and where crying is perfectly fine. He finds it so hard to accept this world without the quientesential 'maleness' or 'femininity' - even though he struggles to define exactly what it is that separates men from women.
"A profound love between two people involves, after all, the power and chance of doing profound hurt."But it's really Therem Harth Estraven, who, in my opinion, is the true hero of this story. Estraven sees the promise that the union with Ekumen has for his world. In his attempts to help Ai, he becomes viewed as a traitor (view spoiler)[and ultimately sacrifices his life (hide spoiler)]. But it takes a long time and many trials and tribulations for Ai to recognize Estraven for what and who he is - just HUMAN, to move past the uncomfortable and the prejudice and discover simple human love.
"It is yin and yang. Light is the left hand of darkness... how did it go? Light, dark. Fear, courage. Cold, warmth. Female, male. It is yourself, Therem. Both and one. A shadow on snow."The language of this book was initially a stumbling block for me. It was dry and very cerebral, making it difficult at first to become immersed in the story. But that was the language of Genly Ai, the man who was not meant to be likeable at the very start. But then I got to the first interlude - short and very poetic legends of Gethen which help shed light on the nature of this world and help us see the events of this story in a different context and different light. The beauty that Le Guin's language reaches during these interludes is breathtaking. The segments of the story written in Estraven's voice are also very distinct, very urgent, simple, and filled with so much dignity and quiet resolve that it made my heart leap and weep at the same time.
"And I saw then again, and for good, what I had always been afraid to see, and had pretended not to see in him: that he was a woman as well as a man. Any need to explain the sources of that fear vanished with the fear; what I was left with was, at last, acceptance of him as he was."["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>
||24.0%||"The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next." 2 comments|
""They are the same," said Stokven, and laying his palm against Estraven's showed it was so: their hands were the same in length and form, finger by finger, matching like the two hands of one man laid palm to palm. IDENTICAL HAND TWINS!
||66.0%||"It is a terrible thing, this kindness that human beings do not lose. Terrible, because when we are finally naked in the dark and cold, it is all we have. We who are so rich, so full of strength, we end up with that small change. We have nothing else to give."|
"A profound love between two people involves, after all, the power and chance of doing profound hurt."" 1 comment
||65.0%||"Le Guin fans - and those who have not read this amazing book yet - I encourage you to pop in the discussion of TLHoD Miévillians group is currently holding here: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/group_..."|