This way to Utopia
Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel, The Dispossessed, is complex to say the least. It’s really not a hard book to read. But, it manages to touch on so many aspects of the human experience at once that it’s hard to sum up what makes it so fascinating. Le Guin manages this through the fabulous main character, Shevek. He is everything from a hero to an outcast, to a brilliant physicist and a father. He is complex, but that makes him all the more real. Through Shevek, Le Guin explores a plethora of themes including the following: anarchism, politics, science, inspiration, love, responsibility, injustice, freedom and others.
The idea of anarchism and its ability to be a utopia really stuck out to me. Some may see this book as plea for anarchism, I am not certain that it is though. Le Guin is careful to portray the Anarrean society as being pacifist. They share everything and even make deliberate changes to their language to remove possessive forms. This was seen in their use of the word “copulate” instead of “had” or “fuck.” The reason was “It meant something two people did” (53). All is shared, whether it be one’s bed, one’s work details, or even one’s clothes. Their way of life is “to give, not to sell” (13). It is a seemingly utopic society, yet Le Guin, through the eyes of Shevik, reveals the many little conflicts that arise. The Anarrean brand of anarchism is seemingly broken by power struggles and human pettiness. These shortcomings are contrasted to what Shevik experiences in his travels on Urras. Which is not exactly depicted as a utopia either. The examples of downtrodden people on Urras make it less than ideal. So what is the ideal society? How can we achieve a utopia? I honestly am not sure but this book definitely has me thinking.
Photo Credit: Kristen Nicole
Le Guin, Ursula K. The Dispossessed. New York: First Perennial Classics, 2003. Print.