Craig White's
Literature Courses


Ursula K. Le Guin

(21 October 1929 22 January 2018)

The Dispossessed:
An Ambiguous Utopia


Other Le Guin texts with utopian / dystopian themes

The Word for World Is Forest (1972, 1976)

"The Ones who walk away from Omelas" (1973)

Always Coming Home (1985)

Le Guin bibliography on Wikipedia


Terms (or names).

Ainsetain: Einstein

ammar = brother; ammari = brothers (Pravic language)

ansible (276) 344 "a device that will permit communication without any time interval between two points in space." . . . cf. telephone.

apocopation < apocope: omission of the last letter or sound of a word

archist (not in Oxford English Dictionary): opposite of anarchist: one who admits of no ruling power; an advocate or promoter of anarchy

anarchy: 1.a. Absense of government; a state of lawlessness due to the absence or inefficiency of the supreme power; political disorder.

compare archical (adj.) Of the nature of rule; governmental

chronon (248): A fundamental or indivisible interval of time; spec. a hypothetical quantum of time, postulated in various physical and philosophical theories

Divlab = Division of Labor

kleggich = physical labor (184)

levy (246) OED 1.b. The action of enrolling or collecting men for war or other purposes [e.g. labor draft on Anarres]

Nuchnibi: Anaressti who keep moving

portative: musical instrument (174)

Pravic (96) 339 "the only rationally invented language that has become the tongue of a great people"

syndic = unionized worker (from syndicate, syndicalism)

Terrans + people from Earth

transilience: OED A leaping from one thing to another, an abrupt transition: spec. in Min. abrupt transition of one mineral or rock into another.

343 Transilience: "instantaneious transferral of matter across space. Space travel . . . without traversal of space of lapse of time."


Notes for course:

weakness of course: 1. no pc-based utopias; Whole Earth Catalog? 2. no domestic middle-class suburban utopia?

re #1: outside view of computers; cf. change of railroads telescoping time and space

humans as social creatures

utopia as mimesis of whole world, society


one essential feature as key to all mysteries?

irony; UKLG proverbs, aphoristic style

report / discussion on TV Handmaid's Tale

absence of personal computers indicates profundity of change

opening class: 2 strains of Western Civilization > Genesis-Revelation & Republic



Le Guin style


380 Anarres timelessly circling, creating time [crasis, paradox?]








Ch. 1

1 a wall, boundry, two faced [paradox]

no gardens, children

2 quarantine

only boundary wall in their world

woman, foreman: "brothers"

3 real crowd, 100 or more


metal phallic object

4 members of community, not elements of collectivity

no firearms > knives

5 The Minful



6 foreign language: Iotic

7 Dr. Shevek > Shevek

the one law held

8 first Urrasti

Takver and children, Peace and Plenty

unbuild walls

9 given up birthright of decision

He was time: river, arrow, storm

10 non-automatic water valve

locked door > rage, violence

11 lock in, lock out, same thing [paradox]


12 burn paper?

same grandmother, 200 years ago

13 costs less to burn than clean

I cannot buy

14 Odo: other as pseudo-species

religious bigot, Epiphanist recites Primes

15 relationships the other could not see

15 Urras: no religion outside churches, no morality outside laws

15 Pravic: religion = "freedom"

Categories, Modes

16 lavish, stylish, inventive

no women on ship, not woman's work

17 Anarres: person chooses work according to interest, talent, strength. What does sex have to do with it?

men stronger, but machines?

feminine delicacy, masculine self-respect

highly intelligent women, think just like a man

18 superiority, inferiority essential to Urrasti live

Odo's time: marriage or prostitution; sanctions or copulation in economic mode

softness of the bed, erotic

19 a woman in every table top [sexualization of commodities]

ammar, brother

20 cool damp many-scented mild

First Man from the Moon

21 grief and recognition [pity and terror?] [catharsis]

towers, glass, electric light, no faces

Nio Esseia


22 donkey face, no large animals

23 Nation A-Io

the Twin Planets

long titles and honorifics

a room, "his"

25 You have your anarchist


Ch. 2

26 11 babies in room, communal nursery


27 Rulag

27 Mine sun! Not yours . . . to use, share

27-8 can't have things. What's wrong with you

29-30 intellectual form or figure, cf. Plotinus, Platonic idea

31 decads 

32 book green, Circle of Life

32 adolescent couple, room

33 primal number = unity and plurality

33 dream, line, wall, stone

cornerstone, voice of dear familiarity [sf] [lit of ideas]

34 "prisons" Life of Odo

35 Orderered them? What if?

lure of perversity

girls eliminated


37 Tirin's satirical, play acting

38 profiteer

role was playing them [paradox, inversion]

39 lie, secret power

altruistic > respect myself

41 earth = moon

42 propertied class [want more]


how would we know it

43 fear of infection . . . analogy

only know what we're told

44 Hate not functional

Go to Urras?

45 We are Anarres

false option of obedience to law

46 the improbability of the real

46 afforestation--geologic era--Causative Reversibility (Auroville)

danger of utopian details, but preview of labor

47 scripture? < Odo? < miner song

tadde, mamme

48 immoral to do work you didn't enjoy [> News from Nowhere]

49 proud of work done together


50 life partnership x Odonian ethic

50 Having's wrong, sharing's right [aphorism, inversion]



Shevet: profiteer

51 meither offended nor attracted by simple violence

accepted the gift

sexual experience freely with boys and girls


52 women x-Odonian, want to own you

52 man wants freedom, woman wants property

copulate: something two people did

54 women + babies = propertarians

54 exploration / journey (+ return)

55 General Temporal Theory

55 Can go home again, place never been

56 Mitis,s he

57 light from the window [cf. childhood scene]

58 false egalitarianism

59-60 spatial representation of time as rhythm

60 suffering is misunderstanding

A society can only relieve social suffering . . . the rest remains, the root, the reality

61 the self that suffers

reality: love, solidarity, Pain never misses

62 brotherhood begins in shared pain [aphorism

Chapter 3

64 plumbing!

66-7 servant

70 Terra, Einstein

72 realm of inequity, equals

idea, nature of

73 where are women?

76 no government on Anarres

77 pile of newspapers (no e-media)

79 Cetians < Terrans (Cetus?): Cetus = constellation Cetus, named for Greek sea monster; source of "cetacean": of or having to do with whales

80 telefax

the wall [conversational]

81 manners as morals

82 ecological control x excesses of Ninth Millennium

82 initiative to work: external (profit) x internal

85 computers

86 transilience; faster than light

89 Paradise for those who make Paradise

84 Odo's grant: To be whole is to be part; / true voyage is return [aphorism]


Chapter 4 [back on Anarres > Abbenay via dirigible]

91 great walled field, the Port

92 Anarres = mining colony (cf. 1st and 3rd World trade; neo-Colonialism)

93 Defense work, lure of romance: loneliness . . . danger . . . spaceships

93 Ang Hos, Garden of Mind, Eden of Anarres < astro-priests

94 Ninth Millennium, self-plundring

94 Thu colony

95 Odo's plans based on generous grounds of Urras

x-pre-urban, pre-industrial

anarchism product of high civilization

95 ideal of complex organicism

96 computers

Pravic, new language

97 parabolic mirrors, solar heat for refineries

wind turbines

cellular texture

98 "Excess is excrement."

99 children around + learning center

101 The Social Organism

102 closed door of his own room

104 chronotopology; simultaneity principles > profiteering crap

physics, not religion

105 knowledge x share

106-7 "tenth day" rotational labor + 107 janitorial (decad)

108 Frequency, Cycle

108 Gvarab

109 equality x dominate

110 solitude = disgrace

110-11 solitaries & hermits

111 single room right kind of place for his kiind of work

111 organic-socieital conscience

112 responsibility justifies privilege

112 unified theory of Time

114 Reversibility

117 bargained like profiteers,x-battle, > sale

unadmitted profit contract

120 Rulag!

121 metacosmology

121 working 8 hours a day!

123 first year, individual contact

123 he was parental, as I am not. The work comes first.

123 proud of you . . . Unreasonable Propertarian

124 biologically mother and son > brother and sister [hierarchy > egalitarian]

125 incoherence of time

dark at the foot of the wall



126 open class, anarchist young

127 libertarian

freedom from want, but free trade?

128 grades = competitive distinctions


129 not free fromanything, only free to do anything [cf Aunt Lydia in Handmaid's Tale: freedom from, not freedom to

no wives, no families. No women at all

130-1 greed, laziness, envy assumed to move all man's acts

131 Urrasti clothes and shoes

132 no relation but possession

133 resemblance to Rulag

135 capitalist economy, plutocratic-oligarchic state

social cooperation, mutual aid > survive (Anarres)

138 Chifoilisk: scientific disinterest, brotherly love x profit economy

139 Odo, Social Organism: "To make a thief, make an owner; to create crime, create laws."

142 mankind overinclusive

Hainish interstellar colonists

143 Atro: law of existence is struggle, best survive


144 the means are the ends to us Odonians

144 pain brings men together

145 private houses?

Oiie's house, characteristic Ioti double arches

conspicuous expense > 146 grace through restraint

146 Principle of Superiority

147 chivalry

147 a very small range of freedom

148 typo

149 dirty work? > community management or block committee

150 work for the work's sake--done together > lasting pleasure of life [work as pleasure]


Chapter 6

154 decad = ten-day week

154 Desar

155 rigid Odonianism: UKLG simultaneously represents, criticizes

156 music done, not listened to

arts = crafts = basic techniques of life [Morris]

157 drama = "the Art"

158 born to be alone

161 the wall

163 Bedap as the Promised Man, true and native Odonian

164 You've come up against the wall.

four decads = 40 days

165 public opinion = power structure

166 archistic bureaucracy

167 Anarres too poor to support civilization

cooperation becomes obedience

169 Tirin, asylum, public reprimand (cf. 176)

172 Bedap and Shevek bed

174 typo?

174 Salas, composer, instrument: the portative

175 dysfunctional music

175-6 cicle comes back to profiteering utilitarianism

176 Crticism Session (cf. 169)

176 typo

177 Takver

178 moonthorn

180 Takver: I need the bond

182 new clothes > partnership

183 Occupations of Uninhabited Space

they became expeerts in each other

184 Divlab computers

184 kleggich = physical labor

185 three oceans, isolated, full of life, insular evolution

exuberance as essential quality of life

186 lithopophagous bacteria

marine biology a real web

187 work week, decad: 5-7 hours daily, 2-4 days off

188 Odo's husband Asieo


Chapter 7

Sister World

193 let a wall be built around her


apocopation < apocope: omission of the last letter or sound of a word

Nioti (working people?)

197 Pravic names from computer

201 radio > 202 ads for sale

202 telefax

204 property as bargaining power

General Temporal Theory

211 a humorous and sympathetic complicity (candy clerk)

212-13 a body profiteer . . . the woman in the table

216 you're funny, too

219 hurt another, hurt myself

220 law of human evolution, strongest = social, ethical

222 eternal return

223 arrow, circle of time

225 chronosophy

226 neither pure sequency or pure unity

Our model fo the cosmos must be as inexhaustible as the cosmos

229 the wall, the wall

229 "You are too much." [70s talk]

231 the Chief . . . the Forerunner, before the Millennium

232 peasant from Utopia?


Chapter 8

233 Abbenay, Park (cf. Urras no parks, land too valuable)

Insurrection Day

The Settler

234 "bet you"--Iotic verb; damn x-Pravic > Iotic (cf. Hebrew?)

235 single language

236 drought

Great Drought, desalinization plants

20 million on Anarres; holum: leaf, seed, fiber, root (cf bison?)

237 Takver pregnant

238 egoistic divagation

239 no hierarchy: solidarity with syndic x alone

240 propaganda value

241 complete manuscript handwritten

242 [labor scene]

244 Odonian partnership

freedom to change made promise meaningful

245 Odo's femininity, refusal of real sexual freedom

molestation rare, complete fulfillment the norm

246 levies separate partners

years 163-4 drought

247 hardship > labor > solidarity

mutual trust allays depression, anxiety; "We'll see each other through."

249 Bedap aphorism

251 Abbenay "blocks"--cf. More's Utopia neighborhoods

telephone calls, letters unsealed--public and private economies the same

252-3 letters [epostolary novel]

254 Separate narrator: "Shevek never got this letter"

255 town refuses to share food with train

256 easy to share when enough

"their" walls and property

258 up against the wall

He could go no further , yet he must move

262 veerbal or moral stammer

drought > priorities?

265 gear physics to practicality

267 an atlas

268 human / computer network of files in Divlab

269 work / play no difference in Pravic


Chapter 9

273 locked in jail, how act as a free man

276 ansible

278 Terrans intellectual, imperialists, jealous, wall builders


279 "Number the Indisputable"

unifying field theory > quantum theory brings high technological yields

280 . . . was not of which all the elements were, provably true

a simple tautology?

improvability of hypothesis of real co-existence

unity of sequency and simultaneity

the wall was down

281 the moment was gone . . . he was in its keeping

no more walls

285 Efor: "the owners"

285 Nobody goes hungry while another eats.

287 Atro: Odonianism womanish

microphone, spy eye

289 Tuio Maedda

295 Tonight's tonight

295 Odonians? Partly syndicalists, libertarians . . . Thuvianists, Socialist Workers Union, anti-centralist

295 Not just b/c of your idea, but you are anidea

anarchism made flesh

297 write what you like--we'll get it printed

298 green Circle of Life (Anarres no flag)

The Hymn of the Insurrection

300 Our suffering, not love, brings us together [aphorism]

All you have is what you are, and what you give

300-01 sharers, not owners

helicopters, machine guns [assault weapons]

303 all doors locked. Property was private.

303 a Socialist worker

305 sergeants give privates orders, coercive mechanism


Chapter 10

308 Southwest Anarres x-water; rockmoss

311 aphorism

the famine years in the Dust

312 people x numbers

313 carog dirigible

319 learning-center, dormitory

319 spoil Sadik, being propertarian

320 uneasy splendor

321 ammari

compassion, the charity of equals

323 drought broke winter 167

324 connection between aesthetic and acquisitive

325 "Oh, beauty!"

Occupation of Uninhabited Space

327 Tirin's play (utopian art)

329 every crisis > increment of bureaucratic machinery

the way it was, is, has to be done

330 nuchnibi? lies, fortunetelling

social conscience dominates individual conscience

created crime of propertarians

331 built walls around ourselves . . . laws / walls [pun]

pregnant women no ethics--biological, not social

> 332 women as property

332 flexility and precision of Pravic > unforeseen metaphors

I learn slowly, but I learn.

332 printing syndicate

Those who build walls are their own prisoners . . . unbuild walls

333, 311 Getting time on your side, working with it, not against it

333 cellular function

individual: poweer of moral choice, change  = essential life function

permanent revolution

334 work engages with others, x-isolated

process was all, x-stopping anywhere, therefore substance and duration

evade suffering = evade sense of joy


Chapter 11 [extended dialogue]

336 Urrasti Council of World Governments in Rodarreal, old capital, one hour from Nio Esseia

337 Terran Embassy, 1400 years

338 Terran, alien, black face, "Mai-god"

Terran woman > ambassador, Keng (339)

339 Pravic: "the only rationally invented language that has become the tongue of a great people"

Keng 60, not 30

340 "eleven light years from my Earth"

341 (sf) a transmitter, relay through Hainish ship

Hain and Terra

342 Anarres "an experiment in nonauthoritarian communism"

343 threaten . . . with the annihilation of space

343 Transilience: "instantaneious transferral of matter across space. Space travel . . . without traversal of space of lapse of time."

344 Ansible: Men cannot leap the great gaps, but ideas can

344 "a device that will permit communication without any time interval between two points in space." . . . cf. telephone.

simultaneity is identity

the Nine Known Worlds

"And what will you say?"

345 Anarres "cut ourselves off" [utopia as separation, isolation]

alternatives to selling? . . . the gift?

private profit > common good

346 x-behind a wall 

346 nothing on Urras that we need

347 Hell is Urras.

Keng: as close as any to Paradise

full of evils, full of good > alive . . . with hope

Earth (Terra) a ruin . . . did not adapt

348 You Odonians chose a desert; we Terrans made a desert

9 billion > 1/2 billion

plastics don't adapt

we failed as a social species

charity of the Hainish . . . altruits . . . moved by a guilt

total centralizaation, control, rationing, birth control, euthanasia, universal conscription into labor force

349 forfeited our chance for Anarres centuries ago

"You don't understand what time is."

Urras not real, not stable or solid. Things change, change

cannot have present unless accept with past and future . . . only their reality makes the present real.

we are the key


Chapter 12

352 Syndicate of Initiative

PDC: no parliamenary procedure

352 Benbili Odonian Society

353 Rulag

354 uncontrollable chain of events

359 free individual responsible for own acts > society lives, changes, adapts, survives

revolution our obligation, hope of evolution

364 basic societal bond: fear of the stranger

366 print . . . the walls are down

367 the walls behind the walls

commons coordinated city-wide by a computer

374 individual love > risk of pain

374 Here I'm walled in.

379 We'll make a new community, an Anarres beyond Anarres


Chapter 13

380 Anarres timelessly circling, creating time [crasis, paradox?]

381 near-lightspeed ship (Davenant)

381 balance between opulence of Arras, austerity of Anarres < grace of long practice

a meditative people, the Hainish . . . little spontaneity

384 building more walls

walk through the wall with me

335 civilized for a thousand millennia

sunlights differ; only one darkness [aphorism]

386 walk through this wall with me?