[The Left Hand of Darkness]: Gender and Voices

“Though I had been nearly two years on Winter I was still far from being able to see the people of the planet through their own eyes.  I tried to, but my efforts took the form of self-consciously seeing a Gethenian first as a male, then as a woman, forcing him into those categories so irrelevant to his nature and so essential to my own” (Le Guin 12).

I think that one of the most essential aspects to Ursula Le Guin’s writing in The Left Hand of Darkness, is how despite it following multiple narrations, a benefit towards impartiality, it simultaneously expresses implicit cultural biases which turn Ai among others from being objective into subjective perspectives.  In this instance, the use of gendered nouns, like “male” and “female” play to the latent human biases that we as a society have, placing great emphasis on gender as a tool determinant to how we see others.  Now, this ambiguity from the norm for the reader, places someone reading the text (as a human) in the same confusion Ai feels, and makes the reader feel as though they are unraveling the same questions and learning along with Ai.  Further, the fact that Genly admits to even having problems differentiating after “two years,” further ingrains the dichotomy of gender in our minds as the reader, and makes us wonder about what how Gethenians function without something that society has dictated to being so important and how the solution they have must be so complicated and different from the norms to which the reader and Ai are used.

Le Guin,  Ursula K. The Left Hand of Darkness. New York: Ace Books, 1976. Print.

Leave a Reply