The Left Hand of Darkness Characters

Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Genly Ai

Genly Ai (GEHN-lee AY-ee), an envoy to the planet Gethen from the Ekumen, a league of planets. Not yet thirty years old, dark-skinned, and somewhat taller and stronger than the native Gethenians, Ai is occasionally impatient, quick to despair and to rejoice, somewhat of an innocent, and not always aware of the motives of others. Ai’s mission is to prepare the way for Gethenians to join the Ekumen, offering opportunities for “communication, trade, treaty, and alliance, nothing else.” He begins his stay on Gethen in Karhide, a country loosely run by a monarch and his council. Betrayed, as he believes, by the prime minister, Therem Harth rem ir Estraven, he travels to Orgoreyn, a country tightly controlled by the Commensal, the thirty-three heads of its districts. There, he is truly betrayed and sent to a work camp, from which Estraven rescues him. The two cross the vast northern expanse of ice back to Karhide, a difficult journey during which they become friends.

Therem Harth rem ir Estraven

Therem Harth rem ir Estraven (THAYR-ehm hahrth rehm ihr ehs-TRAY-vehn), the “King’s Ear,” or prime minister of Karhide. Stocky and dark, with a layer of fat to protect against the constant cold of Gethen, he has black eyes and sleek hair. Estraven is an androgyne, neither man nor woman but both, as are all Gethenians. A cautious, authoritative, methodical, far-seeing person, Estraven is the first to believe Ai and perceive the importance of his mission. When Estraven falls from favor with the monarch (for suggesting that Karhide join the Ekumen) and is exiled, he travels to Orgoreyn and attempts to prepare the way for Ai there. Estraven’s preparation...

(The entire section is 745 words.)

The Left Hand of Darkness Characters

Two strong characters dominate the novel. One is the narrator and protagonist, Genly Ai, both the "I" involved and the "eye" observing. He...

(The entire section is 113 words.)

The Left Hand of Darkness Character Analysis

Genly Ai

Ai is the main character of the story, often called "Genry" by the Gethenians, who have trouble pronouncing the letter "l" in their language....

(The entire section is 444 words.)

Argavan XV

In the first chapter, Estraven, trying to imply that Orgoreyn might be a better place for Ai to look for acceptance, tells him, "the...

(The entire section is 253 words.)

Therem Harth rem ir Estraven

In the beginning of the book, Genly Ai is indebted to Estraven for having arranged an audience with the king, but he is also frustrated...

(The entire section is 348 words.)

Other Characters

LeGuin wrote The Left Hand of Darkness during the Sixties, a time when gender-bending, free-love scenes—like this one at a love-in in Los Angeles, California—were common. Published by Gale Cengage

Ashe
Estraven's Kemmering, or spiritual partner, for seven years, Ashe bore two sons with him. Ashe left...

(The entire section is 464 words.)