Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy The Dispossessed Analysis

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 368

Like most of Le Guin’s heroes, Shevek embodies the author’s imaginative quest to balance poles of paradox. In physics, his quest is to reconcile sequency, “the arrow of time,” and simultaneity, “the circle of time”—that is, becoming and being. His General Temporal Theory, a restatement of Odo’s dictum, “true voyage is return,” asserts that “you can go home again . . . so long as you understand that home is a place where you have never been.” A well-lived life comes full circle, linking past and future by fulfilling long-term promises, but also gets somewhere, effecting meaningful change.

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The novel’s structure embodies this gnomic principle. Odd-numbered chapters chronicle Shevek’s sojourn on the mother planet Urras; even-numbered chapters bring his life on Anarres from infancy to the moment he decides that he must go to Urras. The two narratives merge in chapter 13, which anticipates Shevek’s return home to an Anarres transformed by his rebellious journey—that is, to a place he has never been.

Le Guin has voiced the hope that science fiction can achieve the kind of idiosyncratic characterization championed by Virginia Woolf and widely considered integral to realistic fiction. The Dispossessed , however, reflects a different imaginative goal, indeed a passion, common to virtually all of Le Guin’s work: to imagine an ideal person—in this case, as the embodiment of a...

(The entire section contains 368 words.)

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