The Word for World Is Forest

by Ursula K. Le Guin

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 317

The Word for World is Forest, written by Ursula K. LeGuin, is a science-fiction novella. It takes place on a fictional planet called Athshe.

There are three main characters in this novella: Don Davidson, Selver, and Raj Lyubov.

This story is told from the point of view of Captain Don Davidson. Davidson is the commander of the Smith Camp, a logging camp in which many people from Athshe are used as slaves. Davidson wishes to engage in sexual activity with women from a different town, Centralville, because the colony is mainly women. Davidson's sexual activity poses issues for him throughout the novella. Before the storyline begins, Davidson rapes Selver's wife. Later, this prompts Selver to attack Davidson. Davidson also has many racist feelings about Raj Lyubov, who is from South Asia. Unlike the other main characters, Davidson is a racist and a womanizer who dislikes when others disagree with his opinion.

Selver, an Athshean, is also known as Sam. Selver is enslaved by the Terrans, colonists from Earth. Selver begins working as a translator for Lyubov. After his wife is raped by Davidson and dies in the process, Selver attacks Davidson. Overall, Selver is very sensitive and intuitive, unlike Davidson. While Selver tells the story of his life to others, they begin to see him as a "god-like" person. He believes that the Terrans should be forced off of Athshe.

Raj Lyubov is the last of the main characters. Lyubov is an anthropologist who wishes to document the languages of the Terrans and the Athsheans. After Selver attacks Davidson and is badly injured, Lyubov nurses him back to health. Lyubov, unlike Davidson, is very self-aware and is not a racist. He often thinks about his own words and actions and analyzes how he treats the people of Athshe. Unfortunately, during an attack on the colony, Lyubov goes outside and is killed when a building falls on him.

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