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Ursula K. Le Guin critiques
society’s expectations for men by creating characters that do not match the
typical gender standards during this time in the 1900s. “Le Guin’s steady industry has
produced an extraordinary body of work. She is one of the most accomplished
writers in the US and arguably the greatest living author of science fiction
and fantasy.” (Kizilos). Le Guin uses her own ideas and perspectives on
current “society ways” to make our world visualize a better place without
sexism, racism, etc. As an inspirational author she uses her own life
experiences and perspectives to create stories to fuel readers inspiration to
have the valiancy to make a change or just
enjoy an entertaining story on reality altering worlds and creatures.

Ursula K. Le Guin is the daughter of the distinguished
anthropologist A.L. Kroeber
and writer Theodora Kroeber. Le Guin was born in to a respected house of writers with
great expectations. Her parents influence/pressure on her to write is what lead
her into the business. She started mainly with short stories and poems for
herself and never pictured herself writing for the entertainment of others.

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Until, she was later asked to write a novel letting other escape from society
and enter a fantasy world of Earthsea. It took a while for her writing to be
recognized, but once it was became huge. Anthropology is the study of human
societies and their culture and development. Anthropology highly influenced her
writings of fantasy and fiction. She attended Columbia university where she
learned to explore these ideas. Later she wrote many novels on alien societies
that had secret ideas and themes that lead to a spark in the world and how she
left her footprint on society.

Sexism is the prejudice or
discrimination specifically placed on a sex. What if someone told you that you
could not complete a curtain activity or do something simply because you were a
female? Throughout the history of the world there have always been people who
are seen above others. The 1900s U.S. was not any different from the rest of
the world. Women, of all races, were “segregated” from men. They experienced
unequal pay and rights which led to the disrespect of their kind (women). For
years women came together to fight perspective put on them and fight the unjust
battle of sexism. Ursula K. Le Guin experienced this and fought with words for
women of her time. Even though, Le Guin never wanted to be a writer, she wrote
for her own entertainment and later wrote for others at a request. Later she
noticed conflicts in her society of great sexism and chose to use that as a
constant motif in her stories. She used the current societies to build her
stories and portray them in a feminist outlook, connecting to her own life. Le
Guin declares herself a feminist writer but not directing choosing a clear side
in her novels and discriminating. Thought out her life and novels Le Guin has
been navigating feminism and gender roles. She states that she tries to have
equality in her stories and not be bias. She uses fantasy as a way to distract
reader from their current situations and the dull world they live in.

In Ursula’s first ever written novel
she uses the sexist society to reflect the characters and plot of Wizard of Earthsea, “Who knows a man’s
name, holds that man’s life in his keeping. Thus to Ged, who had lost faith in
himself, Vetch had given him that gift that only a friend can give, the proof
of unshaken, unshakeable trust.” The main characters throughout this novel are
males. The main character was a male named Ged who had a great destiny to
fulfill. The people along the way to help him were his best friend Vetch(male),
wizard teachers (male), and a wise warlock named Ogion, who guided him to the
Wizard school. The only time a woman comes into play is to distract him and
lead him into temptation. While wandering through the woods Ged comes across a
girl, who he tries to impress with his magic, “He thought she was mocking him
with this question, because the falcon had not fully obeyed his summon”  (Le Guin 28). Women’s role in the society
were caretakers who looked out for their husbands and did chores “sidekicks in
life”. The only time a woman comes into play is to distract him, jibe,  and lead him into temptation.

Ursula’s audience wanted to be
inspired and wanted her to change the world with her words, but first she
needed to teach people that they needed to first accept themselves before
others can. In the novel Wizard of
Earthsea culture acceptance and self-acceptance is the ground the novel is
paved onto and the societal role of males. “The witch praised him and the children of the village began
to fear him, and he himself was sure that very soon he would become great among
men.” (Le Guin 21). The society acceptance was around the same of the
type in the 1900s, women had no rights or importance just men. Le Guin created
her novel like this to show people what it was like for them. The main conflict
of Ged’s was self-acceptance, “Ged
had neither lost nor won but, naming the shadow of his death with his own name,
had made himself whole: a man: who, knowing his whole true self, cannot be used
or possessed by any power other than himself, and whose life therefore is lived
for life’s sake and never in the service of ruin, or pain, or hatred, or the
dark.” (Le Guin 256). Throughout the novel of The Wizard of Earthsea, a constant theme was self-acceptance. Ged
had never accepted the responsibility of using his power for righteous reasons
and this led him to stray and not believe in himself creating his worst enemy.

Once Ged finally embraces the darkness as himself he is in control and
vanquished the problem. Ursula Le Guin uses this to tell her readers that no
one can ever control you, force you, or influence you to do something if you
fully know and accept yourself. Those who accept themselves are the most
powerful and no one can delude them
or tell them how to act. The lives of those who have control over themselves
are the true and have no suffering because they do as they will, not others
will.

Wizard of Earthsea was a groundbreaking novel of its
time and was strongly recognized for the societal impact it had. The novel
received the Hugo and Nebula awards. This was Ursula’s first ever attempt at
fantasy and science fiction. It was a typical fantasy about wizards and magic
and dragons. “He turned the
boat around, working her carefully round with spell and with makeshift oar lest
she knock up against the underwater rocks or be entangled in the outreaching
roots and branches, till she faced outward again; and he was about to raise up
a wind to take him back as he had come, when suddenly the words of the spell
froze on his lips, and his heart went cold within him. He looked back over his
shoulder. The shadow stood behind him in the boat.” (Le Guin 70). Le
Guin had not chosen her feminist ideas quite yet when she wrote this, but she
clearly represents the boat as a female. Putting her thoughts into disguise on
feminism and how the boat represents a woman supporting Ged. In this novel she
uses all male main roles, (except one). Serret, the female who convinced Ged to
show her his power, is used to represent temptation and danger. Le Guin kind of
tries to portray the current society in this story of gender roles and
self-acceptance.

An overarching theme in Le Guin’s
novels was cultural acceptance and sexism. After the popular novels of Earthsea, Ursula switched her focus from
magic and fairy tales to aliens, as in The
Left Hand of Darkness.  This alien
planet has an androgynous(genderless) population who changes sex with the
season and mates annually, they are ruled by a peaceful King. The genderless
theme of the novel eliminated several conflicts among society. Le Guin strongly
influences this books society with her views on gender equality. She made a
society that was truly equal with its inhabitants and eliminated war. The
society is mostly peaceful. “Damn that cold blooded trader…let him starve in
the cesspits Mishnory hunting garbage let his bowels rot…” (Le Guin 33). Laws
and traitors were taken very seriously by King Argaven on his planet, Gethen.

Once a season they choose a gender and mate. After they go back to normal life,
it’s not acceptable to defy the law and you’ll be several punished. For
example, two brothers refused to give up their love for one another and were
banished.  “Light is the left hand of darkness and darkness the right hand of
light. Two are one,
life and death, lying together
like lovers in kemmer, like hands joined together, like the end and the way.”(Le
Guin). The brothers during mating season fall in love and refused to end
the relationship after the King and government told them too. The one killed
himself and suicide is extremely not ok and the other one was banished into the
barren ice.

Gethen’s government was not
accepting, quite like many governments back in the 1900s and even today. People
were not allowed to love, they had to give up gender and focus on more
important societal ideas. The overlying plot of the story was getting the
planet to join the government system. A person was sent, Genly Ali, to get them
to join the Ekumen, he was the only person with a gender and experienced the weird
planet and its stubbornness not to join. King Argion does not want to join
because the Ekumen in an exchange of trade and technology and he fears change,
which makes him hesitate joining. Le Guin made the planet of Gethen to be a
beautiful barren iceland, that seemed perfect on the outside, but once you took
a closer look was not. She represents how the world we live in can seem
beautiful, but once you take a closer look is ugly. “A profound love between two people involves, after
all, the power and chance of doing profound hurt.” (Le Guin 249). Ursula
gave us a novel about a seemly peaceful and equal society, what everyone around
her was asking for. But the world she gave us was a planet, Gethen, made of ice
and snow made to be beautiful. Was it actually beautiful? She is trying to give
a society that people think they want with equality, but the people are without
love so how could they be happy? Le Guin shows us that we can really only have
one and not both and both is what leads us to greed and suffering.

            The Author ties religion and
suffering in her novels as well. In a critical interview with Ursula she tells
us her perspective on religion. She does not believe in basing an entire life
on a false God and avoiding writing things that could offend curtain religious
groups. It is strange because she made The
Left Hand of Darkness have an strong religious outlook tying into the plot.

Handdara and Yomeshta are the two religions of Gethen. For some reason, she
decides to use religion in a strong political factor in this book. I think she
wants the readers to show the effects that little things we think are
insignificant can actually be a huge deal. Contradicting to this religious
standpoint in Left Hand of Darkness in
her other novel The Wizard of Earthsea she
gives the characters a mythical religion that represents her own religious
beliefs and traditions.

As a child Ursula had little views
on religion, all see knew was books. Growing up in a family of writer
influenced her perspective on the world. In an interview about her early
childhood she tells us she would often read anything she could get her hands on
and when that was not enough make up her own stories. In her older age when she
began serious writing a new idealism was found. Le Guin has no belief in a God
or greater being that people should revolve their lives around. She strongly
believes that her writing should not have to follow a moral code or worry about
how it affects ethics. Her writing in meant to be equal and solely for
entertainment and inspiration. The idealism that she focused on was Taoism,
which is a Chinese
philosophy based on the writings of Lao-tzu, advocating humility and religious
piety. Le Guin believes in a certain type of religion regarding a sort
of life force or power that peacefully flows through all people, not an
all-powerful God to be worshipped. She avails this in her books to display fantasy worlds
and all powerful forces in them like magic.

Fiction writing is seen for entertainment purposes only;
however, Ursula Le Guin destroyed those expectations and boundaries when she
wrote her beautiful empowering novels centered around fantasy. The
inspirational novels critique society and its expectations in an entertaining
and unexpected way. Tom Shipley states “most important fiction since the war.”
Le Guin’s writing shook the ground for science fiction of her time and the
generations to come and is a mastermind
of her time. She truly made masterpieces with her stories and showed the world
what a better place we could make it. Her influence through writing has
inspired feminist and all other groups around the world to stand up for what
they believe in. All authors write for entertainment, informative, or
persuasive purposes. During the time of the book publications people(men) then were
angered of her gender movement, but now they are inspired by her will and
bravery to put a risky idea into the world. Although reporters love Le Guin and
her stories written to the world many people are angered by them. Because she
does claim to make society’s equal and not include bias towards matters, but
clearly does with sexism and racism. Ursula K. Le Guin is a powerful writer who
has inspired several generations
of readers and changed genres for the good of the world. “Her imagined worlds
paradoxically provide an escape from the everyday while also being meditations
upon the cultural and social limitations of 20th century life.” (Kizilos). She has inspired people of all
backgrounds to accept themselves and be brave to put their ideas out into the
world because no one can tell you what you cannot be if you truly believe in
yourself.

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