Monday, June 13, 2011

"The Left Hand of Darkness"

I am re-reading Ursula K. le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness again. I think this is my fourth time reading it, but I'm not sure. I've sort of lost track, I've read it so many times. :)

Now, before I go any further...

SPOILER ALERT!!!

And, you won't follow what I'm talking about unless you've already read this book.

Estraven is one of the most interesting characters I've ever read, and I think that chapter two is about him in some ways.

Chapter two is The Place Inside the Blizzard, and it is about brothers, Getheren and Hode, who vowed kemmering to each other. As I recall from prior readings of this book Estraven vowed kemmering with his own brother, Arek. Or if they didn't voice the vow, they still had an understanding and were very much in love.

Once Hode became pregnant and was ordered to separate from Getheren he took his own life, and Getheren was forced into exile because he was seen as the cause of Hode's suicide. And of course, on Winter suicide is shameful and "murder is a lighter shadow on a house than suicide" (23). Getheren curses his Hearth with his own name, and nameless walks away into the blizzard.

So, how does this relate to Estraven?

We do know that Arek died after bearing Estraven's child, but we don't know how. I think.

Note to self: take note of how Arek died, or of what is said or unsaid about his death.

Also, Estraven is in some sort of exile from his homeland. My understanding in previous readings has been that the exile was self imposed.

Note to self: take note during this reading of what is said on the subject.

Getheren finds himself inside the blizzard, which Estraven also does later in the book. Getheren has run there because of his exile, and Estraven goes there because he is helping Genly escape. Getheren finds his brother there, and in a way so does Estraven -- when Genly mind speaks to him it is with Arek's voice. It seems like I should be drawing more connections between the two here, but I'm not finding them...

Lastly, about the title of the book, and how it relates to this chapter.

Hode grasps Getheren's left hand, and Getheren "took no lasting harm except in his left hand, which was frozen and must be amputated" (26). The left hand. It seems that there is some significance there, but I'll leave exploration of that to another day. I know there are other hints throughout the book about the title, and I'll wait until I've gathered them together and can look at them as a whole.

Well, ok, I do have this to say about the title: in the past I decided that the left hand of darkness is light. So, the title might be translated to "Light". Maybe. :)

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