Sunday, July 24, 2011

Shifgrethor -- Pulling things together_1

Yet another post about Ursula K. le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness. And as ever, I don't recommend continuing to read this post unless you've read the book.

SPOILERS

I'm pulling together what I know of shifgrethor here, by compiling what I've got in these two posts.

Things that I think are rock solid:

In practice:
*Do not give advice unless shifgrethor has been waived (48, 151)
*To give advice without shifgrethor being waived is to insult and offend the other person (151)
*Can be competitive (33)
*Shifgrethor can be discarded when it is convenient to do so (84, 86, 155, 218)
***Each time I see shifgrethor waived it is to ask for advice
*A person loses prestige if caught lying (257-8)
*Questions are asked indirectly and discreetly (273)
*High shifgrethor can be recognized by the king by giving a person a certain place to live (289)
*When a person makes a grand claim that is proven wrong their shifgrethor is hurt (150)


What shifgrethor is:
*Prestige (33, 156, 160)
*Pride (102)
*Honor (I'm reading between the lines)

What shifgrethor is not:

Other:
* Can be played on the level of ethics (106)
*Shifgrethor seems to be deeply ingrained (259)
*The word "shifgrethor" comes from an old word for "shadow" (247)
*Shifgrethor can sometimes be set aside when more than one person's pride or prestige (or that of their country) is at stake (198)

Things that I'm pretty sure of:

In practice:
*Whoever leads the way to success has higher shifgrethor (143)
*Showing signs of mistrust (in certain circumstances) can offend the other person's shifgrethor (296)
*Vengeance, when appropriate or deemed necessary (152-3)
*There's no point in playing shifgrethor with "scum" (156)

What shifgrethor is:
*A certain separation between people (152-3)

What shifgrethor is not:
*Uncontrollable emotions (102)
*Fear (102)
*Anger (102)
*Self-praise (102)
*Hate (102)
*Timid (105)


Things that I'm iffy about:

In practice:
*Evasive (33)
*Challenging (33)
*Rhetorical subtleties (33)
*Conversational duel (33-4)
*Barrier to communication (33-4)
*Flattery might be a no-no (38)

What shifgrethor is:
*Social authority (14)

What I need to study to understand shifgrethor better:

*Why is it a no-no to give advice?
*The why behind "In trying to flatter and interest him I had cornered him in a prestige-trap" (38).
*Shadow
*Figure out which and what it is in "He fussed over my condescension in deigning to learn anything about his country. Manners here were certainly different from manners in Karhide; there, the fuss he was making would either have degraded his own shifgrethor or insulted min; I wasn't sure which, but it would have done one or the other -- practically everything did" (119).
*Figure out the why behind "Mersen's a spy for Tibe, and of course he thinks nobody knows it but everybody does, and he can't stand the sight of Harth -- think he's either a traitor or a double agent and doesn't know which, and can't risk shifgrethor in finding out" (145-6).
*Examine Therem's explanations on pages 257-8

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