Monday, September 5, 2011

Named vs. nameless

Again, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. This time though I'm examining references to having names vs. being nameless.

I decided to do this because I thought it would be interesting to look at this subject. However, I don't seem to have found any answers in the process (not that I really had any questions, which may have been a mistake), and I have come up with a bunch of questions. Mission accomplished?


"That name I lay on this Hearth as a curse, and with it my shame. Keep that for me. Now nameless I will go seek my death" (24).

Chapter 2, "The Place Inside the Blizzard.

Getheren (sounds a lot like Gethen...) curses his people with his name.

"And now you cannot say my name.

This was true. Hode moved his white lips, but could not say his brother's name" (25).

CH2 still.

I guess this means that Getheren well and truly discarded his name? No, because people talked about him and say his name later.

"He himself denied that his name was Getheren" (26).


"I am Getheren of Shath, [. . .] Tell them at Shath that I take back my name and my shadow" (26).

Shortly thereafter he dies. And Shath begins to prosper again.

Why? Why was his name a curse? And why did taking it back kill him?

"[...] my name is Genly, but Karhiders can't say l [...]" (30).

So they call him Genry Ai. (Which I find amusing since I have trouble saying r.) I'm not sure what to make of this -- Genly doesn't really have his name when he is in Karhide. But does have it in Orgoreyn.

" ' Genry,' I said, abandoning my 'l' " (57).

Why does it choose to abandon it here?

"I stumbled out behind the rest and was mechanically following them when I heard my name. I had not recognized it; for one thing the Orgota could say l. [. . . .] I was set apart from those nameless ones with whom I had fled down a dark road and whose lack of identity I had shared all night in a dark room. I was named, known, recognized; I existed. It was an intense relief" (112).

So he finally gets it back in Orgoreyn...might this have something to do with lightness and shadows? That things are so bright in Orgoreyn that he finally gets his name back, and that because things are dark in Karhide they can't say his name properly there?

"[...] and he called me by my given name. I did not cut his tongue out, because since I left Estre I don't carry a knife" (156).

So apparently the use of a person's given name is highly improper unless you're very close.

"I never learned the name of any of them in the truck" (170-1).

I guess a person's identity ceased to be relevant in there?

"To wear a false name galls me, but nothing else would save me, or get me clear across the width of Orgoreyn to the coast of the Western Sea" (185).

Therem doesn't like using a false name. Why not?

Page 212

I don't feel like typing it out. This is where Genly and Therem aren't sure what to call each other, and Therem explains that friends or hearth brothers use first names. They wind up calling each other Ai and Harth.

"If I wrote a new Yomesh Canon I should send thieves here after death. Thieves who steal sacks of food by night in Turuf. Thieves who steal a man's hearth and name from him and send him out ashamed and exiled" (230).

Not sure what to make of this.

Obviously he's referring to himself when he's talking about food. But I think he's talking about Tibe when it comes to the name and hearth. He's obviously not very happy, to put it mildly.

"No, call me by name. If you can speak inside my skull with a dead man's voice then you can call me by my name! Would he have called my 'Hearth'?" (253).

...not sure what to say, really.

"Even mindspeaking he could never say 'l' properly" (254).

This raises interesting questions about how a person might think their language...but that's totally off topic.

I guess this means that Therem is never able to name Genly properly.

"We never told our names to our hosts in Kurkurast. Estraven was very reluctant to use a false name, and our true ones could not be avowed" (273-4).

We see again that Therem doesn't want to use a false name, but this time he refuses to use one. Why not now, when he did before?

"It wouldn't be hard, he said, if Estraven would take a false name [...]" (279).

Apparently Therem is willing to take a false name if it means he can stay in Karhide?

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