Talk:The Dispossessed

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I should re-read the book. IMHO Shevek is not an anachist. But is project is socially unacceptable. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Ericd (talkcontribs) 23:00, 7 September 2002 (UTC)

Shevek is an anarchist worthy of Kropotkin. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:45, 2 June 2004 (UTC)
Shevek repeatedly views himself as a Odonian revolutionary, and the writings of Odo are repeatedly called anarchist. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:52, 10 July 2006 (UTC)

(spoiler) Shevek is a scholar. The book is about academic freedom, and the impossibility thereof where there is classified and/or proprietary research. —Preceding unsigned comment added by N8chz (talkcontribs) 18:37, 28 January 2005 (UTC)

Le Guin herself stated in her own foreword that she herself is an anarchist along the style of Pyotr Kropotkin, and that this work was an exploration of anarchism. Yes, it is also about academic freedom; academic freedom is the means by which Le Guin explores how power structures accumulate and grow over time -- a central anarchist critique. --lquilter 14:37, 11 October 2007 (UTC)

Le Guin wrote to Murray Bookchin, informing him that she borrowed much from his work Post-Scarcity Anarchism, and mentioning that she has been influenced by the "KGB": Kropotkin, Goodman and Bookchin. Janet Biehl, Bookchin's long-time partner and current biographer, was invited by Le Guin to peruse her archives for the biography and came across a copy of that letter (interview with Janet Biehl). MasterPrac (talk) 03:44, 17 February 2011 (UTC)MasterPrac

Possessive language?[edit]

" the possessive case is strongly discouraged. " I thought the point was that their constructed language had no possessives. - Omegatron June 30, 2005 02:31 (UTC)

Reptile or human?[edit]

If I understood correctly, the main characters are kind of reptilian, right? Yet the book cover shows a human. — Omegatron 17:13, 18 October 2005 (UTC)

Really? But as mentioned in stroy: in Uranus, women of fashion are bareheaded (that is, they do have hair to be barbered). Since reptilian have no hair... :p Caiyu(采豫) 02:38, 19 October 2005 (UTC)

Hmmm.. It definitely said they were very hairy. Maybe I'm imagining the rest. I remember when they met the humans they thought the humans were very small and hairless and had different colored skin and too much fat on their faces, implying that the main characters were bony and hairy and tall and... non-pink. I'll have to re-read that section. — Omegatron 13:45, 19 October 2005 (UTC)
I found a searchable version and searched for "hair":

The few women there were bald even on their heads; he realized

at last that they must shave off all their hair, the very fine, soft, short body hair of his race, and the head hair as well. But they replaced it with marvelous clothing, gorgeous in cut and color,

The physicist glared, the veins on

his temples bulging under the coarse, short hair.

"You are in the Embassy of Terra, Dr. Shevek. You

are on Terran soil here. You are perfectly safe. You can stay here as long as you want"

The [human] woman's skin was yellow-brown, like ferrous earth, and hairless, except on the scalp; not shaven, but hairless. The features were strange and childlike, small mouth, low-bridged nose, eyes with long full lids, cheeks and chin rounded, fat-padded. The whole figure was rounded, supple, childlike.

"Hairy reptilian" isn't the best way to say it, but I was remembering correctly. — Omegatron 02:19, 8 July 2006 (UTC)
  • Definitely not reptilian. I've read at least two other Ekumen novels that reference Cetians, the hairy bit is well-supported, everyone else is almost certainly mammalian. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:58, 10 July 2006 (UTC)

Both in this book and elsewhere in the series, it is made clear that all sentient lifeforms in the known universe are descended from the Hainish, who explored the galaxy and established colonies many millennia before these stories take place. So they're all basically human, although with adaptations to the planets on which they live. Briankharvey 05:50, 10 August 2007 (UTC)

@Briankharvey: Not all! In City of Illusions "the Enemy", the Shing, are alien, non-Hainish, not human. --Thnidu (talk) 06:21, 20 July 2015 (UTC)

Impersonal reference?[edit]

"An example is given where a little girl says to Shevek ...", is it ok that this example is made to be impersonal? The little girl referenced is Sadik, Shevek's daughter. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:58, 10 July 2006 (UTC)

Radio play adaptation[edit]

In the late 1980s, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation presented a radio play version lasting approx. 6 half-hour segments. If I can dig up the details, I will add to the article. -- Slowmover 16:13, 4 July 2006 (UTC)

Utopian Anarchism?[edit]

In the Fourth paragraph of the summary the last two words mention Utopian anarchism. That sounds to me like a shot at anarchism. Most anarchists do not consider anarchism utopian in the least. In fact, this book I believe shows that no society can be utopian. —Preceding unsigned comment added by FionMacCumhail (talkcontribs) 22:46, 5 July 2006 (UTC)

In interviews, the story has been referred to as anti-utopian, or has been subtitled, an "ambiguous utopia." This can be mentioned in a section on the themes of the story, but should not be used as a label without context.Cast 04:14, 23 February 2007 (UTC)


Should quotes be linked/wikiquote? --Wyrlss 07:34, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

Reading The Dispossessed: The view from Switzerland[edit]

Re THEORIES. The meaning of the theories in the book weaves nicely into the plot..., the article tells us. Now, as Ms Le Guin would be the first to point out (as a matter of fact she's doing it at every occasion), trying to reduce fiction to ideas is foolishness. But it is also true that in our case the elephant in the room cannot be overlooked. The Dispossessed is all about linear time vs cyclical time, or, in the more poetical language of Eddington, time's arrow vs the circle. Ms Le Guin's defense (J'aime Shevek mais je ne le suis pas, etc etc) is fun to read but will not convince anyone who has read the book. Shevek's theories about time are (or were at least in 1974) Ms Le Guin's. To be more precise: they are the theories that Ms Le Guin distilled from articles by von Franz, Capek, and Schlegel in Fraser's anthology The Voices of Time. Everyone who knows this volume will immediately recognize the ideas that Shevek is trying to work into his unified theory. Ms Le Guin has, of course, never made a secret out of this. In 1975 she said in an interview for the Portland Scribe: It's called "The Voices of Time" ... Sequency and Simultaneity seem to be the basic question. As well as I understood it I tried to work it into the book.--BZ(Bruno Zollinger) 09:38, 15 November 2006 (UTC)

Re CIRCLES. An oft-quoted saying in the book is "True journey is return", the article informs us. Well maybe, but in order to know what the saying is supposed to express in its context, we have to be sure that we understand the meaning that the author gives to the terms "journey" and "return".
The title of the book might just as well have been "Shevek's Travels". But unlike Gulliver, Shevek does not observe anything with detachment. He is always involved. Not only his purely emotional and intellectual journeys, but also his physical travels are travels of the mind. And they are always movements within movements, which makes it often difficult (for both the reader and the protagonist) to know the direction that the journey is taking at a given moment. When Shevek travels from Anarres to Urras e.g., is he leaving home, or is he heading for home? The point is it doesn't matter all that much, because return, at least in the way the word is commonly interpreted, is not possible anyhow. In Chapter 2, Shevek, speaking clearly for the author, tries to explain what is only at first glance a paradox: You can't go home again, or, if you prefer, you can, but then home won't be there. You can, as Shevek puts it, long as you understand that home is a place where you have never been (p.55). In other words, what looks like a circle in x dimensions, might well turn out to be something quite different in x+1 dimensions.--BZ(Bruno Zollinger) 13:50, 19 November 2006 (UTC)

Re ARROW. In the course of the novel Shevek, whose ideas about the circle of time are at first rather fuzzy, develops, with the help of Takver a better understanding of the concept. Cyclical time includes in his words biotemporality (roughly biological time) and eotemporality (roughly the temporal reality of the universe). But at a party in Urras, Shevek is badly shaken by a guest who holds that his Simultaneity theory, which he developed from cyclical time, ...denies the most obvious fact about time, the fact that time passes (p.221). The arrow of time (noetic time, or nootemporality in Shevek's words) cannot be denied. And to get to his unified theory, Shevek realizes that there is also an ethical aspect in the way human beings perceive time, and this aspect, which he calls sociotemporality will also have to be worked in.
So far, so good. Shevek has not achieved his goal as the novel ends, but we have to ask ourselves: How could he ever? There seems to be a factor tnat he (and the author) just haven't payed enough attention to: ENTROPY. Entropy increase gives us the direction of time's arrow. That is what the Second Law of Thermodynamics teaches us.--BZ(Bruno Zollinger) 09:35, 22 November 2006 (UTC)

LGBT relevance[edit]

Re the box saying "LGBT relevance has been questioned": One major character, Bedap, a political ally of Shevek on Anarres, is gay. Everyone on Anarres is relaxed about sexual orientation, willing to pair up with people of the same or the opposite sex, but everyone does seem to have a preference. At one point Shevek and Bedap shack up together, but the context makes it clear that Shevek is doing Bedap a favor. There is almost no explicit focus on sexual preference as a theme in the book, but the one exception is (imho -- this is the talk page :-) rather unfortunate; there's a moment when Shevek and Bedap and Shevek's daughter Sadik are walking together, and suddenly Sadik talks about something that's distressing her, and Shevek comforts her in a way that he can do only because he's her father, and Bedap feels superfluous, and

There was nothing for Bedap to do but leave them there, the man and the child, in that one intimacy which he could not share, the hardest and deepest, the intimacy of pain.It gave him no sense of relief of escape to go; rather he felt useless, diminished. "I am thirty-nine years old," he thought as he walked on towards his domicile, the five-man room where he lived in perfect independence. "Forty in a few decads. What have I done? What have I been doing? Nothing. Meddling. Meddling in other people's lives because I don't have one. I never took the time. And the time's going to run out on me, all at once, and I will never have had... that." [Ellipsis in original.] He looked back, down the long, quiet street, where the corner lamps made soft pools of light in the windy darkness, but he had gone too far to see the father and daughter, or they had gone. And what he meant by "that" he could not have said, good as he was with words; yet he felt that he understood it clearly, that all his hope was in the understanding, and that if he would be saved he must change his life.

So, it doesn't exactly say that gays can't have families or feel family bonds, and yet if that wasn't LeGuin's intent, it's a remarkable coincidence that the bachelor is the gay character. Briankharvey 06:16, 10 August 2007 (UTC)

In fact, this treatment of Bedap can be interpreted as rather paternalistic / patronizing (the straight character 'helps' the gay character). It is easy to hide behind the argumentation that this is an individual case, because this relationship comes very close to very prevalently used stereotypes that are maintained as a silent devaluation and and consequent re-affirmation of heterosexual over homosexual ways of living.

Add to this that Shevek is hinted as being top / active / "male" in their sexual relationship and Bedap being bottom / passive / "female".

I would leave the relevance to LGBT box very intact, while once again referring to the context of the time the book was written, as I'd suggest it did make a move towards more progressive understanding in relation to most mainstream science-fiction or more mainstream-accessible literature at all. Thomas Körtvélyessy 19:00, 7 October 2007 (UTC)

IMO this novel is very minor, almost passing, in the history of LGBT fiction and even LGBT science fiction, and the LGBT aspect was minor within the book, as well. It will be fine to have some reference to it in the article, but as a member of (I think) just about every relevant project I think this work will be pretty low on the LGBT project priority list. I doubt, for instance, that we'll be able to find much cited scholarship that discusses the LGBT aspect of this work at all (which is what we'll need to have discussion in the article). --lquilter 14:52, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
  • I added some cites dscussing gender issues; it's mostly gender and some discussions of heteronormativity. I'm going to remove the LGBT literature because LGBT is certainly not a defining quality of The Dispossessed; readers who pick up The Dispossessed b/c it's in the same category as Rubyfruit Jungle are going to be mighty disappointed. <g> However, I think it's fine to leave the LGBT interest tags on here; the scholarship can & should be documented, even if it's relatively minor & non-defining in a "category" sense. --Lquilter 17:40, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

Improving the article[edit]

It would be great to start this article on a path of improvement and eventually FA status. It's quite notable among SF books; it's one of the foremost examples of anarchist literature and of modern political fiction generally; and it's one of the most recognized works of a writer who has achieved substantial literary recognition. Here's a start-list of what I think is needed:

  • references & cites, including to the substantial critical discussion about this article
  • good organization for a literary work -- Skimming through the dozen or so novels with "FA" status, I would suggest (not in order): (a) plot, general universe & conventions, relationship to Le Guin's other Hainish cycle novels; (b) literary style discussion, characterization, worldbuilding; (c) history and influences on TDP; (d) themes; (e) recognition, legacy, and influence of TDP; (f) adaptations, translations, any publishing history (any bannings, difficulties in translating, criticism of abridgements, etc.).
  • good discussions of each of those sections.

Thoughts? --lquilter 15:04, 11 October 2007 (UTC)

  • I added a set of references broken broadly down by topic and started marking specific assertions that need referenced support. The references were generated from a MLA Bibliography search and I basically just included those with which I had some familiarity. However, there's other scholarship that didn't get picked up in MLABib -- specifically Delany, and other very important stuff. That has yet to be added for the most part. --Lquilter 17:42, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

The Plot section is really hard to follow. I read this book twenty years ago, and wanted to jog my memory. I can imagine that this plot makes sense to someone who read the book, but for someone who has not (or has not in twenty years) it makes little sense. Most of it seems to be a critique or a discussion of themes, not what I would think was a straight telling of the story. Perhaps the section on alternating chapters should be moved ahead of plot, so that the retelling (and its jumping around) makes more sense to those who have not read the book. As is, this entry (and other Le Guin sections) are not for those coming new to Le Guin. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:29, 22 November 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for the suggestion, I think that's a good idea (said and done). If anybody can improve on the table (in terms of width etc.), assistance is welcome - tables etc. are not my strongest discipline, yet. regards --Klingon83 (talk) 22:43, 23 November 2008 (UTC)


"An Antarian appears in the short story The Shobies' Story." I think that's a different star. Someone from Anarres is called an Anarresti. Briankharvey (talk) 07:55, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

I've removed the 't', which is clearly an error. Beyond that, it is unclear. Consider the rules for people from Poland, Ireland, Holland, Spain, France etc. English rules are inconsistent. --GwydionM (talk) 18:03, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

True journey is return[edit]

I found both this and the alternative true voyage is return quoted in several hundred places on the web. I'm not sure if the second form is real or a misquotation. I used the version I found in the book, but possibly both are there. --GwydionM (talk) 17:17, 18 July 2008 (UTC)

Article structure[edit]

The current plot section covers more than, and much that is better than, mere plot summary. Discussion of Themes, e.g., should be reorganized into a separate section or sections and given prominence. ~ Ningauble (talk) 20:42, 30 May 2009 (UTC)

Merge the planet entries back here?[edit]

I don't agree. The planet Urras is the setting for another separate story, The Day Before the Revolution. Cetians are mentioned in other places. And since Le Guin is still alive and writing, there could be more to add. --GwydionM (talk) 12:36, 5 November 2009 (UTC)

If not here, then at Hainish Cycle, but I think here is better. The worlds of Anarres and Urras were created to be compared and contrasted, and treating them in separate articles leaves the reader listening for the sound of one hand clapping. The Dispossessed is a pillar in the canon of political science fiction that will, IMHO, be remembered as a significant literary work long after its copyright has expired. A fragmentary collection of articles consisting primarily of superficial in-world description gives poor encyclopedic coverage of the meaning and literary significance of the work. ~ Ningauble (talk) 14:11, 6 November 2009 (UTC)

I have to cast my vote that Anarres and Urras should remain their own articles. If we could have a consensus to leave them as-is, then the banners for merging could be removed. There doesn't seem to be much interest on the topics as there are only 3 comments on the issue in the past 2.5 years.Npd2983 (talk) 22:22, 10 July 2011 (UTC)

Apart from just !voting, what is the reason that you think it is better to treat them separately? ~ Ningauble (talk)
I've changed my opinion and with reasons this time ;) I think all the dedicated Hainish planet pages should be moved to the page of Planets of the Hainish Cycle. And boy could that page use more copyediting and standardization. UGH. For Annares and Urras in particular they appear in short stories in addition to The Dispossessed, so it seems only reasonable to have them as entries outside of The Dispossessed. The only dedicatd planet pages that really might benefit from being their own pages are the Werels since there are two of them with identical names. --Npd2983 (talk) 18:55, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

Meaning of Dispossessed[edit]

This article talks about how dispossessed refers to a lack of political choice on annares and a lack of resources. This seems to me to completely miss the mark - I believe it was hinted at in the story that to own possessions in turn possesses the possesser so the people of Annares are dispossessed (in a positive way) as they reject ownership and so free themselves. It seems to me this is a classic marxist argument about commodity fetishism and alienation and the reading being suggested by this article is taking a shot at anarchists which is pointed out above would be out of character for Le Guin. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:13, 22 June 2010 (UTC)

Fine, but "seems to me" is what we call "original research", and as an encyclopedia, Wikipedia merely summarizes previously published research -- it does not offer a source for unpublished, novel, or personal observations. So, find a source for this, and weave it into the current article, and it will be a welcome addition. (Although, I'm not sure what you mean by "taking a shot at anarchists ... would be out of character for Le Guin" -- how does the article "take a shot" at anarchists? FWIW The Dispossessed has been described by Le Guin as exemplifying anarchist thought, along the lines of Kropotkin's ideas.) --Lquilter (talk) 01:37, 23 June 2010 (UTC)

Okay but there's no citation for the original suggestion of what dispossessed means so surely it should be removed? -which is all i was after. And i meant it takes a shot by how it suggests dispossessed is about a lack of political choice and of poverty caused by anarchism which i thought was unlikely as le guin was obviously a proponent of anarchism. If you take this quote it certainly corrobarates my suggestion "He [shevek] had no right to tease them. They knew no relation but possession. They were possessed." and this "Here you see the jewels, there you see the eyes. And in the eyes you see the splendor, the splendor of the human spirit Because our men and women are free — possessing nothing, they are free. And you the possessors are possessed. You are all in jail. Each alone, solitary, with a heap of what he owns. You live in prison, die in prison. It is all I can see in your eyes — the wall, the wall!"" —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:43, 23 June 2010 (UTC)

The discussion of the relevance of the dispossession is now cited. But, I take your point about the possible suggestion that dispossession is a result of anarchism; that reading hadn't occurred to me, but do you have a suggestion about how to re-word it to avoid confusion? and bringing in commodity fetishization and alienation by material acquisitions? --Lquilter (talk) 17:56, 2 July 2010 (UTC)

Ansible Creation[edit]

How can The Dispossessed be notable for the invention of the ansible when Rocannon's World was published years before and contains the first use of ansible? Perhaps the article should say the scientists within the story first create the ansible? I have yet to read the work, so I'm not sure if they do. This is the only thing that would make sense though.--Npd2983 (talk) 03:52, 13 May 2011 (UTC)

This story and also The Word for World is Forrest are set in the same universe as Rocannon's World, but at an earlier period. Shevek - the main character of The Dispossessed - is a theoretical physicist. The idea of an ansible is already around but cannot be built without the theoretical insights which he provides. The actual construction of the device is not described: it is there as a new invention in The Word for World is Forrest --GwydionM (talk) 18:06, 13 May 2011 (UTC)

Stanford prison experiment[edit]

The reference to the Stanford prison experiment feels pretty tacked on. Unless some wise soul out there has a reputable source in lit crit, I'm taking it out.

In fact, the whole "Influences for the novel" section is pretty weak. Most of that stuff can be worked into the main body of the article. Any objections? --Accedie (talk) 05:02, 6 July 2011 (UTC)

I think the reference to the Stanford prison experiment is useful. And I am sure that the reference was intended by Le Guin, who is knowledgeable in such areas and the daughter of a famous anthropologist. It could sensibly be worked into the main text, since it is part of the plot development.
The other two references are general and I'd like to see them stay where they are.--GwydionM (talk) 11:29, 6 July 2011 (UTC)
The other two references are general and I'd like to see them stay where they are. I agree that they're fine to stay in the article, but what would be the harm in moving both the reference to the Dostoevsky title connection and the post-scarcity anarchism idea to the (misnamed) plot summary section, where it's mentioned that "Anarres citizens are dispossessed not just by political choice, but by the very lack of resources to possess"? That seems like a perfectly logical place for both of those ideas to live, instead of hanging out in an awkward two-paragraph subsection.
This is more of a clarity/copy-editing issue. But I agree with cygnis insignis that the SPE thing is just straight up WP:OR. It may seem intuitive, but without a source or any connection to the main body of the article, it just seems totally out of place. --Accedie (talk) 04:44, 7 July 2011 (UTC)
Okay, so I tinkered with it a bit and want to break up that big plot/theme section into more coherent chunks. If you totally hate this, let's talk :) --Accedie (talk) 18:51, 9 July 2011 (UTC)
I wouldn't blink if someone published that view, but that needs to happen before it is included here; it needs to be attributable to a reputable/reliable source. cygnis insignis 11:43, 6 July 2011 (UTC)
Yeah, agreed. See my response to GwydionM above. OR seems to be a somewhat nebulous concept in articles on literature, but in this case the idea isn't even connected to anything that comes before or after it. I say let's nix it and focus on all the other cool (reliable, cite-able!) stuff that can be said about the novel. --Accedie (talk) 04:56, 7 July 2011 (UTC)

Plot section[edit]

The plot section, ironically contains almost no description of the plot and is almost incomprehensible to someone who has not read the book. It is also full of seemingly OR analysis of the book written in a style that is almost impossible to understand. Obviously, it is difficult in a non-linear book, but we at least need a plain description of what the book is about on its own terms, before we get on to analysis and were it fits into the continuity of LeGuin's other stories. I'm going to start working on it. Feel free to discuss/object. Ashmoo (talk) 11:04, 30 May 2013 (UTC)


@Gob Lofa: I was not assessing the whole article, just the edits you'd made. Go ahead and unlink Southeast Asia. I would consider it an improvement of the article. — Gorthian (talk) 01:54, 5 February 2016 (UTC)

Gorthian, the links you removed are not duplicates; so why do you see the need to remove them? Vanamonde93 (talk) 02:14, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
I was removing them to prevent a case of WP:OVERLINKING. According to that policy, we usually do not link to "the names of major geographic features and locations". — Gorthian (talk) 02:20, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
Yes, the guideline does say that; but it has a qualifier, which you omitted. The full sentence is "Unless a term is particularly relevant to the context in the article, the following are not usually linked." In this particular case, the article is drawing a parallel between the fictional countries and real world ones; and the links are entirely appropriate. Vanamonde93 (talk) 02:28, 5 February 2016 (UTC)