for seminar discussion
below refer to the 1994 Harper paperback]
Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be” (1982),
Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989), 80-100.
p. 93: “The
major utopic element in my novel The Dispossessed is a variety of
pacifist anarchism, which is about as yin as a political ideology can
get. Anarchism rejects the identification of civilization with the
state, and the identification of power with coercion; against the
inherent violence of the ‘hot’ society it asserts the value of such
antisocial behaviour as the general refusal of women to bear arms in
war, and other coyote devices. In these areas anarchism and Taoism
converge both in matter and manner, and so I came there to play my
1 Ursula le Guin website:
2 Paul Brians’s Study Guide:
Paul Goodman (sociologist) -
Wikipedia article on The Dispossessed:
The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis:
Libertarian socialism & Anarchism:
Lao Tzu: Tao te ching, a new English version by Ursula
K.Le Guin, with J. P. Seaton, 1997.
Bookrags notes on The Dispossessed (do not plagiarize]:
“Everybody on Anarres is a revolutionary... The network of
administration and management is called PDC ... They do not govern
persons; they administer production.” (76, Chp. 3): what is the
rationale underlying the system?
“anarchism” and “complex organicism” (95, Chp.4): what is the
significance of these two notions for utopianism? Contrast “organic”
with “mechanical” (117, Chp. 4).
“the ethical imperatives of brotherhood” (155, Chp. 6)
“ideas never were controlled by laws and governments, even on Urras
... You can only crush them by ignoring the. By refusing to think,
refusing to change.” (165, Chp. 6)
“exuberance was perhaps the essential quality of life” (185, Chp. 6)
The General Temporal theory and its relation to ideas of time,
sequence and consciousness (112, 138, 204, 221-226, 235, 265, also
279-81 on ‘Ainsetain’, 343-45 on the ansible, 349-50)
How is it significant that Odo was a woman?
Discuss the notion of free will as it plays out in this novel, both
for the Anarresti and the Urrasti characters. Are any of them truly
Why do the Odonians reject religion?
Why is it important that Anarres is a desert planet?
How does the issue of place - the physical space that the characters
inhabit - function in this novel?
What role do family relationships play in this story, and how do
they relate to the Odonian notion of the community being the most
What does this novel have to say about the world we live in,
represented by the Terrans in the story?
Comment on the subtitle of the novel: “An Ambiguous Utopia”:
ambiguous about what? Why?
Comment on contrasts set up between Anarres and Urras in terms of
political systems and gender politics.
Why is Shevek described by Oiie as “Shevek the deluded and
simple-minded utopist” (203, Chp. 7)?
”Pravic ... used the same word for work and play” (92, Chp. 3; also
15, Chp. 1)
“Nuchnibi” (150-1, Chp. 5)
“Power discriminated very carefully then between administering
things and governingpeople.” (167, Chp. 6)
He had seen the foundations of the universe, and they were solid.
(281, Chp. 9)
“Members of a community, not elements of a collectivity.” (4)
“Anarresti felt that it was shameful to be ill: a result of their
society’s very successful prophylaxy.” (119)
“your habit of approaching everybody as a person, an individual,
won’t do here, it won’t work. You have got to understand the powers
behind the individuals.” (137, Chp. 5)
“To make a thief, make an owner; to create crime, create laws.’
The Social Organism”. (139, Chp. 5)
“Here you think that the incentive to work is finances, need for
money or desire for profit, but where there’s no money the real
motives are clearer, maybe.” (150, Chp. 5)
“Tomar’s Definitions: ‘Government: The legal use of power to
maintain and extend power.’ Replace ‘legal’ with ‘customary’, and
you’ve got Sabul, and the Syndicate of Instruction, and the PDC.”
(166, Chp. 6)
“Tirin’s persecutors, your enemies, ‘they’, are us–the social
organism?” (171, Chp. 6)
Partnership was a voluntarily constituted federation like any
other... It had no sanction but that of private conscience. (244,
Comment on Maedd’s description of Shevek: “you are an idea. A
dangerous one. The idea of anarchism, made flesh. Walking amongst
us.” (295, (Chp. 9)
“We have nothing to give you but your own freedom. We have no law
but the single principle of free association.” (300, Chp. 9)