The Dispossessed is an excellent example of extreme culture shock. How well could a man raised in an anarchist society (even one considered a rebel and a traitor) function in a capitalist society? This is the catalyst that Le Guin uses to highlight the faults and follies of our society. The story begins on the world of Annarres, where we see the much hated and maligned Shevek boarding a shuttle to Urras. Subsequently, the chapters alternate between Shevek’s past on Annarres and his present on Urras, highlighting his struggle to align the two.
I don’t think I am reading too deeply when I say that world of Urras could represent our present – decadent, corrupt and with strict hierarchies based on wealth. Annarres and Earth (home to the Terrans), meanwhile, present us with two possible futures – one desolate and totalitarian, ruled rigidly in an effort to ensure the survival of the human race; the other just as concerned with survival, but offering more freedom and individual choice. To the Terrans, who have devastated their world, Urras is a paradise of flora, fauna, wealth and plenty. To the people of Annarres, who have been raised believing in the rights, freedoms and worth of every individual, Urras represents a hell of poverty, profiteering, inequities and the rule of the many by the few.
This book is very well written. The world’s are believable and the characters peopling them seem more real than even those we see on the news. Reactions and emotions are as logical as reactions and emotions can be, and by the end of the story the reader is emotionally attached to the main character, Shevek. While the ending occurs in a perfectly logical place, I found myself disappointed, as I really wanted to know what happens next.
The Dispossessed is an excellent and entertaining read. I highly recommend it to anyone from young adult to old age pensioner. I guarantee this book will leave you thoughtful, and will present you with a definite message. Whether that message is one of hope or despair, I will let you decide.
- Ursula Le Guin’s anarchist utopia (philebersole.wordpress.com)
- Would I take a spaceship to Anarres? (philebersole.wordpress.com)
- What Ursula K. Le Guin has taught SF (wetwiring.wordpress.com)
- Jo Walton on Ursula Le Guin’s Tehanu (delong.typepad.com)