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586 Ursula K. Le Guin: The Dispossessed

A physicist from an anarchist moon confronts the complexities of utopian ideals and societal disparities on twin planets.



"The Dispossessed" presents a thought-provoking narrative set in a dual planetary system, Anarres and Urras. Anarres is an arid moon inhabited by anarchists, who broke away from Urras, a more prosperous but hierarchically structured planet. The story follows Shevek, a brilliant physicist from Anarres, who travels to Urras with the intention of sharing his groundbreaking theories with scientists there.

Through Shevek's experiences, the novel delves into the contrasting political, social, and economic systems of the two planets. Anarres embodies the ideals of anarchism and communal living, where resources are shared, and personal ownership is discouraged. Urras, on the other hand, represents a planet with complex societal hierarchies, including capitalism, class divisions, and political power struggles.


Title: The Dispossessed 

Author: Ursula K. Le Guin 

Publishing Year: 1974 

Publisher: Harper & Row 

Length: Approximately 13 hours and 25 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. Twin Planets with Contrasting Societies: The novel explores the differences between the anarchist society of Anarres and the hierarchical structures of Urras.
  2. The Complexity of Utopian Ideals: The portrayal of Anarres raises questions about the practical implementation and limitations of utopian ideals in a real-world context.
  3. Struggle for Knowledge and Innovation: Shevek's scientific pursuits and quest for knowledge highlight the importance of intellectual freedom and curiosity.
  4. Societal Disparities and Power Struggles: Urras exposes the societal disparities, power dynamics, and political struggles prevalent in its various regions and systems.
  5. The Price of Freedom: Shevek's journey forces him to confront the cost of his own ideals and the sacrifices required for true freedom and independence.

5 funny quotes

  1. "Well, Shevek, I’m always happy to see you. You’re the only physicist I know who dances."
  2. "That's the nice thing about talking to a physicist. They don't interrupt."
  3. "The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next."
  4. "All of you are wrong, the tree is wrong. It’s not a matter of looking different, it’s that it’s different, and that is all."
  5. "They'd left it to the last moment, as usual. She supposed you couldn't really get anywhere in any formal meeting on Anarres until a food fight broke out."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "There's no action without risk, and no glory without sacrifice."
  2. "Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for the spirit to undertake. It is not easy. It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one."
  3. "We each go our own way, alone, with the mystery of living, hardly understanding any of it. To give oneself is the only thing one can do, and the only true freedom one can have."
  4. "To choose one's own attitude is to be a person, and a person is responsible."
  5. "It is our suffering that brings us together. It is not love. Love does not obey the mind, and turns to hate when forced. The bond that binds us is beyond choice. We are brothers. We are brothers in what we share. In pain, which each of us must suffer alone, in hunger, in poverty, in hope, we know our brotherhood."

5 dilemmas

  1. The dilemma of balancing personal freedom and societal responsibility in an anarchist society like Anarres.
  2. The ethical dilemma of scientific knowledge and its potential for misuse or exploitation in the context of Urras' political landscape.
  3. The ideological dilemma of bridging the gap between two contrasting worlds and their deeply ingrained beliefs and systems.
  4. The moral dilemma of challenging the status quo and seeking change in a society resistant to reform.
  5. The emotional dilemma of Shevek's journey, as he confronts his own internal struggles and the impact of his actions on those around him.

5 examples

  1. Shevek - The central protagonist, a physicist from Anarres who travels to Urras and becomes the focus of societal interest due to his scientific breakthroughs.
  2. Anarres - The arid moon where an anarchist society is established, embodying the ideals of communal living and freedom from hierarchical structures.
  3. Urras - The wealthy and politically complex neighboring planet, where Shevek travels to share his scientific work.
  4. Takver - Shevek's partner and a strong, caring woman from Anarres, who supports his journey while facing her own challenges on their home moon.
  5. A-Io - One of the nations on Urras where Shevek initially travels to share his scientific ideas, but he becomes disillusioned with its political intrigues.

Referenced books

  1. "Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy - Referenced in the novel, reflecting on the challenges of societal expectations and personal freedom.
  2. "Gulliver's Travels" by Jonathan Swift - Alluded to in the novel, exploring themes of exploration and encounters with contrasting societies.
  3. "The Tao Te Ching" by Lao Tzu - Referenced as a book read by Shevek, reflecting on philosophical insights and the nature of balance.
  4. "The Ego and Its Own" by Max Stirner - Mentioned in the context of anarchism and the pursuit of individual freedom.
  5. "Paradise Lost" by John Milton - Referenced in the novel, symbolizing the complexities of good and evil in human society.

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"That's the nice thing about talking to a physicist. They don't interrupt."

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