“A Shadow On Snow”: Gender, Sex, And Sexuality In Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand Of Darkness

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Gryffin Robin Winkler (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site: https://library.appstate.edu/
Michael Wilson

Abstract: This thesis examines the way gender, sex, and sexuality are portrayed in Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1969 novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, as well as her two short stories that take place on the same planet, “Coming of Age In Karhide” and “Winter’s King”. All center around the planet Gethen, inhabited by humans without gender who remain sex-less except for a short period every month. The novel is narrated by Genly, a human from Earth sent to explore and reach out to the Gethens. Genly has an obvious aversion to the Gethen’s ambisexuality, inaccurately referring to all the Gethens as “he” and as “men.” I analyze Genly’s problematic language and viewpoints, and his journey to acceptance and understanding. It takes Genly most of the novel to self-reflect and realize that the Gethens are neither men nor women. Taking a broader view, I also look at Gethen society and its relation to gender, as well as how the Gethens Other those who are different. I argue that Le Guin is making a point against gendered divisions; not only separating the feminine and masculine is something that causes harm, but also putting a judgement on femininity in favor of masculinity. The Left Hand of Darkness makes a case for unity, cooperation, and equality.

Additional Information

Honors Project
Winkler, G. (2021). “A Shadow On Snow”: Gender, Sex, And Sexuality In Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand Of Darkness. Unpublished Honors Thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2021
Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness, Queer Theory, Feminism, Gender, Sex, Sexuality, Science Fiction, sci fi

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