In her Introduction, Le Guin tells us that, in her novel, she is describing us:
Yes, indeed the people in it are androgynous, but that doesn’t mean that I’m predicting that in a millennium or so we will all be androgynous, or announcing that I think that we damned well ought to be androgynous. I’m merely observing, in the peculiar, devious, and thought-experimental manner proper to science fiction, that if you look at us at certain odd times of day in certain weathers, we already are. . . . I am describing certain aspects of psychological reality in the novelist’s way, which is by inventing elaborately circumstantial lies.
Examine the lies she tells to determine what METAPHORICAL times of days and which METAPHORICAL weathers she is talking about. In what ways is she claiming humans are androgynous?
Understand that metaphorical means NON-literal, so she is not talking about time by the clock or weather in the sky. Weather, in this comparison (metaphor) is circumstances we find ourselves in, such as work/careers, parenthood, interpersonal relationships, and so forth. Times would be specific situations in those contexts. She is saying that, in certain situations and circumstances, our genders do not matter: we (re)act as humans, not as men or women.
You job is to identify what those situations and circumstances might be by identifying parallels in the lives of the people of Gethen. Name them, and show the parallels.The essay asks you to do either one of two things:
1) Look for examples of things the Gethenians do which are like the parenthood illustration I used above to prove that she is correct, that there are times when OUR genders don’t matter. She puts these (re)actions into the form of the androgynous Gethenians to tell a good story, but she is really talking about us.
“Lies” = metaphor. A metaphor is a comparison (study of SIMILARITIES) between UNLIKE (= DIFFERENT) things. Its purpose is illustration. For example, I once heard a student say, “Kissing him was like eating a bowl of spaghetti.” Literally, this statement is a Lie, but it nevertheless describes and explains what that kiss was like in a short, easy-to-grasp manner. We are not left in any doubt that she was NOT impressed.
Think of a Time (in LeGuin’s metaphor) as a specific instance and Weather as general conditions. It’s sort of like 3 pm on a Rainy afternoon: the Time is a specific instance, and the general condition is rainy.
Let’s apply that to her theme of psychological reality that tells us that we are sometimes neither male nor female but simply human.
The weather/situation is Parenthood. The time/instance is an infant crying. According to LeGuin, the response will be for the parent to go to the infant and try to comfort it. This response is not linked to male or female: it’s simply what a human parent would do.
Her Introduction says that she believes there are many such times/weathers when our genders are irrelevant, that we are simply human, not male or female, in our actions/responses.
In order to talk about this conclusion, she could have written a psychology textbook about our common human nature, using all literal facts and figures, OR she could have written a novel, which uses Lies—metaphors in the form of people who are androgynous physically—to illustrate our common human nature. Being a novelist, she naturally chose to write the novel and fill it examples like the one I used above but set on this other world with androgynous humans living there.
This essay will require analysis. Don’t bother retelling the story: your readers have read it. Instead, take the story apart to see how the pieces interact. Show us cause-and-effect relationships, the causes being the elements, the effects being the readers’ reactions, and the relationships being the means by which the reactions were evoked. Identify the general effect in a Thesis Statement (or Statement of the Controlling Idea).
USE THE “LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS” BY URSULA K. LE GUIN AS YOUR REFERENCE ONLY. WORD COUNT IS UP TO YOU BUT NOT TO SHORT
Suggestion 400 words using