46 pages 1 hour read

Ursula K. Le Guin


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2008

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Pages 9-53

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Pages 9-17 Summary

Content Warning: This section contains mentions of enslavement, death by suicide, child death, and physical abuse.

The novel begins with an excerpt from the Aeneid, describing Lavinia. The 18-year-old girl is at the river Tiber collecting salt when she sees ships sailing up the river. She recognizes a man on board one of the ships and returns home to tell her father, King Latinus, that warships have arrived. Lavinia introduces herself, revealing that she exists within a story written by a poet who didn’t do her justice. She met the poet for the first time when he was dying. Lavinia knows that she herself won’t die; she’ll linger on, perhaps as an owl. In the poem, Lavinia doesn’t speak even though she’s an important character who causes a war. Now, she tells her own story. Lavinia puzzles over how the Trojans who arrived in warships could have understood her people, who speak Latin. She wonders how those reading the poem can understand her now.

The narrative returns to Lavinia’s childhood. When she’s six, her two younger brothers die of an illness. Her mother, Amata, is overcome with grief and becomes cruel toward Lavinia.