30 pages 1 hour read

Ursula K. Le Guin

The Dispossessed

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1974

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Important Quotes

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“Looked at from the other side, the wall enclosed Anarres: the whole planet was inside it, a great prison camp cut off from other worlds and other men, in quarantine.” 

(Chapter 1, Page 2)

The image that opens the novel shows the Port of Abbenay from two perspectives: it may be a structure that protects Anarresti, or one that imprisons them. Imprisonment is a major motif of the book. Throughout the text, it is suggested that prisons often look like freedom from the wrong vantage point.

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“‘To lock out, to lock in, the same act,’ Shevek said, looking down at the doctor with light, remote eyes.’” 

(Chapter 1, Page 11)

Shevek’s dialogue introduces a perspective that he reiterates and refines throughout the text: that all borders create imprisonment. Furthermore, they lock in even those they are meant to include and protect.

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“This matter of superiority and inferiority must be a central one in Urrasti social life. If to respect himself Kimoe had to consider half the human race inferior to him, how then did women manage to respect themselves—did they consider men inferior? And how did all that affect their sex lives?” 

(Chapter 1, Page 18)

Shevek wonders how the division between the sexes operates practically and philosophically on Urras. He will encounter the idea of superiority repeatedly on Urras.