47 pages 1 hour read

Ursula K. Le Guin

The Lathe Of Heaven

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1971

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Chapters 1-3

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 1 Summary

Content Warning: This guide contains references to a nuclear holocaust, military attacks involving great destruction, and human suffering caused by violence, starvation, drug use, and sexual harassment.

The narrator describes a jellyfish floating peacefully in the ocean, blending perfectly with its environment. The section asks what the jellyfish will do when it is cast out of the water and onto a sunny beach.

The scene shifts to a description of a man, George Orr, who is trapped in the rubble of a destroyed building, dying of radiation sickness. Soon, a first responder treats the same man for a drug overdose, explaining that he must attend Voluntary Therapeutic Treatment (VTT) for his substance use disorder. The medic complains about all the health crises occurring in Portland, Oregon, which is overpopulated and facing food scarcity. The chapter closes with Mannie, George’s building manager, saying, “Ain’t it great to be alive” (5).

Chapter 2 Summary

George arrives at the office of Dr. William Haber, which is on the 53rd floor of a high-rise office building. Portland is a bleak, overcrowded metropolitan area. Nearby Mount Hood no longer has its perpetual coating of snow due to the greenhouse effect, or global warming.