In this blog post I want to focus on the opening scene of chapter 10, in which Shevek rides the rails across the Southwest in order to get to Takver. Like Kyle, this has absolutely nothing to do with my essay topic (how education on both worlds relates to their ideology), but it was such a striking and disconnected first scene that I felt I had to address it.
First, I want to point out the style of the section, which is the first thing I noticed. It contains no names, just “the passenger” and “the driver.” It is told from the point of view of the driver, who views Shevek as “worn out” (309). This point of view in conjunction with the descriptions of the desolate landscape creates a disconnected feeling in the reader; it’s the same sort of feeling you get after you’ve been sitting in a car for a long time watching the endless and monotonous landscape, like an out-of-body experience. This allows LeGuin to write about Anarres and its shortcomings in a seemingly unbiased fashion. It is not Bedap actively criticizing all aspects of Anarrasti culture but two seemingly anonymous men, who are assumedly good Odonians, debating the merits of their own system.
Which brings me to the actual content of their conversation. The conversation starts out lightly enough, with the driver commenting on the nature of partnerships between men and women. In class, we talked about how it seemed that the pseudo-state disapproved of partnerships because of their inherently anti-Odonian implications. However, the driver has been happily partnered with someone for eighteen years. He talks about how “it isn’t changing around from place to place that makes you lively” (311). Instead, the routine of everyday life is enough to satisfy him because he has enough variety with his partner. He mentions something about “getting time on your side” and “working with it, not against it” is what makes one happy (311). I’m not quite sure what to make of this. What do you think? How does it relate to the overall theme of time in the novel? Does he mean that to live life, you mustn’t see it as something to fight but something to go along with and enjoy?
They also talk about the troubles Anarres went through because of the drought. They debate whether or not it is moral for the driver to kill a few (in case of a raid on the truck) in order to save many. Both the driver and the passenger find issue with this point of view; they do not believe in putting a number on human life and don’t think that any living thing should be told to decide who lives and who dies. However, I feel like this is the Anarrasti’s pseudo-government’s ethic and is something like utilitarianism. During the drought, everyone conserves and everyone suffers small rations because in the long run more people might be able to survive, even if a few people literally lie down and die. The pseudo-government does not care about the suffering of the few because their policies help the many (the society) as a whole survive the drought.
Some questions to consider (both related to my post and not):
What do you think of this scene? Are Shevek and the driver criticizing the way the government decided to run things? Is Anarrasti society concerned with the most benefit for the most people?
Do you think the book ended abruptly?
What do you think will happen to the person from Hain on Anarres? Is this alien about to enter a journey just like Shevek did when he went to Urras? Has the story come full circle?