As the ship bearing Shevek away from Urras breaks orbit, the stars of the universe—Anarres among them—come into view. Shevek is shown around the ship, which is named the Davenant. Shevek notes that this ship is vastly different from the Mindful, the freighter he came in on. The ship is fragile-looking, but spacious and solid on the inside. There is a garden for recreation, bathed in artificial sunlight, and at night the ceiling provides a clear view of the stars. The ship is designed to spend months at a time in space, and has been made eminently livable for its inhabitants. Shevek notes that the style is not opulent in the Urrasti way or austere in the Anarresti, but strikes a balance between the two. The Hainish crewmembers are considerate and somber, and the Hainish race gives off the appearance of being very old, even among the youngest of them.
The novel’s final chapter and coda is rife with physical and psychological symbolism representing the end of Shevek’s journey, and the “true voyage” of his return. The ship he is returning home on is not Urrasti or Anarresti, symbolizing Shevek’s internal rejection of the perfection of either planet. He has found a middle ground in his life that will now allow him to see the good and the bad in both planets, and hopefully this new chapter of his life will allow him to think more broadly about the universe he inhabits instead of just obsessing over the virtues and failures of the twin moons.
Shevek spends most of the journey in silence, speaking only when spoken to. Though many people on the ship are drawn to him, they are also shy of him--but Shevek is hardly aware of anyone else onboard, so fixated is he on his return to Anarres and his family. Shevek feels he is like a man who has just been released from jail, and is aware of his broken hopes and his inner joys simultaneously.
Shevek is no longer isolated, caught between two worlds, though he is quiet and reserved on the spaceship. Rather, Shevek feels a profound sense of newfound freedom, no longer caught up in the tension between Urras and Anarres and looking forward only to his return to his home planet and his family.
On the second day of his journey, Shevek speaks via radio to the Syndicate of Initiative back on Anarres, listening and answering their questions in Pravic. After his radio conversation, Shevek tells the Hainish first mate, Ketho, that the Anarresti will contact him tomorrow to arrange entry. Ketho notes that it seems, from Shevek’s conversation, that he got some good news, and Shevek confirms that he did. He tells Ketho, in Ioti—the only tongue they share—that the landing tomorrow will be “exciting,” attended by friends and enemies alike, though Shevek believes that there are more friends and supporters awaiting him than there were when he left.
Shevek is even more full of hope for and excitement about his return after hearing from his fellow syndics back on Anarres. He knows that he will be met with resistance and anger still, but seems optimistic after his conversation with the Anarresti that in his absence there have been some changes on Anarres, and more people have become sympathetic to Shevek and his goals for their society.
Ketho asks Shevek if he fears being attacked upon returning, and Shevek concedes that he accepts the risk of having been a dissident in his society—it is his privilege as an Odonian to even be able to take the risk. Ketho tells Shevek that he will take Shevek down to the surface in a landing craft, and will be glad to witness Shevek’s return alongside him.
Though Shevek left his planet knowing that he would be met with anger, resentment, and perhaps even violence upon his return, the great gift of his identity as an Odonian is the freedom to make his own decisions—he has come to realize that now more than ever after his travails on the stifling and state-controlled planet of Urras.
Shevek asks Ketho if he wants to land with him rather than just alongside him, and Ketho says that he does. Shevek asks if Ketho’s commanding officer would allow him to visit Anarres, and Ketho replies that it is his duty, in fact, as an officer of a mission ship, to investigate new worlds when possible. Shevek considers Ketho’s request, informing him that the Terms of the Closure of the Settlement of Anarres do not permit Urrasti to land anywhere other than the port, but that because Ketho is Hainish and not Urrasti, there is no precedent. Ketho states that he believes all foreigners, by implication of the Terms, are barred from Anarres. Shevek states that Anarresti managers who, after first contact with the Hainish sixty years ago, wanted to keep them out were just “building more walls.” He asks Ketho why he wants to land on Anarres.
In a symbolic gesture representative of the massive shift away from binaries and toward collectivism that has occurred since the start of the novel, the Hainish officer Ketho expresses his desire to live on Anarres and learn more about it—both out of his own personal desire and his duty to his world and his people. Like Shevek, Ketho is an intrepid traveler hungry for knowledge about the universe he lives in. Shevek’s journey is coming to a close, but Ketho’s is just beginning, and the walls that divide the planets of the galaxy are coming down more and more rapidly.
Ketho replies that he is curious about Anarres after reading Odo’s works. After confirming that visiting Anarres is Ketho’s own wish, and that he understands it might be dangerous, Shevek tells Ketho that things are “a little broken loose on Anarres.” Though the purpose of Shevek’s journey was to shake things up and make Anarresti ask important questions of their society, he did not realize that in his absence such conflict would take hold. Because of this, Shevek tells Ketho that he will not bring him to Anarres as an official representative of a foreign government. Rather, once Ketho crosses the wall separating the Port from the rest of the world, Ketho will take on all the responsibilities of an Anarresti and become one of them. Though Ketho will be given unprecedented freedom as an Odonian, Shevek warns, “freedom is never very safe.”
Shevek knows that things will be difficult for him back on Anarres, and warns Ketho that Ketho too may be the subject of the doubt, suspicion, or even anger of the Anarresti people. Shevek’s goals have been completed, and the Anarresti are evidently engaged in a tumultuous upheaval of many things that had been established as the status quo since the planet was first settled. The radical freedom characteristic of Odonianism is many things, but “safe” is not one of them, and Shevek wants to be sure that Ketho understands the burdens inherent in such complete freedom—the burdens Shevek has been struggling with (and for) his entire life.
Though Ketho knows he might feel alone on Anarres, he insists that his race is very old, and has experienced and experimented with many social models, anarchism among them. Ketho himself, though, has never lived as an anarchist, and longs to try something new. He wonders why anyone is born if not to make each single life new. Shevek, in Pravic, tells Ketho that they are all “children of time.” Calling him brother, he urges Ketho to call Anarres on the radio and inform them that he’ll be coming to stay, hoping that in offering Ketho a chance to live on Anarres he will be giving him a gift, a promise, and a risk.
Ketho shares many of Shevek’s values and questions, and Shevek is delighted to see someone from somewhere else in the galaxy wrestling with the same questions he has been for so long. Shevek sees Ketho as his brother, and gladly welcomes him into the Odonian tradition. The borders are opening and the walls are coming down, and the constrictive rules that had come to silently govern life on Anarres for so long are changing fast.
The following night, Shevek paces through the garden in starlight. He looks out the windows at Anarres, wondering if Takver will be at the Port when he lands. The last time he spoke with Bedap, he had asked Bedap to decide together with Takver whether it would be safe for her to meet the Davenant at its landing. Bedap had told Shevek he wouldn’t be able to stop her even if it wasn’t safe.
Shevek has been telling Ketho that things are dangerous on Anarres, but is only now reckoning with how that unrest and upset will affect him and his family. He knows that Takver will remain allegiant to him no matter what, and that her joy at his return will not be stopped by a bit of discord—they are anarchists, after all.
The commander of the ship walks in with Ketho, and the two announce that they have obtained the entry pattern from the Anarresti ground control. The commander tells Shevek that as soon as he is ready, they will begin their descent, and Shevek tells the commander to go ahead with the launch procedure. Shevek asks Ketho if he is completely sure that he wants to breach the wall. Shevek is coming home, but Ketho will be leaving home, and though the true journey of any leaving is the return, return may be difficult. Ketho concedes that he hopes to return home, in time.
Shevek warns Ketho one last time that the road he has ahead of him may prove to be a difficult one. Shevek has made it to the true heart of his journey—the return—but cannot in good conscience promise Ketho that he will be able to return home. Nevertheless, Ketho wants to proceed with landing on Anarres, dedicated to his people and his mission of diecovery.
Shevek looks out the window again, watching as the sun begins to rise. He thinks excitedly of how he will lie down to sleep tonight on his home planet, safe beside Takver and their children. He wishes he had a souvenir to give to Pilun, but he has not brought anything from Urras at all; his hands are “empty, as they [have] always been.”
Shevek has become truly empty-handed, both externally and internally, having let go of any egoistic attachments and become “dispossessed.” He has found what is important to him—his family, his people, and the ideal of freedom—and is now ready to receive whatever lies in wait for him back on Anarres.