The Dispossessed

Rulag Character Analysis

Shevek’s mother. After receiving a work assignment which took her far away from Shevek and Palat, she never reconnected with her family, and so Shevek grows up without ever knowing Rulag. When Shevek comes down with pneumonia during his time at the Institute in Abbenay, he wakes from a fever to find Rulag at his bedside. She explains that while sorting books for a library, she came across one of Shevek’s published theories and subsequently tracked him down. Shevek can sense Rulag’s loneliness and her pain at having not known him for so long, but he does not find her particularly sympathetic. Rulag has always believed that work comes first, and when she meets Shevek she uses that fact as an explanation for why she abandoned him and Palat. She tells Shevek that she wants to be in his life, but Shevek refuses and sends her away. In the wake of their meeting, Shevek begins to realize that he, too, will always put his work first, and believes it is his fate to be a solitary “egoizer.” A member of the PDC, Rulag is present when Shevek and Bedap present their proposal to reopen Anarres to likeminded Urrasti—however, Rulag is staunch in her belief that no outsiders, and especially no Urrasti, should ever set foot on Anarres. When Shevek suggests that Anarresti—specifically himself—venture to Urras instead, Rulag remains firm, and declares that any Anarresti who leaves is not welcome to return. Rulag and Shevek’s tense relationship is demonstrative of the unique way familial relationships function on Anarres: they are a byproduct of life, not the center of it, and there is not necessarily always a deep bond between parent and child. Rulag is yet another reminder of Shevek’s conflicted feelings, caught between the pull of isolationism and that of community.

Rulag Quotes in The Dispossessed

The The Dispossessed quotes below are all either spoken by Rulag or refer to Rulag. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Freedom Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Collins edition of The Dispossessed published in 1974.
Chapter 12 Quotes

“What we’re after is to remind ourselves that we didn’t come to Anarres for safety, but for freedom. If we must all agree, all work together, we’re no better than a machine. If an individual can’t work in solidarity with his fellows, it’s his duty to work alone. His duty and his right. We have been denying people that right. We’ve been saying, more and more often, you must work with the others, you must accept the rule of the majority. But any rule is tyranny. The duty of the individual is to accept no rule, to be the initiator of his own acts. Only if he does so will the society live, and change, and adapt, and survive. We are not subjects of a State founded upon law, but members of a society founded upon revolution. Revolution is our obligation. We can’t stop here. We must go on. We must take the risks.”

Related Characters: Shevek (speaker), Rulag, Bedap
Page Number: 359
Explanation and Analysis:
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Rulag Character Timeline in The Dispossessed

The timeline below shows where the character Rulag appears in The Dispossessed. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
The Failure of Utopian Ideals Theme Icon
Humility and Moderation vs. Ego and Excess Theme Icon
Individualism and Isolation vs. Collectivism and Solidarity Theme Icon
...The matron wonders aloud whether the man will soon be sent along after his partner Rulag, as they are both engineers. Palat explains that his partner is wanted by the Central... (full context)
Chapter 4
Individualism and Isolation vs. Collectivism and Solidarity Theme Icon
...been reborn. As Shevek looks at the woman more closely, he realizes that she is Rulag, his actual mother. Shevek, horrified, shrinks away from her. Rulag explains that she found him... (full context)
Individualism and Isolation vs. Collectivism and Solidarity Theme Icon
Rulag asks if Shevek is still in touch with his father, Palat, and Shevek tells her... (full context)
Individualism and Isolation vs. Collectivism and Solidarity Theme Icon
Rulag explains that work has always come first for her, but that Palat was the more... (full context)
Chapter 5
The Failure of Utopian Ideals Theme Icon
Humility and Moderation vs. Ego and Excess Theme Icon
Individualism and Isolation vs. Collectivism and Solidarity Theme Icon
...at himself in the mirror he thinks that he looks very much like his mother, Rulag. (full context)
Chapter 12
Freedom Theme Icon
Individualism and Isolation vs. Collectivism and Solidarity Theme Icon
One of Bedap’s opponents—a “cool, intelligent” woman named Rulag—asks how the Odonians even propose to get to Anarres. In these meetings, which occur regularly,... (full context)
Individualism and Isolation vs. Collectivism and Solidarity Theme Icon
Bedap tells Rulag that “like good Odonians, [the Benbili would] hitchhike on one of the freighters.” Bedap wonders... (full context)
The Failure of Utopian Ideals Theme Icon
Humility and Moderation vs. Ego and Excess Theme Icon
Individualism and Isolation vs. Collectivism and Solidarity Theme Icon
Rulag denounces the Syndicate of Initiative as being against Odonian ideals and says that they are... (full context)
The Failure of Utopian Ideals Theme Icon
Individualism and Isolation vs. Collectivism and Solidarity Theme Icon
...are now strong enough to face the Urrasti as equals. The argument between Bedap and Rulag goes on and on, but eventually Bedap relents, agreeing that no Urrasti will come to... (full context)
The Failure of Utopian Ideals Theme Icon
Humility and Moderation vs. Ego and Excess Theme Icon
Individualism and Isolation vs. Collectivism and Solidarity Theme Icon
...any Anarresti, and that such travel is not forbidden in the Anarresti terms of settlement. Rulag tells Shevek that anyone can leave Anarres, but that if he leaves, he cannot come... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
The Failure of Utopian Ideals Theme Icon
Humility and Moderation vs. Ego and Excess Theme Icon
Individualism and Isolation vs. Collectivism and Solidarity Theme Icon
The People vs. the State Theme Icon
...is the basis of Anarresti society. He believes the time has come to take risks. Rulag responds that Shevek should not involve other Anarresti in his risk-taking, but Shevek remains resolute... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
The Failure of Utopian Ideals Theme Icon
Individualism and Isolation vs. Collectivism and Solidarity Theme Icon
The People vs. the State Theme Icon
...he and Shevek leave the meeting. As they walk out of the building, Bedap disparages Rulag, noting that she seems to have a personal grudge against Shevek. Bedap wonders if he... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
The Failure of Utopian Ideals Theme Icon
Humility and Moderation vs. Ego and Excess Theme Icon
Individualism and Isolation vs. Collectivism and Solidarity Theme Icon
...his and Shevek’s Syndicate of Initiative had a difficult time at PDC today, and that Rulag threatened the two of them. Takver then reveals that Rulag is Shevek’s mother. Takver explains... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
The Failure of Utopian Ideals Theme Icon
The People vs. the State Theme Icon
...observes both her and Shevek, for the first time, through the lens of knowing that Rulag is Shevek’s mother. Shevek announces that Sabul has told him that the Physics Federation has... (full context)
The Failure of Utopian Ideals Theme Icon
Humility and Moderation vs. Ego and Excess Theme Icon
Individualism and Isolation vs. Collectivism and Solidarity Theme Icon
...returns. Shevek tells Takver sadly that he might not be able to come back, revealing Rulag’s warnings and threats earlier at the PDC. (full context)