The Dispossessed


Ursula K. Le Guin

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Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Collins edition of The Dispossessed published in 1974.
Chapter 1 Quotes

There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an idea of boundary. But the idea was real. For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall. Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.

Related Symbols: The Wall
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

The knobby baby stood up. His face was a glare of sunlight and anger. His diapers were about to fall off. “Mine!” He said in a high, ringing voice. “Mine sun!”

“It is not yours,” the one-eyed woman said with the mildness of utter certainty. “Nothing is yours. It is to use. It is to share. If you will not share it you cannot use it.” And she picked the knobby baby up with gentle hands and set him aside, out of the square of sunlight.

Related Characters: Shevek (speaker)
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

“I never thought before,” said Tirin, “of the fact that there are people sitting on a hill, up there, on Urras, looking at Anarres, at us, and saying, ‘Look, there’s the Moon.’ Our earth is their Moon; our Moon is their earth.”

“Where, then, is Truth?” declaimed Bedap, and yawned.

“In the hill one happens to be sitting on,” said Tirin.

Related Characters: Bedap (speaker), Tirin (speaker)
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

“We don’t leave Anarres, because we are Anarres. But are we kept here by force? What force—what laws, governments, police? None. Simply our own being, our nature as Odonians. It’s your nature to be Tirin, and my nature to be Shevek, and our common nature to be Odonians, responsible to one another. And that responsibility is our freedom. To avoid it would be to lose our freedom. Would you really like to live in a society where you had no responsibility and no freedom, no choice, only the false option of obedience to the law, or disobedience followed by punishment? Would you really want to go live in a prison?”

Related Characters: Shevek (speaker), Bedap, Tirin
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

“Take care in Abbenay. Keep free. Power inheres in a center. You’re going to the center. I don’t know Sabul well; I know nothing against him; but keep this in mind; you will be his man.”

The singular forms of the possessive pronoun in Pravic were used mostly for emphasis; idiom avoided them. Little children might say “my mother,” but very soon they learned to say “the mother.” Instead of “my hand hurts,” it was “the hand hurts me,” and so on; to say “this one is mine and that’s yours” in Pravic, one said, “I use this one and you use that.” Mitis’s statement, “You will be his man,” had a strange sound to it. Shevek looked at her blankly.

Related Characters: Mitis (speaker)
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

[Shevek] had no right to tease them. They knew no relation but possession. They were possessed.

Related Characters: Shevek (speaker), Saio Pae, Demaere Oiie
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

When Shevek asked, with some diffidence, if he might see the place where Odo was buried, they whisked him straight to the old cemetery in the Trans-Sua district. They even allowed newsmen to photograph him standing there in the shade of the great old willows, looking at the plain, well-kept tombstone:

Laia Aseio Odo


To be whole is to be part;

True voyage is return.

Related Characters: Shevek (speaker)
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

[Shevek] had come to love Urras, but what good was his yearning love? He was not part of it. Nor was he part of the world of his birth. The loneliness, the certainty of isolation that he had felt in his first hour aboard the Mindful rose up in him and asserted itself as his true condition, ignored, suppressed, but absolute. He was alone here because he came from a self-exiled society. He had always been alone on his own world because he had exiled himself from his society. And he had been fool enough to think that he might serve to bring together two worlds to which he did not belong.

Related Characters: Shevek (speaker)
Page Number: 89-90
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

“The law of existence is struggle—competition—elimination of the weak—a ruthless war for survival. And I want to see the best survive. The kind of humanity I know. The Cetians. You and I: Urras and Anarres. We’re ahead of them now, all those Hainish and Terrans and whatever else they call themselves, and we’ve got to stay ahead of them. They brought us the interstellar drive, but we’re making better interstellar ships now than they are. When you come to release your Theory, I earnestly hope you’ll think of your duty to your own people, your own kind. Of what loyalty means, and to whom it’s due.”

Related Characters: Atro (speaker), Shevek
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

“We have no government, no laws. But as far as I can see, ideas were never controlled by laws and governments, even on Urras. You can’t crush ideas by suppressing them. You can only crush them by ignoring them. By refusing to think, refusing to change. And that’s precisely what our society is doing! Sabul uses you, and prevents you from publishing, from teaching, even from working. In other words, he has power over you. Where does he get it from? Not from vested authority, there isn’t any. He gets it from the innate cowardice of the human mind. Public opinion! That’s the power structure he’s part of, and knows how to use. The unadmitted, inadmissible government that rules Odonian society by stifling the individual mind… Government [is defined as] the legal use of power to maintain and extend power. Replace ‘legal’ with ‘customary,’ and you’ve got Sabul, and the Syndicate of Instruction, and the PDC.”

Related Characters: Bedap (speaker), Shevek, Sabul –
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

It was difficult for him to distrust the people he was with. He had been brought up in a culture that relied deliberately and constantly on human solidarity, mutual aid. Alienated as he was in some ways from that culture, and alien as he was to this one, still the lifelong habit remained: he assumed people would be helpful. He trusted them. But Chifoilisk’s warnings, which he had tried to dismiss, kept returning to him. His own perceptions and instincts reinforced them. Like it or not, he must learn distrust. He must be silent; he must keep his property to himself; he must keep his bargaining power.

Related Characters: Shevek (speaker), Chifoilisk
Page Number: 228-229
Explanation and Analysis:

“It is an ugly world. Anarres is all dusty and dry hills. And the people aren’t beautiful. The towns are very small and dull, they are dreary. Life is dull, and hard work. You can’t always have what you want, or even what you need, because there isn’t enough. You Urrasti have enough. You are rich, you own. We are poor, we lack. You have, we do not have. Everything is beautiful here. Only not the faces. On Anarres nothing is beautiful, nothing but the faces. We have nothing but that, nothing but each other. Here you see the jewels, there you see the eyes. And in the eyes you see the splendor of the human spirit. Because our men and women are free—possessing nothing, they are free. And you the possessors are possessed. You are all in jail. Each alone, solitary, with a heap of what he owns. You live in prison, die in prison. It is all I can see in your eyes—the wall, the wall!

Related Characters: Shevek (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Wall
Page Number: 228-229
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

On Anarres [Shevek] had chosen, in defiance of the expectation of his society, to do the work he was individually called to do. To do it was to rebel: to risk the self for the sake of society. Here on Urras, that act of rebellion was a luxury, a self-indulgence. To be a physicist in A-Io was to serve not society, not mankind, not the truth, but the State. On his first night in this room he had asked them, challenging and curious, “What are you going to do with me?” He knew now what they had done with him. Chifoilisk had told him the simple fact. They owned him.

Related Characters: Shevek (speaker), Chifoilisk
Page Number: 272
Explanation and Analysis:

“Do you know what your society has meant, here, to us, these last hundred and fifty years? Do you know that when people here want to wish each other luck they say, ‘May you get reborn on Anarres!’ To know that it exists, to know that there is a society without government, without police, without economic exploitation, that they can never again say that it’s just a mirage, an idealist’s dream! I wonder if you fully understand why they’ve kept you so well hidden out there at Ieu Eun. Why you were never allowed to appear at any meeting open to the public. Why they’ll be after you like dogs after a rabbit the moment they find you’re gone. It’s not just because they want this idea of yours. But because you are an idea. A dangerous one. The idea of anarchism, made flesh. Walking amongst us.”

Related Characters: Tuio Maedda (speaker), Shevek
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

“Neither of us chose [to surrender to Sabul’s authoritarianism]. We let Sabul choose for us. Our own, internalized Sabul—convention, moralism, fear of social ostracism, fear of being different, fear of being free! Well, never again. I learn slowly, but I learn.”

“What are you going to do?” asked Takver, a thrill of agreeable excitement in her voice.

“Go to Abbenay with you and start a printing syndicate. Print the Principles, uncut. And whatever else we like. Bedap’s [paper] that the PDC wouldn’t circulate. And Tirin’s play. I owe him that. He taught me what prisons are, and who builds them. Those who build walls are their own prisoners. I’m going to go fulfill my proper function in the social organism. I’m going to go unbuild walls.”

Related Characters: Shevek (speaker), Takver (speaker), Bedap, Sabul – , Tirin
Related Symbols: The Wall
Page Number: 332
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

“There is nothing on Urras that we Anarresti need! We left with empty hands, a hundred and seventy years ago, and we were right. We took nothing. Because there is nothing here but States and their weapons, the rich and their lies, and the poor and their misery. There is no way to act rightly, with a clear heart, on Urras. There is nothing you can do that profit does not enter into. There is no freedom. It is a box—Urras is a package with all the beautiful wrapping of blue sky and meadows and forests and great cities. And you open the box, and what is inside it? A black cellar full of dust, and a dead man. A man whose hand was shot off because he held it out to others. I have been in Hell at last, [and] it is Urras.”

Related Characters: Shevek (speaker), Keng
Page Number: 346-347
Explanation and Analysis:

“I only ask your help, for which I have nothing to give in return.”

“Nothing? You call your theory nothing?”

“Weight it in the balance with the freedom of one single human spirit,” [Shevek] said, turning to [Keng], “and which will weigh heavier. Can you tell? I cannot.”

Related Characters: Shevek (speaker), Keng (speaker)
Page Number: 351
Explanation and Analysis:
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:
Chapter 13 Quotes

“Things are…a little broken loose, on Anarres. That’s what my friends on the radio have been telling me. It was our purpose all along to shake things up, to break some habits, to make people ask question. To behave like anarchists! All this has been going on while I was gone. So, you see, nobody is quite sure what happens next. And if you land with me, even more gets broken loose…Once you are there, once you walk through the wall with me, then as I see it you are one of us. We are responsible to you and you to us; you become an Anarresti, with the same options as all the others. But they are not safe options. Freedom is never very safe.”

Related Characters: Shevek (speaker), Ketho
Related Symbols: The Wall
Page Number: 384
Explanation and Analysis:

“I will lie down to sleep on Anarres tonight,” [Shevek] thought. “I will lie down beside Takver. I wish I’d brought the picture, the baby sheep, to give Pilun.” But he had not brought anything. His hands were empty, as they had always been.

Related Characters: Shevek (speaker), Takver, Sadik, Pilun
Page Number: 387
Explanation and Analysis:
No matches.