The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness

by

Ursula K. Le Guin

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The Left Hand of Darkness: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
This chapter is introduced as “The Nineteenth Day,” a Karhidish story recorded by Ai. It begins with Lord Berosty rem ir Ipe paying for a Foretelling. He asks what day he will die, but is only given the day of the month (the 19th), not what month or what year.
This chapter is another example of anthropological world building. Although it does not directly affect the narrative, it gives context to the world of the story. Here, Le Guin introduces the Foretellers, and the complicated and often incomplete nature of their answers.
Themes
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This answer, which has not given him the kind of clarity he had hoped for, destroys Berosty, who retreats to his home and locks himself in a tower for many months. He lives in constant fear of death. His partner, Herbor, to whom he had vowed kemmering, becomes worried about him and goes to have a Foretelling of his own. He offers his life to the Foretellers if only they will tell him more specifically when his lover will die, so that Berosty can be free from his misery.
Foretellers answer questions about the future to underscore the futility of only knowing the future incompletely. Unfortunately for Berosty, knowing only a fragment of his future destroys him. He does not learn the intended lesson, and is instead unable to think about anything other than his incomplete knowledge of his own death.
Themes
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The Foretellers don’t charge Herbor for his Foretelling, but warn him there is always a price. He asks how long Berosty will live, and the Foretellers answer “Longer than Herbor!” When Herbor meets with Berosty, he tells him this new answer. Unsatisfied, Berosty becomes so upset that he kills his lover. He is immediately overcome by shame, and the next month, on the nineteenth day, he kills himself.
As the Foretellers have designed, even getting slightly more information about his death is not enough for Berosty—in fact, it just increases his suffering and leads to his premature death by his own hand. By seeking out information about his death, he inadvertently brought it on, a cautionary tale about the danger of forbidden knowledge.
Themes
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