The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness

by

Ursula K. Le Guin

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Ai is the protagonist and primary narrator of the novel. He acts as a stand-in for the reader, a human on an alien planet, taking in a strange new world. He is a Terran man, sent by the Ekumen to the planet Gethen to convince Gethenian governments to join his interplanetary trade network. Ai is dedicated to his cause, but he’s not closed-minded—he’s a genuinely curious and empathetic person. Apart from his early interactions with Estraven, whom he finds suspicious, Ai is generally trusting. As a man, Ai’s behavior is gendered in a way that stands out against the hermaphroditic Gethenians. Ai’s masculinity shapes his character in many conventional ways: he dislikes crying, he takes pride in his physical strength, and favors courageous if risky behavior. Ai’s gender, and his familiarity with a two-gender biology, makes it difficult for him to see Gethenians as they see each other. He sees many Gethenians as male or female based on traits and behaviors he genders as masculine or feminine—descriptions and categorizations that Gethenians would not use to describe themselves. However, Ai is committed to learning and growing, and through his developing friendship with Estraven he comes to fully understand Gethenian sexuality, arguably even developing a love for Estraven that transcends the issue of gender altogether.

Genly Ai Quotes in The Left Hand of Darkness

The The Left Hand of Darkness quotes below are all either spoken by Genly Ai or refer to Genly Ai . 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:
Truth and Storytelling Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Ace Books edition of The Left Hand of Darkness published in 1987.
Chapter 1  Quotes

I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination. The soundest fact may fail or prevail in the style of its telling: like that singular organic jewel of our seas, which grows brighter as one woman wears it and, worn by another, dulls and goes to dust. Facts are no more solid, coherent, round, and real than pearls are. But both are sensitive.
The story is not all mine, nor told by me alone. Indeed I am not sure whose story it is; you can judge better. But it is all one, and if at moments the facts seem to alter with an altered voice, why then you can choose the fact you like best; yet none of them is false, and it is all one story.

Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

Though I had been nearly two years on Winter I was still far from being able to see the people of the planet through their own eyes. I tried to, but my efforts took the form of self-consciously seeing a Gethenian first as a man, then as a woman, forcing him into those categories so irrelevant to his nature and so essential to my own. Thus as I sipped my smoking sour beer I thought that at table Estraven’s performance had been womanly, all charm and tact and lack of substance, specious and adroit. Was it in fact perhaps this soft supple femininity that I disliked and distrusted in him? For it was impossible to think of him as a woman, that dark, ironic, powerful presence near me in the firelit darkness, and yet whenever I thought of him as a man I felt a sense of falseness, of imposture: in him, or in my own attitude towards him? His voice was soft and rather resonant but not deep, scarcely a man’s voice, but scarcely a woman’s voice either…but what was it saying?

Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

“I’m afraid that Argaven also believes you. But he does not trust you. In part because he no longer trusts me. I have made mistakes, been careless. I cannot ask for your trust any longer, either, having put you in jeopardy. I forgot what a king is, forgot that the king in his own eyes is Karhide, forgot what patriotism is and that he is, of necessity, the perfect patriot. Let me ask you this, Mr. Ai: do you know, by your own experience, what patriotism is?”
“No,” I said, shaken by the force of that intense personality suddenly turning itself wholly upon me. “I don’t think I do. If by patriotism you don’t mean the love of one’s homeland, for that I do know.”
“No, I don’t mean love, when I say patriotism. I mean fear. The fear of the other. And its expressions are political, not poetical: hate, rivalry, aggression. It grows in us, that fear. It grows in us year by year. We’ve followed our road too far. And you, who come from a world that outgrew nations centuries ago, who hardly know what I’m talking about, who show us the new road—” He broke off. After a while he went on, in control again, cool and polite: “It’s because of fear that I refuse to urge your cause with the king, now. But not fear for myself, Mr. Ai. I’m not acting patriotically. There are, after all, other nations on Gethen.”

Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

“…if there were anything these Ekumens wanted from us, they wouldn’t have sent you alone. It’s a joke, a hoax. Aliens would be here by the thousand.”
“But it doesn’t take a thousand men to open a door, my lord.”
“It might to keep it open.”
“The Ekumen will wait till you open it, sir. It will force nothing on you. I was sent alone, and remain here alone, in order to make it impossible for you to fear me.”
“Fear you?” said the king, turning his shadow-scarred face, grinning, speaking loud and high. “But I do fear you, Envoy. I fear those who sent you. I fear liars, and I fear tricksters, and worst I fear the bitter truth. And so I rule my country well. Because only fear rules men. Nothing else works. Nothing else lasts long enough. You are what you say you are, yet you’re a joke, a hoax. There’s nothing in between the stars but void and terror and darkness, and you come out of that all alone trying to frighten me. But I am already afraid, and I am the king. Fear is king! Now take your traps and tricks and go, there’s no more needs saying.”

Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

“But we in the Handdara don’t want answers. It’s hard to avoid them, but we try to.”
“Faxe, I don’t think I understand.”
“Well, we come here to the Fastness mostly to learn what questions not to ask.”
“But you’re the Answerers!”
“You don’t see yet, Genry, why we perfected and practice Foretelling?”
“No—”

“To exhibit the perfect uselessness of knowing the answer to the wrong question.”

Related Characters: Genly Ai (speaker), Faxe (speaker)
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

“The unknown,” said Faxe’s soft voice in the forest, the unforetold, the unproven, that is what life is based on. Ignorance is the ground of thought. Unproof is the ground of action. If it were proven that there is no God there would be no religion. No Handdara, no Yomes, no hearthgods, nothing. But also if it were proven that there is a God, there would be no religion…. Tell me, Genry, what is known? What is sure, predictable, inevitable—the one certain thing you know concerning your future, and mine?”

Related Characters: Faxe (speaker), Genly Ai
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

Consider: Anyone can turn his hand to anything. This sounds very simple, but its psychological effects are incalculable. The fact that everyone between seventeen and thirty-five or so is liable to be…“tied down to childbearing,” implies that no one is quite so thoroughly “tied down” here as women, elsewhere, are likely to be—psychologically or physically. Burden and privilege are shared out pretty equally; everybody has the same risk to run or choice to make. Therefore nobody here is quite so free as a free male anywhere else.
…Consider: There is no unconsenting sex, no rape. As with most mammals other than man, coitus can be performed only by mutual invitation and consent; otherwise it is not possible. Seduction certainly is possible, but it must have to be awfully well timed.
Consider: There is no division of humanity into strong and weak halves, protective/protected, dominant/submissive, owner/chattel, active/passive. In fact the whole tendency to dualism that pervades human thinking may be found to be lessened, or changed, on Winter.

Related Characters: Ong Tot Oppong (speaker), Genly Ai
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

Yet you cannot think of a Gethenian as “it.” They are not neuters. They are potentials or integrals. Lacking the Karhidish “human pronoun” used for persons in somer, I must say “he,” for the same reasons as we use the masculine pronoun in referring to a transcendent god: it is less defined, less specific, than the neuter or the feminine. But the very use of the pronoun in my thoughts leads me continually to forget that the Karhider I am with is not a man, but a manwoman.
The First Mobile, if one is sent, must be warned that unless he is very self-assured, or senile, his pride will suffer. A man wants his virility regarded, a woman wants her femininity appreciated, however indirect and subtle the indications of regard and appreciation. On Winter they will not exist. One is respected and judged only as a human being. It is an appalling experience.

Related Characters: Ong Tot Oppong (speaker), Genly Ai
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

Argaven was not sane; the sinister incoherence of his mind darkened the mood of his capital; he fed on fear. All the good of his reign had been done by his ministers and the kyorremy. But he had not done much harm. His wrestles with his own nightmares had not damaged the Kingdom. His cousin Tibe was another kind of fish, for his insanity had logic. Tibe knew when to act, and how to act. Only he did not know when to stop.
Tibe spoke on the radio a good deal. Estraven when in power had never done so, and it was not in the Karhidish vein: their government was not a public performance, normally; it was covert and indirect. Tibe, however, orated. Hearing his voice on the air I saw again the long-toothed smile and the face masked with a net of fine wrinkles. His speeches were long and loud: praises of Karhide, disparagements of Orgoreyn, vilifications of “disloyal factions,” discussions of the “Integrity of the Kingdom’s borders,” lectures in history and ethics and economics, all in a ranting, canting emotional tone that went shrill with vituperation or adulation. He talked much about pride of country and love of parentland, but little about shifgrethor, personal pride or prestige. Had Karhide lost so much prestige in the Sinoth Valley business that the subject could not be brought up? No; for he often talked about the Sinoth Valley. I decided that he was deliberately avoiding talk of shifgrethor because he wished to rouse emotions of a more elemental, uncontrollable kind. He wanted to stir up something that the whole shifgrethor-pattern was a refinement upon, a sublimation of. He wanted his hearers to be frightened and angry. His themes were not pride and love at all, though he used the words perpetually; as he used them they meant self-praise and hate. He talked a great deal about Truth also, for he was, he said, “cutting down beneath the veneer of civilization.”

Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

Obsle, speaking to persuade others, had said, “Either Karhide will fear the strength this alliance will give us—and Karhide is always afraid of new ways and new ideas, remember—and so will hang back and be left behind. Or else the Erhenrang Government will get up their courage and come and ask to join, after us, in second place. In either case the shifgrethor of Karhide will be diminished; and in either case, we drive the sledge. If we have the wits to take this advantage now, it will be a permanent advantage and a certain one!” Then turning to me, “But the Ekumen must be willing to help us, Mr. Ai. We have got to have more to show our people than you alone, one man, already known in Erhenrang.”

Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:

If you play against your own side you’ll lose the whole game. That’s what these fellows with no patriotism, only self-love, can’t see.

Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

He knew I was angry but I am not sure he understood that he was insulted; he seemed to accept my advice despite the manner of its giving; and when my temper cooled I saw this, and was worried by it. Is it possible that all along in Erhenrang he was seeking my advice, not knowing how to tell me that he sought it? If so, then he must have misunderstood half and not understood the rest of what I told him by my fireside in the Palace, the night after the Ceremony of the Keystone. His shifgrethor must be founded, and composed, and sustained, altogether differently from ours; and when I thought myself most blunt and frank with him he may have found me most subtle and unclear.

His obtuseness is ignorance. His arrogance is ignorance. He is ignorant of us: we of him. He is infinitely a stranger, and I a fool, to let my shadow cross the light of hope he brings us.

Related Symbols: Keystone , Shadows
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

The luck that had turned in Ethwen now turned the world with it under my hand. I never had a gift but one, to know when the great wheel gives to a touch, to know and act. I had thought that foresight lost, last year in Erhenrang, and never to be regained. A great delight it was to feel that certainty again, to know that I could steer my fortune and the world’s chance like a bobsled down the steep, dangerous hour.

Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:

“But for what purpose—all this intriguing, this hiding and power-seeking and plotting—what was it all for, Estraven? What were you after?”
“I was after what you’re after: the alliance of my world with your worlds. What did you think?”
We were staring at each other across the glowing stove like a pair of wooden dolls.
“You mean, even if it was Orgoreyn that made the alliance—?”
“Even if it was Orgoreyn. Karhide would soon have followed. Do you think I would play shifgrethor when so much is at stake for all of us, all my fellow men? What does it matter which country wakens first, so long as we waken?”

Related Characters: Genly Ai (speaker), Therem Harth rem ir Estraven (Estraven) (speaker)
Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

…Hate Orgoreyn? No, how should I? How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and river and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one’s country; is it hate of one’s uncountry? Then it’s not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That’s a good thing, but one mustn’t make a virtue of it, or a profession…Insofar as I love life, I love the hills of the Domain of Estre, but that sort of love does not have a boundary-line of hate. And beyond that, I am ignorant, I hope.

Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:

“Is it going to be ‘Mr.’ clear across the Gobrin Ice?”
He looked up and laughed. “I don’t know what to call you.”
“My name is Genly Ai.”
“I know. You use my landname.”
“I don’t know what to call you either.”
“Harth.”
“Then I’m Ai—Who uses first names?”
“Hearth-brothers, or friends,” he said, and saying it was remote, out of reach, two feet from me in a tent eight feet across. No answer to that. What is more arrogant than honesty? Cooled, I climbed into my fur bag. “Good night, Ai,” said the alien, and the other alien said, “Good night, Harth.”
A friend. What is a friend, in a world where any friend may be a lover at a new phase of the moon? Not I, locked in my virility: no friend to Therem Harth, or any other of his race. Neither man nor woman, neither and both, cyclic, lunar, metamorphosing under the hand’s touch, changelings in the human cradle, they were no flesh of mine, no friends; no love between us.

Related Characters: Genly Ai (speaker), Therem Harth rem ir Estraven (Estraven) (speaker)
Page Number: 229
Explanation and Analysis:

I was galled by his patronizing. He was a head shorter than I, and built more like a woman than a man, more fat than muscle; when we hauled together I had to shorten my pace to his, hold in my strength so as not to out-pull him: a stallion in harness with a mule—
“You’re no longer ill, then?”
“No. Of course I’m tired. So are you.”
“Yes, I am,” he said. “I was anxious about you. We have a long way to go.”
He had not meant to patronize. He had thought me sick, and sick men take orders. He was frank, and expected a reciprocal frankness that I might not be able to supply. He, after all, had no standards of manliness, of virility, to complicate his pride.
On the other hand, if he could lower all his standards of shifgrethor, as I realized he had done with me, perhaps I could dispense with the more competitive elements of my masculine self-respect, which he certainly understood as little as I understood shifgrethor…

Related Characters: Genly Ai (speaker), Therem Harth rem ir Estraven (Estraven) (speaker)
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

There is a frailty about him. He is all unprotected, exposed, vulnerable, even to his sexual organ, which he must carry always outside himself; but he is strong, unbelievably strong. I am not sure he can keep hauling any longer than I can, but he can haul harder and faster than I—twice as hard. He can lift the sledge at front or rear to ease it over an obstacle. I could not lift and hold that weight, unless I was in dothe. To match his frailty and strength, he has a spirit easy to despair and quick to defiance: a fierce impatient courage. This slow, hard, crawling work we have been doing these days wears him out in body and will, so that if he were one of my race I should think him a coward, but he is anything but that; he has a ready bravery I have never seen the like of. He is ready, eager, to stake life on the cruel quick test of the precipice.
“Fire and fear, good servants, bad lords.” He makes fear serve him. I would have let fear lead me around by the long way. Courage and reason are with him. What good seeking the safe course, on a journey such as this? There are senseless courses, which I shall not take; but there is no safe one.

Page Number: 246
Explanation and Analysis:

After all he is no more an oddity, a sexual freak, than I am; up here on the Ice each of us is singular, isolate, I as cut off from those like me, from my society and its rules, as he from his. There is no world full of other Gethenians here to explain and support my existence. We are equals at last, equal, alien, alone. He did not laugh, of course. Rather he spoke with a gentleness that I did not know was in him. After a while he too came to speak of isolation, of loneliness.

Related Characters: Genly Ai (speaker), Therem Harth rem ir Estraven (Estraven) (speaker)
Page Number: 250
Explanation and Analysis:

Light is the left hand of darkness

and darkness the right hand of light.
Two are one, life and death, lying

together like lovers in kemmer,

like hands joined together,

like the end and the way.

Related Symbols: Shadows
Page Number: 252
Explanation and Analysis:

After he had stared a long time at the glowing stove, he shook his head. “Harth,” he said, “I can’t tell you what women are like. I never thought about it much in the abstract, you know, and—God!—by now I’ve practically forgotten. I’ve been here two years….You don’t know. In a sense, women are more alien to me than you are. With you I share one sex, anyhow….” He looked away and laughed, rueful and uneasy. My own feelings were complex, and we let the matter drop.

Related Characters: Genly Ai (speaker), Therem Harth rem ir Estraven (Estraven) (speaker)
Page Number: 253
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

And I saw then again, and for good, what I had always been afraid to see, and had pretended not to see in him: that he was a woman as well as a man. Any need to explain the sources of that fear vanished with the fear; what I was left with was, at last, acceptance of him as he was. Until then I had rejected him, refused him his own reality. He had been quite right to say that he, the only person on Gethen who trusted me, was the only Gethenian I distrusted. For he was the only one who had entirely accepted me as a human being: who had liked me personally and given me entire personal loyalty, and who therefore had demanded of me an equal degree of recognition, of acceptance. I had not been willing to give it. I had been afraid to give it. I had not wanted to give my trust, my friendship to a man who was a woman, a woman who was a man.

Page Number: 267
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

“Fear’s very useful. Like darkness; like shadows.” Estraven’s smile was an ugly split in a peeling, cracked brown mask, thatched with black fur and set with two flecks of black rock. “It’s queer that daylight’s not enough. We need the shadows, in order to walk.”
“Give me your notebook a moment.”
He had just noted down our day’s journey and done some calculation of mileage and rations. He pushed the little tablet and carbon-pencil around the Chabe stove to me. On the blank leaf glued to the inner back cover I drew the double curve within the circle, and blacked the yin half of the symbol, then pushed it back to my companion. “Do you know that sign?”
He looked at it a long time with a strange look, but he said, “No.”
“It’s found on Earth, and on Hain-Davenant, and on Chiffewar. It is yin and yang. Light is the left hand of darkness…how did it go? Light, dark. Fear, courage. Cold, warmth. Female, male. It is yourself, Therem. Both and one. A shadow on snow.”

Related Characters: Genly Ai (speaker), Therem Harth rem ir Estraven (Estraven) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Shadows
Page Number: 286
Explanation and Analysis:

We stayed two more days in Kurkurast, getting well fed and rested, waiting for a road-packer that was due in from the south and would give us a lift when it went back again. Our hosts got Estraven to tell them the whole tale of our crossing of the Ice. He told it as only a person of an oral-literature tradition can tell a story, so that it became a saga, full of traditional locutions and even episodes, yet exact and vivid, from the sulphurous fire and dark of the pass between Drumner and Dremegole to the screaming gusts from the mountain-gaps that swept the Bay of Guthen; with comic interludes, such as his fall into the crevasse, and mystical ones, when he spoke of the sounds and silences of the Ice, of the shadowless weather, of the night’s darkness. I listened as fascinated as all the rest, my gaze on my friend’s dark face.

Page Number: 296
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

“Why the devil did he cheat me?” he demanded in his high strident voice, and for the first time looked straight at me.
“Who?” I said, sending back his stare.
“Estraven.”
“He saw to it that you didn’t cheat yourself. He got me out of sight when you began to favor a faction unfriendly to me. He brought me back to you when my return would in itself persuade you to receive the Mission of the Ekumen, and the credit for it.”
“Why did he never say anything about this larger ship to me?”
“Because he didn’t know about it: I never spoke to anyone of it until I went to Orgoreyn.”
“And a fine lot you chose to blab to there, you tow. He tried to get the Orgota to receive your Mission. He was working with their Open Traders all along. You’ll tell me that was not betrayal?”
“It was not. He knew that, whichever nation first made alliance with the Ekumen, the other would follow soon: as it will: as Sith and Perunter and the Archipelago will also follow, until you find unity. He loved his country very dearly, sir, but he did not serve it, or you. He served the master I serve.”
“The Ekumen?” said Argaven, startled.
“No. Mankind.”
As I spoke I did not know if what I said was true. True in part; an aspect of the truth. It would be no less true to say that Estraven’s acts had risen out of pure personal loyalty, a sense of responsibility and friendship towards one single human being, myself. Nor would that be the whole truth.

Page Number: 315
Explanation and Analysis:
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Genly Ai Character Timeline in The Left Hand of Darkness

The timeline below shows where the character Genly Ai appears in The Left Hand of Darkness. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 
Truth and Storytelling Theme Icon
Genly Ai has written a report describing his time on the planet Gethen. He explains he will... (full context)
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
The action begins with Genly Ai walking in a parade in Erhenrang, the capital of Karhide. It is raining, although that... (full context)
Duty and Loyalty Theme Icon
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
Ai and the royal party gather on a platform next to the unfinished Arch of the... (full context)
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Ai is bored watching the King work, but he notices the people of Karhide are patient.... (full context)
Duty and Loyalty Theme Icon
Ai passes time by asking Estraven about the assembled Domains and Clans. He is impressed by... (full context)
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Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
A member of the kyorremy named Tibe (the King’s cousin) interrupts Ai’s conversation so that he can talk to Estraven. Ai can tell the two men do... (full context)
Sex, Gender, and Behavior Theme Icon
Duty and Loyalty Theme Icon
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...ends when the King finishes laying the stones. As the royal party disperses, Estraven invites Ai to dinner. Ai is surprised because even though Estraven has helped him over the past... (full context)
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As Ai walks home he is noticed by native Gethenians, who recognize him by his height. Although... (full context)
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Tibe intercepts Ai as he walks. They talk about the ceremony, and Ai says he appreciates Estraven’s explanation... (full context)
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Ai returns to his boarding house, known as an island, and eats dinner, the third of... (full context)
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In the evening, Ai walks past the palace to Estraven’s house. Ai thinks the architecture of the palace, with... (full context)
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Although Ai has been on Gethen for two years, he admits he has trouble seeing Gethenians “through... (full context)
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Estraven apologizes to Ai for waiting so many months to invite him to his home, but explains that it... (full context)
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Ai wonders if Estraven’s behavior is related to shifgrethor, in which case he doesn’t hope to... (full context)
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Estraven warns Ai that there are people in court who oppose his mission as Envoy. Although Estraven has... (full context)
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Estraven explains that the King is patriotic, in that he fears the other. Estraven assures Ai that he (Estraven) is not patriotic, as “there are, after all, other nations on Gethen.”... (full context)
Chapter 2
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A footnote in the story attributed to “G.A.” observes that the second brother is driven out not because of the incest, but because... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Ai wakes up the morning of his meeting with the King and nervously reviews his notes... (full context)
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Ai arrives at the palace, finally calm, but becomes immediately nervous when he is made to... (full context)
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Ai joins Argaven in his immense reception hall. Ai sits while Argaven stands. Ai asks about... (full context)
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Ai wonders if Argaven believes he is an alien, and Argaven says he does. Argaven doesn’t... (full context)
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Ai tries to soothe the King, explaining that all the people of Ekumen, 3,000 nations across... (full context)
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Argaven wonders what will happen to Ai if he refuses to join the Ekumen. Ai explains to him that due to the... (full context)
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Argaven does not feel obligated to believe or even listen to Ai. He says Karhide is uninterested in worlds of “monsters.” Karhide is on the brink of... (full context)
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As he walks home Ai, feeling like a failure, wonders what is true and what is false. Estraven is apparently... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Light and Dark, Religion and Spirituality  Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Ai plans to leave Erhenrang, and gets advice from his landlady on how to leave and... (full context)
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Ai listens to the radio in the days before he prepares to leave the city. Tibe,... (full context)
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Ai rides the landboat for four days. He reflects that while people on Terra feel they... (full context)
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Ai hopes to find a Fastness, and to discover more of the Handdara religion, which was... (full context)
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Ai has decided not to announce himself as Envoy, and present himself as a native Karhider.... (full context)
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Goss takes Ai to a clearing where two men are practicing Presence, a kind of Handdara meditation. Ai... (full context)
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One of the men, who introduces himself as Faxe, comes to greet Ai. Ai finds Faxe very beautiful, and has the sudden urge to use his mindspeech to... (full context)
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Ai enjoys his time in Otherhord. The town and the Handdara help Ai understand Karhide better,... (full context)
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Ai helps with communal fieldwork and maintenance, and talks with Goss and Faxe. In the evenings... (full context)
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Goss helps Ai figure out how to ask the Foretellers a good question. He cautions that “vagueness breeds... (full context)
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Ai picks a question for the Foretellers to answer, and waits until all nine of them... (full context)
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Using the sensitivity that allows him to mindspeak, Ai can feel a spider-web-like connection between the Foretellers. He tries to keep out of their... (full context)
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Ai feels powerful, confused, sexual forces, which are somehow controlled by Faxe. Times passes, though he... (full context)
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...care of the Zanies as the rest of the Foretellers slump, exhausted. Faxe wonders if Ai has been answered, and Ai confirms he has been. He considers the “quality” of the... (full context)
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Two days later, as they walk together, Faxe and Ai discuss the Foretelling. Faxe tells Ai that he felt a tenth presence in the room... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...prevent war, but first wants to know about the Envoy (through this Estraven infers Genly Ai has requested permission to enter Orgoreyn). Obsle waives shifgrethor and asks Estraven for the truth.... (full context)
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Estraven continues to praise Ai to the Commensals. He wonders, “How shall we deal with strangers, except as brothers?” and... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...field notes of Ong Tot Oppong, an Investigator who explored Gethen forty years before Genly Ai began his journey as Envoy. In it, she describes her observations of Gethenien sexuality. Ong... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Ai resumes his report. He has spent the summer more as an Investigator than a Mobile,... (full context)
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Ai observes that very little in Gethen has changed in thousands of years. They are in... (full context)
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Ai hears on the radio that Argaven is pregnant. He finds it funny because he had... (full context)
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Ai realizes, as he travels, that Karhide is a disjointed nation, made up of “pseudo-feudal tribal... (full context)
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Ai returns to Erhenrang, where he now feels unsafe. Argaven has taken time off for his... (full context)
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...also talks about Truth, and claims to be “cutting down beneath the veneer of civilization.” Ai sees this as dangerous—the implication being that primitiveness is the opposite of civilization, and that... (full context)
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...has the opportunity to do the same thing, having “got a little ahead of Nature.” Ai sees that Tibe wants to unite Karhide into a nation. He can mobilize it either... (full context)
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Ai informs Tibe of his question to the Foretellers, to no response. He then goes to... (full context)
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One evening Ashe comes to visit Ai. He introduces himself as “a friend of one who befriended you.” Ai assumes he’s referring... (full context)
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Ashe wonders bitterly if Ai feels himself in debt to Estraven, who was exiled partially because of his support for... (full context)
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Ashe wants Ai to take money to Estraven, since Ai has no political ties and cannot be punished... (full context)
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Ai agrees to take the money, and Ashe is overcome with emotion, crying easily. He tells... (full context)
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Two days later, Ai leaves for Orgoreyn. Some higher-up has expedited the immigration process. Ai walks to the border,... (full context)
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At the border, the Karhidish bridge-keeper happily lets Ai cross, whereas the Orgota Inspector reviews his documents for hours. His passport is eventually taken... (full context)
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Ai is taken to a Commensal and fed. Everyone else is already sleeping and he goes... (full context)
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In the morning the group is let out into the sunlight, but Ai is singled out by an official who knows his name. He is relieved to be... (full context)
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On the radio Ai is happy to hear calm announcements about the weather and the economy, worlds away from... (full context)
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Ai is greeted in Mishnory by Commissioner Shusgis. Shusgis also recognizes Ai as Envoy, the first... (full context)
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As they talk and tour his home, Shusgis tells Ai that Karhide was afraid of him, and afraid that if they mishandled him there would... (full context)
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Ai is given new clothing, and driven to his first dinner. There are almost thirty guests... (full context)
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Obsle is distracted and turns away to another conversation. At this point Ai looks to his right, where he realizes Estraven is sitting. Ai remarks he is surprised... (full context)
Chapter 9
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This chapter is a folktale recorded by Genly Ai called “Estraven the Traitor.” It begins a long time ago, in Karhide before it was... (full context)
Chapter 10
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The morning after their dinner, Estraven comes to visit Ai in his room. Ai doesn’t feel guilty for contributing to Estraven’s exile, and is convinced... (full context)
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Ai gives Estraven the money Ashe gave him. Ai feels guilty for a moment, but decides... (full context)
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At lunch Obsle gossips to Ai about other men in the room. Mersen is a Karhidish spy, and Gaum is an... (full context)
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As Ai sits to eat, someone announces that Argaven gave birth, but the child quickly died. This... (full context)
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After lunch the assembled officials ask Ai about himself, his mission, and the Ekumen. Ai remembers Faxe’s stance on questions and answers.... (full context)
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...social behavior in the same way, and people are more open in their questions. However Ai senses some men are trying to prove him to be a fraud. This is a... (full context)
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Yegey doesn’t understand why Ekumen is interested in Gethen, and Ai explains that he’s just trying to facilitate trade and the exchange of goods and ideas.... (full context)
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Gaum, the Sarf, who Ai finds very attractive, wonders where Ai’s ship is. It’s in Karhide, but Ai could have... (full context)
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This revelation shocks the room. It is a fact Ai has kept hidden from everyone, even Estraven. Obsle wonders if the spaceship would come if... (full context)
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Ai recognizes that Slose sees him as a religious figure, and Gaum sees him as a... (full context)
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After the lunch, Ai drives home with Shusgis. Ai asks about Sarf, which is apparently an Internal Administration bureau... (full context)
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Ai feels that his mission is suddenly as complicated in Orgoreyn as it was in Karhide.... (full context)
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Back in his room, Ai considers how everything in Orgoreyn seems insipid, as though it does not cast a shadow.... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...only seven. Obsle thinks ten more could be convinced to vote with them to consider Ai’s mission seriously. One man, Commensal Ithepen of the Enyen District, wants to join with Karhide... (full context)
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...his spaceship it will not come and they will look foolish. Estraven realizes that “Genly Ai demands of us an inordinate trustfulness,” though to him “evidently it is not inordinate.” (full context)
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...He distances himself from Obsle and other members of government. He is angry at how Ai gave him the money, “as one would give a hired assassin his fee.” He meant... (full context)
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Estraven begins to see that Ai is not arrogant, but ignorant, and that he, in turn, is ignorant of Ai. He... (full context)
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A few days later, Estraven writes again. Ai has not been mentioned on the radio. He wonders if Ai understands that the Orgoreyn... (full context)
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A few days later Estraven writes that he’s becoming more uneasy. Ai has still not been mentioned on the radio. Although Ai is taken publicly through the... (full context)
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The next day, Estraven comments that he thinks Gaum is stupid for believing that Ai is a fraud. Gaum has also noticed that Yegey is no longer invested in him,... (full context)
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The next day, Ai gives a speech to the Thirty-Three. Estraven is not invited, but Obsle plays him a... (full context)
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The next day, Estraven notes Ai’s transmitting device has been turned over to the Thirty-Three. Estraven suggests to Obsle they communicate... (full context)
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Estraven goes to meet Ai by his house. He pretends it is a chance meeting, “Orgota style.” Estraven warns him... (full context)
Chapter 13
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After Estraven’s surprise visit, Ai is shaken. He tries to drive to the residences of Obsle, Yegey, and Slose to... (full context)
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In the middle of the night Ai is awoken, arrested, and taken to the Kundershaden Prison. Ai notes that unlike so much... (full context)
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Ai is strapped to a table and injected with truth serum. He has lost all memory... (full context)
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During Ai’s first night in the truck, a man dies. The group huddles for warmth, and the... (full context)
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On the third day one of the prisoners begins to talk to Ai, and he realizes he is going through kemmer, and has been drawn to him. Ai... (full context)
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Although Ai does not eat, he is not hungry, but he is permanently thirsty, as the single... (full context)
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...a prison and work camp that also functions as a sawmill. It is difficult for Ai to go from the truck to performing physical labor, but the guards allow the prisoners... (full context)
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Ai finds the work to be “genuine,” and thinks it would even be enjoyable if he... (full context)
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As a political prisoner Ai undergoes drug-assisted questioning every fifth day. He doesn’t know what the questions are, and cannot... (full context)
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On the farm people either work or they die, so there is no infirmary. Ai and other prisoners who cannot stand are allowed to remain in the dormitory indefinitely. Ai... (full context)
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One day Ai shares a story about people living on other worlds. It is hard to describe space... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Winter is coming, and Estraven worries that Ai will not survive on the Voluntary Farm. Estraven boards a caravan that travels northwest from... (full context)
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...Once inside, he tours the jail, steals a non-lethal gun from the cook, and identifies Ai’s sleeping body in the dormitory. He feels lucky, like he understands exactly how to act... (full context)
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...the midnight guard shift. Some time before dawn he activates his dothe-strength and seeks out Ai. He stuns him using his gun, and then begins to carry him out. Two guards... (full context)
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Ai, who should be awake by now, remains unconscious. Estraven worries that by calling Ai dead... (full context)
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...is in a milder recovery period. In this second phase he sleeps and wakes, feeding Ai broth when he can. By the third night, Ai begins to speak, but does not... (full context)
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The next day, Ai is able to have a conversation. He tells Estraven about the drugs he was injected... (full context)
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Ai wonders how Estraven managed to break him out of prison, and is slightly suspicious. Estraven... (full context)
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Ai denies that Estraven motivated his trip to Orgoreyn. Estraven, who now realizes Ai has “seen... (full context)
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...led to his own political exile, at which point he was afraid to talk to Ai and “contaminate” him, putting him in more danger. Once in Orgoreyn he encouraged the Thirty-Three... (full context)
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Ai still doesn’t understand Estraven’s motivation. Estraven explains he wants the alliance of his world with... (full context)
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Ai is upset that Estraven didn’t explain himself earlier. Estraven admits his “biggest error” was not... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Ai wakes up in a tent with Estraven. He has woken up before, but is finally... (full context)
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...way is overland, traveling off road to the north, and then across the Gobrin Ice. Ai wonders if this is possible, but Estraven believes it could be. He hopes weather on... (full context)
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Estraven tells Ai, “I think we might make it.” He is straightforward in a way Ai had, for... (full context)
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Ai observes that Estraven is “never rash or hurried, but he was always ready.” This constant... (full context)
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...hundred miles, then southeast. They’ll stay off roads and avoid Inspectors. It is a plan Ai admits is both “practical” and “insane.” It seems impossible to get a signal to Ai’s... (full context)
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...afternoon doing nothing so as to store up energy. Estraven writes in his journal, which Ai assumes is both an “obligation to and a link with his family.”  (full context)
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As they sit in the tent Estraven wonders why Ai was sent alone. Ai explains the first Envoy is always alone, as “One alien is... (full context)
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...“the augmentation of the complexity and intensity of intelligent life,” an Ekumnical quote borrowed from AiAi responds with his own Ekumenical quotation. (full context)
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As they eat, Ai wonders if Estraven hates Orgoreyn. Estraven denies this, and admits he doesn’t understand how someone... (full context)
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As they prepare to sleep, Ai wonders if Estraven will continue to call him “Mr. Ai.” The two decide to be... (full context)
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...Estraven traps and kills some pesthry, which they eat. The next day, as he and Ai climb into the mountains, Ai becomes ill. Estraven stops their journey before their scheduled break,... (full context)
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...Gobrin Ice, a hotbed of volcanic activity puffing smoke and melting ice into steam. Both Ai and Estraven are happy to see this awe-inspiring sight, even if the fire and ice... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Estraven continues to keep a diary. Ai, although he knows he should keep a record of his time for Ekumenical files, does... (full context)
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Estraven asks Ai about his family. Ai, who has spent many years traveling through space in suspended animation,... (full context)
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For the next several days Estraven and Ai struggle to make significant progress across the rocky, uneven terrain. They are unable to move... (full context)
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Estraven observes that Ai is both vulnerable and strong. He can haul twice as hard and fast as Estraven,... (full context)
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These risky routes do not work, and Ai and Estraven must go west, the wrong direction, in order to find an intact ice... (full context)
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On the twenty-third day of their journey, after twelve days of stalled progress, Estraven and Ai finally make it up onto the glacier. On the twenty-fourth day of their journey, Estraven... (full context)
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On the glacier, alone with Ai, Estraven feels their sexualities to be equally strange and alien. Removed from the context of... (full context)
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Estraven remarks that the Yomeshta would argue “man’s singularity is his divinity.” Ai wonders what the Handdara would say, and although they do not have a “dogma,” Estraven... (full context)
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Estraven, made bold by kemmer, asks Ai about women, which he has never seen. Ai explains that in many societies women lead... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Ai, writing from later in his life, remarks that he is sometimes taken back to his... (full context)
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Ai’s months on Gobrin are difficult, but in hindsight he sees them as joyful. He and... (full context)
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...recording short thoughts and notes about the weather, but nothing about his deeper conversations with Ai or the subject of mindspeech. Ai has promised to teach this skill to Estraven, but... (full context)
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Ai suspects Gethenians and “one-sexed” humans can have sex with each other, but he and Estraven... (full context)
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In this moment, in kemmer, Ai sees Estraven as both a man and a woman. Up until now, Ai sees that... (full context)
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Estraven tells Ai that while he is in kemmer they cannot touch, and so they do not. Ai... (full context)
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A few nights after Estraven has gone through kemmer, Ai offers to teach him mindspeech. They try for many days, but although Ai reaches out,... (full context)
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Ai calms him and explains what has happened. Estraven relaxes, but is surprised that Ai used... (full context)
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Ai encourages Estraven to call him by his first name, Genly. Estraven reaches out, and he... (full context)
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...Estraven remarks that they might have to cut rations. He begins to fast, but insists Ai continue to eat half-rations. This offends Ai, but Estraven explains that he has practiced fasting... (full context)
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...consider the future and their eventual arrival in Karhide, Estraven predicts what will happen to Ai. He suspects the Orgota will claim he has died, and will be embarrassed when he... (full context)
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Estraven wonders again why Ai was sent alone. Ai explains it is the Ekumen’s custom, though he doesn’t fully understand... (full context)
Chapter 19
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By the sixty-first day, Estraven and Ai have spotted a series of mountains, which signals that their journey is close to being... (full context)
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Estraven falls through a crack in the ice, and although Ai pulls him back out, Ai becomes increasingly tense. Estraven makes the decision to stop and... (full context)
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After the blizzard breaks, the journey becomes easier. Ai and Estraven finally reach the southeastern edge of the glacier. They abandon their sledge and... (full context)
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On the 75th day of their journey, after 51 days on the Gorbin Ice, Ai and Estraven finally leave the glacier to ski across the sea ice of the Guthen... (full context)
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...the right direction), the pair find an inn in the village of Kurkurast. At first, Ai finds the light and noise overwhelming, but he feels as though he is home. (full context)
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...the two came over the Gobrin Ice, a journey no one undertakes in the winter. Ai is awed by the generosity of the villagers. They are poor fishermen, with little to... (full context)
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...punished for helping him. He is careful not to divulge any details of his and Ai’s journey, so as to protect the innocence of their hosts. He decides they must leave,... (full context)
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Estraven intends to return to Orgoreyn after his work is finished. Ai is depressed both by the fact that their journey is not over and by Estraven’s... (full context)
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As they prepare to leave again, Estraven tells their hosts the story of their journey. Ai observes that Estraven tells it “as only a person of an oral-literature tradition can tell... (full context)
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On their fifth day in Kurkurast, Ai and Estraven leave. For the next eight days they travel towards Sassinoth, which houses a... (full context)
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The next day Ai travels into Sassinoth. He sells the stove he and Estraven have carried with them all... (full context)
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It begins to snow, so Ai spends the night in the College that houses the radio station. He feels secure and... (full context)
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The next day, Ai begins to ski back to Thessicher’s house from Sassinoth. As he skis he sees Estraven,... (full context)
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...Estraven must try to make it through the border to Orgoreyn. As the day progresses, Ai becomes colder and sadder. He begins to realize what Estraven’s plan entails. He will likely... (full context)
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As the sky grows darker, Estraven prepares to ski toward the border. Ai asks him to wait but he will not. Estraven skis towards the border and towards... (full context)
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The guards allow Ai to stay with Estraven as he dies. Ai is then escorted to prison, and Estraven... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Ai is taken back to Sassinoth where he is imprisoned. He is treated well, but must... (full context)
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In Sassinoth, Ai is sent a physician who advises him to rest. Ai tries to sleep, but has... (full context)
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News of Ai’s escape from Orgoreyn is broadcast, as is news of his arrival in Karhide. However, news... (full context)
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Argaven invites Ai to Erhenrang. Still residually ill from his winter journey, Ai remembers little of the trip.... (full context)
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In Ehrenrang, Ai meets Faxe again. Faxe has since joined the kyorremy. Ai suspects Faxe only became involved... (full context)
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Faxe has heard that Ai’s spaceship is coming, and wonders when it will arrive. Ai realizes he has not set... (full context)
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During this second meeting, Argaven sits instead of standing. Ai thinks he looks like a parent who has lost his child—which he is. Argaven is... (full context)
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Ai tries to explain that Estraven knew that if one Gethenian nation joined the Ekumen, others... (full context)
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Argaven wonders why Ai has only now called down his spaceship. Ai explains that while his survival is unimportant... (full context)
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The meeting almost over, Argaven comments that Estraven was a good man. Ai asks Argaven to revoke his exile, but the King will not. Ai leaves upset with... (full context)
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The next day, Ai’s ship arrives. He finds his colleagues, men and women, strange to look at, with voices... (full context)
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By the end of the spring Ai’s shipmates have spread across Gethen, working with the governments of all the planet’s nations. Ai... (full context)
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Once in Estre, Ai can see the Kerm Glacier to the south. He recognizes the town is very old,... (full context)
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...Sorve as the heir of Estre, and Estraven’s son. Esvans is eager to hear of Ai and Estraven’s journey across the Gobrin Ice. Sorve asks Ai to tell him how his... (full context)