A keystone is the central stone in an archway. It provides strength and form to the rest of the structure. In the beginning of the novel, the placing of the keystone (that is, the completion of an arch) represents the opening of a brand-new River Port, which will enable increased trade for Karhide. Because the keystone is the final piece that completes the archway, it is the symbolic final element that enables an exchange of goods and ideas. Genly Ai’s mission on Gethen is like the building of an arch, and he himself describes its completion as setting the keystone in his plan. In Gethen, keystones were historically set using mortar mixed with blood. Ai’s mission is completed only with the help of Estraven, who dies for the cause—and in this sense, his blood is the metaphorical mortar that joins Karhide to the Ekumen. The keystone is therefore symbolic of connection, unification, and communication.
Keystone Quotes in The Left Hand of Darkness
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.