The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness

by

Ursula K. Le Guin

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Envoy / Mobile Term Analysis

The Evoy is a representative of the interplanetary trade alliance known as the Ekumen. Envoys are sent alone to new planets in order to try and convince local governments to join the Ekumen. Genly Ai is an Envoy sent to Gethen. Envoys announce their presence in order to further their missions, but they come to a planet only after it has been examined by a team of Investigators, who roam the world secretly to learn about its cultures.

Envoy / Mobile Quotes in The Left Hand of Darkness

The The Left Hand of Darkness quotes below are all either spoken by Envoy / Mobile or refer to Envoy / Mobile. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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:
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 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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Envoy / Mobile Term Timeline in The Left Hand of Darkness

The timeline below shows where the term Envoy / Mobile 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
...present the truth of his experiences, if not the literal facts of his time as Envoy. Facts are sensitive, he continues, and change depending on how they are presented. Ai concedes... (full context)
Duty and Loyalty Theme Icon
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
Estraven warns Ai that there are people in court who oppose his mission as Envoy. Although Estraven has done his best to plead Ai’s case with the King, Argaven sees... (full context)
Chapter 3
Truth and Storytelling Theme Icon
Duty and Loyalty Theme Icon
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
...reviews his notes on Gethenian psychology and manners. He reminds himself that his job as Envoy is designed for a single person, and he doesn’t need Estraven’s help to succeed. He... (full context)
Chapter 5
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
Light and Dark, Religion and Spirituality  Theme Icon
Ai has decided not to announce himself as Envoy, and present himself as a native Karhider. Although he is taller and darker than most,... (full context)
Sex, Gender, and Behavior Theme Icon
Duty and Loyalty Theme Icon
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
Light and Dark, Religion and Spirituality  Theme Icon
...He tries, but it doesn’t seem to work. Somehow, Faxe immediately recognizes Ai as the Envoy. He invites Ai to stay with him for a few days until he decides whether... (full context)
Chapter 6
Duty and Loyalty Theme Icon
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
...the men must work together to 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... (full context)
Chapter 7
Truth and Storytelling Theme Icon
Sex, Gender, and Behavior Theme Icon
...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 Tot Oppong hypothesizes that Gethenian... (full context)
Truth and Storytelling Theme Icon
Sex, Gender, and Behavior Theme Icon
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
...makes a note to herself to include certain facts in her final report for the Envoy. She warns that is important not to see Gethenians as men or as women, as... (full context)
Chapter 8
Duty and Loyalty Theme Icon
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
Ai resumes his report. He has spent the summer more as an Investigator than a Mobile, gathering information and learning about the culture. He notes that in his early days as... (full context)
Duty and Loyalty Theme Icon
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
...happily provide more. Ai feels warmly towards Karhide, a land he found “indifferent to the Envoy, so gentle to the stranger.” He is nervous to leave and begin again in a... (full context)
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
...Local Commensal Farm Centrality, which is filled with Inspectors who recognize him not as the Envoy, but as a “distinguished person.” They help get him a new passport and send him... (full context)
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
Ai is greeted in Mishnory by Commissioner Shusgis. Shusgis also recognizes Ai as Envoy, the first in Orgota to acknowledge his origin. Ai suspects Karhide has kept his presence... (full context)
Chapter 10
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
...would come if Ai never signaled it. Ai says no; they would just send another Envoy. Slose wonders why Ai never mentioned the ship before, and Gaum jokes “How do we... (full context)
Chapter 11
Duty and Loyalty Theme Icon
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
Estraven knows the Sarf contingent in the Thirty-Three fears the Envoy, and thinks he is a hoax. They worry if they call down his spaceship it... (full context)
Chapter 14
Duty and Loyalty Theme Icon
Light and Dark, Religion and Spirituality  Theme Icon
...Ai dead to the prison guards he has abused his luck and has killed the Envoy. Estraven’s dothe-strength has persisted for hours, and now he must rest. He feeds himself and... (full context)
Duty and Loyalty Theme Icon
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
...hoping they would accept Ai and his story. Estraven hoped the Thirty-Three would see the Envoy as a way to become superior to Karhide and break free from the Sarf’s control. ... (full context)
Chapter 15
Duty and Loyalty Theme Icon
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
...sit in the tent Estraven wonders why Ai was sent alone. Ai explains the first Envoy is always alone, as “One alien is a curiosity, two are an invasion.” Estraven comments... (full context)
Chapter 18
Duty and Loyalty Theme Icon
Otherness and Connectedness Theme Icon
Light and Dark, Religion and Spirituality  Theme Icon
...the reasons, knowing only that it values beginnings, and proceeding slowly and subtly. Alone as Envoy, he’s more vulnerable and less threatening, but also more open to the world, able to... (full context)