The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness

by

Ursula K. Le Guin

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Hermaphroditic Neuter Term Analysis

A person who is neither a man nor a woman, and is incapable of reproduction. All Gethenians are hermaphroditic neuters four-fifths of the time, developing sexual characteristics only during kemmer.

Hermaphroditic Neuter Quotes in The Left Hand of Darkness

The The Left Hand of Darkness quotes below are all either spoken by Hermaphroditic Neuter or refer to Hermaphroditic Neuter. 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 7 Quotes

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:
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Hermaphroditic Neuter Term Timeline in The Left Hand of Darkness

The timeline below shows where the term Hermaphroditic Neuter appears in The Left Hand of Darkness. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Sex, Gender, and Behavior Theme Icon
Duty and Loyalty Theme Icon
...his soft body and face. Ai has difficulty understanding that this person is a “ hermaphroditic neuter ,” not a woman, and not a man. (full context)