The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness

by

Ursula K. Le Guin

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A period of a few days each month in which Gethenians develop sexual organs and sexual desire. Its opposite is somer, during which time sexuality is latent. Within kemmer are three additional phases: secher, thorharmen, and thokemmer, which track the degree of sexual polarity an individual has reached.
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Kemmer Term Timeline in The Left Hand of Darkness

The timeline below shows where the term Kemmer appears in The Left Hand of Darkness. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
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Light and Dark, Religion and Spirituality  Theme Icon
...two Zanies, whom Ai diagnoses as schizophrenic; five Celibates, one of whom must be in kemmer for the Foretelling to work; and a Pervert, someone in perpetual kemmer. Although Ai had... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Sex, Gender, and Behavior Theme Icon
...presents as totally androgynous, and then for the rest of the days a person enters kemmer. In isolation, or with other people still in somer, sexual intercourse is impossible, however, if... (full context)
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During kemmer, Gethenians sometimes present as male, sometimes as female. In Karhide individuals seem to have no... (full context)
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Duty and Loyalty Theme Icon
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Kemmer sometimes happens in pairs, sometimes in group settings. Some individuals choose vow kemmering, which is... (full context)
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Ong Tot Oppong observes that, as fascinating as the Investigators find kemmering, it “dominates” Gethenians even more. Every aspect of their society revolves around the kemmer-somer cycle,... (full context)
Chapter 11
Sex, Gender, and Behavior Theme Icon
Gaum notices Estraven is about to go into kemmer, and so induces his own kemmer. He intersects Estraven in the street and tries to... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...of the prisoners begins to talk to Ai, and he realizes he is going through kemmer, and has been drawn to him. Ai is unable to give the Gethenian what he... (full context)
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...man among women, or among eunuchs,” as all the prisoners are given drugs that prevent kemmer and depress their emotions. Ai believes long-term prisoners have adapted to their chemical castration, but... (full context)
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...have a word for “flying.” Ai explains that people on other worlds are permanently in kemmer, that is, they have a distinct, permanent biological sex. Asra jokingly asks “is it a... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...drifts off to sleep, Ai wonders how he can be friends with someone who, in kemmer, could be his lover. In his mind, someone who is neither man nor a woman... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...feel more confident about their chances of making it to Karhide. Unfortunately, he is entering kemmer, and being close to Ai is difficult for him. He distances himself from Ai as... (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... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...speak, and continually ask, “Does he burn?” and then answer themselves, “No.” Eventually, Edondurath enters kemmer, and the corpses shout “He burns! He burns!” Edondurath’s final living brother comes to join... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...each other, but he and Estraven do not test his theory, even though Estraven enters kemmer one night early in their journey.  (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... (full context)
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Estraven tells Ai that while he is in kemmer they cannot touch, and so they do not. Ai thinks this sexual tension leads to... (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... (full context)