The Dispossessed

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The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia is a 1974 utopian science fiction novel by Ursula K. Le Guin, set in the same fictional universe as that of The Left Hand of Darkness (the Hainish Cycle). The book won the Nebula Award in 1974,[1] both the Hugo and Locus Awards in 1975,[2] and received a nomination for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 1975.[2] It is also notable for achieving a degree of literary recognition unusual for science fiction works.

The story explores many ideas and themes, including anarchism and revolutionary societies, capitalism, individualism and collectivism, and the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis.

It is also notable for the invention of the fictional ansible, an instantaneous communications device that plays a critical role in Le Guin's Hainish Cycle. (The invention of the ansible places the novel first in the internal chronology of the Hainish Cycle, although it was the fifth Hainish novel published[3]).

Contents

Setting

The story of The Dispossessed is set on Anarres and Urras, the twin inhabited worlds of Tau Ceti. Cetians are mentioned in other Ekumen novels and short stories. An Anarresti appears in the short story The Shobies' Story. Urras before the settlement of Anarres is the setting for the short story The Day Before the Revolution.

In The Dispossessed, Urras is divided into several states which are dominated by the two largest ones, which are rivals. In a clear allusion to the United States (represented by A-Io) and the Soviet Union (represented by Thu), one has a capitalist economy and patriarchal system and the other is an authoritarian system that claims to rule in the name of the proletariat. Further developing the analogy, there is in A-Io an oppositional left-wing party which is closely linked to and supporting the rival Thu, as were Communist parties in the US and other Western countries at the time of writing. Beyond that, there is a third major, though underdeveloped, area called Benbili — when a revolution breaks out there, A-Io and Thu invade Benbili generating a proxy war. Thus, Benbili comes to represent south-east Asia, an allusion to the Vietnam War.

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