Nature imagery permeates much of Le Guin’s writing. For example, in “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow” Le Guin describes an uninhabited world dominated by plant life. Le Guin writes, “infinite shades and intensities of green, violet, purple, brown, red. Infinite silences. Only the wind moved, swaying leaves and fronds, a warm soughing wind laden with spores and pollens, blowing the sweet pale-green dust over prairies of great grasses, heaths that bore no heather, flowerless forests where no foot has ever walked, and no eye had ever looked. A warm, sad world, sad and serene” (190). “The New Atlantis” also contrasts the decay of society with the splendor of nature.
Death appears in most of the stories in this particular collection. Some examples include the clones in “Nine Lives”, Odo in “The Day Before the Revolution”, the crewman in “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow”, Ragaz in “The Matter of Seggri”, the husband in “The Wife’s Story”, and both girls in “The Wild Girls”. Many of the deaths in these short stories involve sacrifice, but overall the prevalence of death in Le Guin’s stories seems to be used for dramatic effect.
Most of the imagery of decay is seen in “Nine Lives”, “The New Atlantis”, and “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”. In “Nine Lives”, Libra’s surface is dusty and decrepit. The land is cracked, dry, and barren. In “The New Atlantis”, the entire country has decayed because of overdevelopment. In “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, all of the city’s decay is contained in one room, the child’s cell, in which all manner of filth has been allowed to accumulate.
Paradise imagery is present in “The Silence of the Asonu”, “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow”, and “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”. In “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, the city is built as a utopia, free from most of the world’s evils. Likewise, in “The Silence of the Asonu”, the Asonu live in a paradise made perfect by the fact that people do not fight with each other. In “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow”, the untouched world is a paradise, which existed in perfect tranquility for millennia. In the latter two stories, the introduction of an outside, human presence destroys the paradises.
Ursula Le Guin: Short Stories Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Ursula Le Guin: Short Stories is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.