“The air of morning was so clear that the snow still crowning the Eighteen Peaks burned with white-gold fire across the miles of sunlit air, under the dark blue of the sky.” ("The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas", 1)
Le Guin paints a vivid picture of Omelas to emphasize the city’s beauty and splendor.
“Children dodged in and out, their high calls rising like the swallows’ crossing flights over the music and the singing.” ("The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas", 1)
The sound of the children’s voices adds to the festive mood of the occasion and serves to underscore the joyfulness of the festivities.
“As Pugh saw this there was a shock like one of Libra’s earthquakes inside him, a very deep tremor.” ("Nine Lives", 31)
This quote offers a foreshadowing as two earthquakes lead to two devastating incidents later.
“The Exploitation Corps simply sent out teams regularly and as blindly as a dandelion sends out its seed, knowing there would be a job for them on Libra or the next planet out or one they hadn’t even heard about yet.” ("Nine Lives", 36)
Comparing the Exploitation Corps’ decision to send out teams to dandelions sending out seeds suggests that the corps carelessly and thoughtlessly sends out teams with little regard to what happens to them. This idea appears again later in the story when most of the tenclone dies and the Exploitation Corps simply sends more clones without missing a beat.
“A few of my men following some girls on the road, women rushed from the town like a pack of wild beasts, so that the men thought it best to return forthwith to the castle.” ("The Matter of Seggri", 133)
This is an example of an anthropological misinterpretation stemming from biases applied to observations. As men, the observers interpret the women’s behavior as animalistic because they flee from them. Later the story reveals that the women are actually the more civilized members of Seggrian society and they view the men like animals that have escaped from their proverbial cage, in this case the village castle.
“Noem, like a woman, was direct and receptive.” ("The Matter of Seggri", 170)
In Seggrian society, women have many of the characteristics that are traditionally ascribed to men: assertiveness, directness, confidence, etc. This is yet another example of how gender roles are malleable and can easily change based on a society’s values.
“Each breath shot out of his nostrils as a double puff of steam, now-white in the morning sunshine.” ("The Rule of Names", 279)
This simile foreshadows the fact that Mr. Underhill is a dragon.
“'Morning, Mr. Underhill,' said the villagers as he passed them in the narrow street between houses with conical, overhanging roofs like the fat red caps of toadstools.” ("The Rule of Names", 279)
The description of the roofs as toadstools keeps with the idea that the town is quirky and like a mythological shire, with homes that blend seamlessly into nature.
“Modh kept up her pantomime: she lay down, lolled her head. And half opened her eyes, like a dead person; she leapt up with her hands held like claws and her face distorted, and pretended to attack Vui; she pointed at the sick baby.” ("The Wild Girls", 211)
The fact that Modh has to use rudimentary gestures to communicate with her captors draws attention to the pronounced linguistic and cultural divide between the Sky People and the Dirt People. As the Sky People take the children from their homes, they are, in effect, ripping them from their cultures.
“Their amiable and apparently easy manner seems to some observers the placid surface of a deep pre-occupation, a constant alertness, like that of a mother who while entertaining her guests or seeing to her husband’s comfort yet is listening every moment for the cry of her baby in another room.” ("The Silence of the Asonu", 254)
The observers who come to visit the Asonu come up with different interpretations of the Asonu’s behavior. This quotation illustrates one such theory.
“Our perception of the truth is sudden as a lightening-flash…” ("The Silence of the Asonu", 256)
The researcher who sat with the Elder of Isu created a code by which the Asonu live. This code, which is ultimately incorrect, illustrates the difficulty for outsiders to understand the philosophies and core values of a foreign culture.
“He was white all over, then, like a worm’s skin.” ("The Wife’s Story", 275)
The wife is horrified as she watches her husband change. Her descriptions grow more grotesque as his transition to a human progresses.
“I saw her running at the man with her head low and her mane high and her eyes yellow as the winter sun.” ("The Wife’s Story", 276)
The description of the wife’s sister contrasts with that of the husband. The sister is described as a fierce wolf, which is juxtaposed with the picture the wife paints of her pale, naked husband fleeing under the moonlight.
“Surveyors set up their instruments and set to work, three viruses twitching minutely on the hide of an unmoving giant.” ("Vaster Than Empires and More Slow", 192)
The comparison of the surveyors to viruses speaks to the idea that the expedition crew is like a pathogen to the planet.
“The ground underfoot was springy as a mattress, every inch of it knotted with roots and peppered with small, fleshy-leaved growths.” ("Vaster Than Empires and More Slow", 196)
The interconnectedness of the planet’s plants recurs throughout the story, and helps the reader to understand the impact that the crew has on the planet.
“Comfort was allowed to come to them rare, welcome, unsought: a gift, like joy.” ("Winter’s King", 98)
The idea that comfort only appears unexpectedly signifies its rarity on Winter. Le Guin uses this idea to emphasize the misery on Winter.
“To Gerer it appeared a ship breasting, motionless, a swift vast flood of darkness, carrying the young king into shadows, terrors, years.” ("Winter’s King", 99)
The horror of being a ruler on Winter recurs constantly in “Winter’s King”, underscored by the story's dark imagery.
“Festin rode the wind like an arrow.” ("The Word of Unbinding", 75)
Magic allows Festin to assume forms impossible for a normal human, and yet even this extreme freedom is ruined by the evil wizard intent on capturing him.
“Like a blind worm he moved through the earth westward, slowly, darkness before and behind.” ("The Word of Unbinding", 76)
Festin’s journey from the world of the living to that of the dead takes him from a proud wizard to a metaphorical blind worm, traveling from light into darkness, to a place where he can finally defeat his nemesis.
“It was like hitting stone, he did not move at all, but the huge lungs let out right over her head a prodigious noise.” ("The Day Before the Revolution", 286)
When Odo first meets Taviri, he appears larger than life. Her description of the sound of his voice booming above her first indicates how much Odo looked up to Taviri.
“She started up the second flight of stairs, one by one, one leg at a time, like a small child.” ("The Day Before the Revolution", 303)
This quotation is taken from a passage about Odo’s death. It speaks to the idea of life being cyclical, as Odo in her old age returns to a childish state.
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.
It is not until the end of the story that the reader realizes that he or she has been duped into believing that the story was about a human relationship. Le Guin brilliantly misleads the reader by never explicitly saying the narrator and her...