The Left Hand of Darkness

The Undermining of Feminine Roles in Le Guin's Genderless Novel College

Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, published in 1969, describes a utopian world in which there is an absence of gender. The novel takes place in Karhide, where winter is the nation’s only season and its inhabitants are Gethenian’s — androgynous beings. Although Le Guin sought to create a genderless world, she still created a completely masculinized text. The undermining of femininity was seen through her choice of using masculine pronouns, and in the conflicting masculine and feminine connotations attached to societal roles. Additionally, the only male, human character within the text assigns gender stereotypes to the asexual Gethenians based on their actions and behaviours. Science-fiction has been deemed a male dominated genre, and although Le Guin sought to avoid the aspect of gender in The Left Hand of Darkness, women and femininity are continuously marginalized, even in a novel in which gender does not exist.

Gender may be absent in Le Guin’s novel; however, sex and sexual ambiguity are still abundantly present. The Gethenians' sexual nature corresponds with the female menstrual cycle and as well, the Gethenians' ambisexuality was argued to have no adaptive value. The Gethenian sexual cycle lasts twenty-six to...

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