Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Whose the Alien Now!

 So, Genly has grown comfortable around the people of Gethen to the point where his own people are alien to him.  Right here is where the term alien becomes more about emotional connection than physical.  From the beginning, Genly and I struggle to learn about the Gethenian’s, as well as accept their differences enough to create better understanding.  Though times come in the book where Genly mentions the barrier cracking, we never fully see the progress he and us readers have made till the Ekumen land. 
“Out they came- But they all looked strange to me, men and women, well as I knew them.  Their voices sounded strange: too deep, too shrill. – great apes with intelligent eyes all of them in rut, in kemmer(296).”
                It appears Genly is being introduced to aliens, not his own kind.  Le Guin bonds reader and Genly so slightly to Estraven and Gethenian's in general, that her mind trick sneakiness is not established till this very crucial moment.  The so called aliens(Gethenian’s) became familiar and the familiar became foreign, like aliens.  I imagined myself as Genly watching the people exit the ship and saw myself taking a step back, closer to my group, my clique, and looking at the others. 
                You know how sometimes you get into a conversation with a good friend and you flash back to the “remember when we weren’t friends yet and I so totally thought u were a nerd, jerk, …” .  You take that stroll down memory lane and you realize the person you thought your friend was that first day rarely meets the description of who they really are?  Le Guin takes us through just this situation and makes us friends with a stranger (Estraven).  She makes the whole thing familiar but strange and new at the same time which is awesome.  In order to show us we are all alien to one another at some point, Le Guin uses actual alien characters.  Using aliens from alternate universes to help understand diversity and connections from one person to another in our own universe, Le Wow. Props to Le Guin and her craftiness.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

AH HA!!!

Again fighting with the fact that on Gethen there are no males or females, I still feel not only that Estroven reminds me of women, but that Le Guin also wants me to think this way.  For simple starters there is no getting around the fact that his name, Estraven, closely compares to another word, estrogen. Hmmmmmmm. There are many times in the story where not only did I think Estraven appeared feminine, but Genly would also make reference to this idea. 
“He ordered me to go lie down. - I was galled by his patronizing.  He was a head shorter than I, and built more like a woman than a man. - He had not meant to patronize.  He thought me sick. – He, after all, has no standards of manliness, of virility, to complicate his pride (218).”
Though it is stereotypical, when I think caregiver, I think of my mother.  Whenever I was sick, both parents took to caring for me but in different ways.  My father’s affection is just as strong, but more discrete, whereas my mother is overly affectionate.  Also, working in an assisted living facility for years, I have only once worked alongside a male.  So I am not trying to stereotype, but I am just going off personal experience.  With that being said, this passage instantly gave me not only a physical female shape to Estraven, but a more feminine mindset as well.  I think this is one of the times during the story where Genly starts to shy away from seeing Estraven as a male like himself.  I however, was still struggling with this.
I have to admit, I was somewhat ashamed and embarrassed of myself for having such a difficult time seeing him as man and woman.  While talking recently with my partner about this book she started to laugh while I was explaining the story.  I told her I knew the book sounded weird but to just shut up.  She was still laughing…a lot… and finally said, “OMG, I think were aliens!”  My partner dresses manly, has a very masculine dominated career, but is the most emotional affection needing person I have ever met.  I on the other hand, am super girly, needing hours to get ready, me time with my nails and face masks, don’t get too emotional, but can relate more to men and have always been a tomboy when it comes to activities.  I had that perfect “ah ha” moment and suddenly Estraven became real.  Though we are one sex, it was so much easier to read after this connection, and I stopped trying to pick one sex over the other for Estraven.  I now see how the two can be one.