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.


  1. I think this is such a great connection and it is so true! Looking back on all of my friendships, before I became close with any one of my friends, I was so curious about them. I had already assumed what they would be like and thought I knew a lot about them even without talking to them. I think this is true in the beginning of all relationships! They are an alien to us, and we are an alien to them. Le Guin definitely does a fantastic job of changing the reader’s view of what the word alien really means! An alien is something or someone who is different to us, strange, unfamiliar, and hard to comprehend. (not just a green guy with antennas and one eye) ☺

    I think a huge reason Genly distrusted Estraven’s motives in the beginning of the trip across the ice is in part because he failed to look past the man-woman that Estraven is. He failed to look past his differences. Genly’s discrimination against the Gethenians troubled with his understanding of the Gethenian and ultimately his mission. As soon as Genly was able to accept Estraven for who he was, he became open to changing himself and changing his views of the Gethenians. And that is when he was able to form his strong bond with Estraven. Which is true in any situation. As soon as we open ourselves up to a person and the other person to us, we are able to form a strong connection…essentially a friendship.

  2. So true -- it makes me try to remember not judge or assume I know all about people until I actually get to know them. You never know what people are really like to you, you know, take a crazy journey on the ice with them.