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Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed: A Utopia-Searching Bildungsroman for the Age of Resource Scarcity

Shu-Fen Tsai

Page / 147-178


In The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin (1929- ) intends to explore the possibility of building an “anarchist communist” society. She openly states that her purpose of writing fantastic stories is to provoke readers to confront the reality of our “primary world” with a contrasting alternative of a “secondary world.” The story of The Dispossessed centers on the life of Shevek, who exiles himself from his dispossessed homeland, Anarres, to seek new freedom on Urras, where the capitalist ethic of competition and possession is the dominative life value. After testing himself in two conflicting systems, Shevek finally affirms that the revolutionary utopia of “the dispossessed” is the right path human species shall choose to achieve the potential of an evolutionary social being. Generally speaking, The Dispossessed is a novel of “education,” elaborating how Shevek’s “dispossessed” self and worldview is formed, tested, renewed and matured. From eco-critical point of view, Le Guin’s contribution is to make the negative condition of “scarcity” into a positive space where new political, economical, gender and language emancipation could be experimented. With the dialectic power of utopian imagination, Le Guin helps us to explore what a possible community ethos we might need to cultivate when the age of resource scarcity is here to come.

Keywords : Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed, community ethic, utopia, Bildungsroman
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