Friday, February 3, 2012

The Left Hand of Darkness: Round Two: The Children of Gethenian

So, I was really excited that we did not talk about this in class because I really wanted to blog about this. So, that being said...

Reading this section was a bit easier (except for Chapter 12 because I have no idea WHAT was going on....) and I started to understand the world that Le Guin was trying to create a little better.

The passages I wanted to talk about is when children were discussed. The first one is one page 98-99:
"It was my first chance to see much of Gethenian children... the clan looked after its own; nobody and everybody was responsible for them. They were a wild lot, chasing about over those fog-hidden hills and beaches. When I could round one up long enough to talk, I found them shy, proud, and immensely trustful.
      The parental instinct varies as widely on Gethen as anywhere. One can't generalize. I never saw a Karhider hit a child. I have seen one speak very angrily to a child. Their tenderness toward their children struck me as being profound, effective, and almost wholly unposessive.Only in the unpossessive does it perhaps differ from what we call the "maternal" instinct. I suspect that the distinction between a maternal and a paternal instinct is scarcely worth making; the parental instinct, the wish to protect, to further, is not a sex-linked characteristic..."
The other quote is on page 115:
No child over a year old live with its parent or parents; all are brought up in the Commensal Hearths. There is no rank by descent. Private wills are not legal: a man dying leaves his fortune to the state. All start equal."

Ok, so, that being said. I think these statements are really interesting. As of now I have quite a few male and female friends that are in the middle of a custody battle with their child's other parent. When I look at how the court proceeding is going there is always favoritism towards one parent over the other, and I never understood it. As far as I know there is no factual evidence out there that states that a mother loves their child more than the father, or vice a versa. That being said, why are mothers always the parents who are portrayed to love their children more? I think it is unfair, and complete gender stereotyping. As women we always hate when guys diminish us in any way, but it always seems to be a mother who always implies that it is her who loves her child more. I know fathers who have to raise their children by themselves because the mothers ditched too. It is not a male only characteristic.....

The other thing that I loved that this pointed out is just the characteristics of the children. "shy, proud, and immensely trustful." I thought, trustful? That is how kids are! But then I thought of a world where children could be trustful... where children could be children. I remember when I was a kid, my mother had to go through my Halloween candy. We were told to only go to houses, if we needed help, that had the neighborhood watch pictures in the windows. We were not to go too far from home. We had to have our phone number memorized. And then I think about the fact that I am 22... and I can not imagine what kids now a days have to go through. I realize that some of these things are the fact that parents are overprotective, however, there is some reason to it. What if we lived in a world where our children could be children? Where the could run around and do what they please and just have fun? They didn't have to worry about worries that only adults should worry about? I think that is a world that I would love to raise children in!

The other thing that I really liked that Le Guin brought up was the fact that all children start equal. While it is hard to imagine a world where children are not raised by their parents, it is a breath of fresh air to see something where children are not punished nor advanced for their parents actions. It would be such a good thing for every child to have the same opportunity. Obviously, no matter what anyone in our world does, that would never be possible, but it is something that would be nice to imagine. A world where literally no child is left behind.


  1. I found these passages interesting as well. Reading the sentence that describes the children as immensely trustful made me think the exact same thing: children are very trustful by nature; that is, until they experience something that makes them suspicious of others.

    I like the thought process you laid out: what if that thing that would make children suspicious of others never occurred? Our world would be something completely different. As I was reading over that piece of your blog, I thought about that new world in the context of Le Guin's world that she created for Left Hand of Darkness. The biggest thing I thought of that children would never have to worry about in Le Guin's world would be sexual abuse and/or harassment.

    In the chapter narrated by one of the investigators that we had to read for the previous set of readings, the text addressed the fact that rape would no longer be possible. Can you imagine how much impact it would make on a society if children grew up in a world where there was no word for rape (or any kind of sexual abuse)? The children of that generation would have so much less stress imposed on them as well as the parents of those children. And because the children would grow up not knowing the horrors of such acts, as adults they would not have the memories... it would continue throughout life and from generation to generation. What a nice thought!

  2. First off, I remember my mom having to go through our candy because of some big needle in the candy scare. Oh what times those were. I think Le Guin does a great job showing us two views on parenting in Gethen. From the little bits we hear of children, there are no physical or emotional connections from parent to child that readers can observe. From the passages you picked you can tell there is concern and care for the younger generation, but nothing more gets to be shared. It is like the kids are there in the story but not really. Everything is half there half not in this book, for me at least. The Gethenians are a people not male but not female yet can be both at times. Most of the advice and discussions period are half answered half not, never leaving things fully understood with clarity. Even the snow cannot make up its mind to be one way or another. Once the book started switching narration between Genly and Estroven, we finally get to go deeper into a Gethenian mind. This is where I found the emotion and devotion I was searching for between parent and child. There was a parental longing for his child that gives a warmth and familiarity to these alien people.

  3. Great thread, everyone! How would our method of childrearing be if it were less possessive and more communal? How would it effect the children? the parents? So many parenting tasks would less onerous if one could share them with a small community.