Analysis of The Dispossessed written by Ursula LeGuin

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When he finally succeeds in his intellectual mission, LeGuin describes his moment of ultimate fulfillment: And yet in his utter ease and happiness, he shook with fear. his hands trembled, and his eyes filled up with tears as if he had been looking into the sun. After all, the flesh is not transparent. And it is strange, exceedingly strange, to know that one’s life has been fulfilled. (LeGuin, 281) The fulfillment that Shevek experiences—the ‘childish joy’ at solving the problem before him highlights LeGuin’s representation of people’s natural initiative to engage creatively in work/play that at once benefits society as a whole and also forwards the Contemporary Justice Review 309 free and full development of the individual. Here the term that can be used if ‘work/play’ because in the Anarrean society imagined in The Dispossessed, separate terms do not exist for work and play, as Anarreans are not required to do work they do not enjoy but instead freely choose of their own initiative, without external coercion, the work they want to do (Brennan, 25).The character of late philosopher and revolutionary Odo, whose teachings form the basis of culture and society on Anarres, articulates the theory informing this conception of human motivation. A child-free from the guilt of ownership and the burden of economic competition will grow up with the will to do what needs doing and the capacity for joy in doing it. It is useless to work that darkens the heart. The delight of the nursing mother, of the scholar, of the successful hunter, of the good cook, of the skillful maker, of anyone doing needed work and doing it well this durable joy is perhaps the deepest source of human affection, and of sociality as a whole. (LeGuin, 247) What Odo’s words suggest here and what LeGuin ratifies throughout the novel is that the organizational forms of capitalism such as private property and competition do not enhance or optimize people’s capacity to realize their highest potential but rather deaden that capacity.