Journal 4: Anerras

I believe that one of the greatest mistakes a woman could ever make would be to allow herself to be hindered solely because of her gender, and it is with this sentiment that I would choose to live on Anarres and not Urras.

Truth be told, Urras did initially have some appeal to me, what with its lush landscape, abundant resources, and ornate society, but that appeal was immediately tarnished by the incredibly sexist manner in which the Urrasti women are treated. There is absolutely no question in my mind that living on a beautiful and stable planet is simply not worth the surrendering of my education, career prospects, and overall rights, especially considering the fact that I have never desired to be a mother or a wife. In contrast, Anarres, as Shevek displays through his inability to see women as second class citizens, is at least a place of acceptance and equality in regards to gender. The land may be arid and the resources scarce, but everyone has the potential to contribute to society and make something of themselves, hard as they may have to work.

Another major issue that I have with Urras is the fact that human empathy in general is so frighteningly absent — everything is done for profit and personal benefit. People are so preoccupied with material things and general ownership they are, in fact, willing to completely ignore the plights of others, as evidenced by the fact that great poverty exists in A-Io at the same time that the higher-ups are living lives of luxury and excess. In some cases, even, people are willing to worsen the plights of others for their own self-interest, as Shevek fully realizes when he states, “You cannot act like a brother to other people, you must manipulate them, or command them, or obey them, or trick them” (Le Guin 346). Truly, no one is willing to stand on equal ground with anyone else — they are always fighting to be alone at the very top, choosing isolation in exchange for power and materialism.

Anarres, however, is a society of sharing, of aiding others solely because that is the right thing to do. And, while the ideas that one cannot own anything and everything is to be done for group benefit seem extreme to me, I would rather live under those universal constraints than the social and gender-related constraints of Urras. Even Anarres’s lack of central government is more appealing than the corrupt one on Urras, as people are allowed to make their own decisions and thus learn to cooperate, sacrifice, and share to survive.

Granted, I am not insinuating that Anarres is without flaw — as I previously said, the terrain is terrible, the weather harsh, and the resources limited — I am simply stating that it seems like a world in which people are more capable of being themselves, of choosing their own paths and learning the value of their fellow humans. And while there are certainly societal constraints, none of them are so unjust in my eyes as the sexism and class segregation on Urras.

As Shevek said, “There is no freedom [on Urras]. It is a box — Urras is a box, a package, with all the beautiful wrapping … and what is inside of it? A black cellar full of dust, and a dead man… I have been in Hell at last… it is Urras” (Le Guin 347). To endure Hell and allow suffering, I can conclude, is not worth the beauty of it all.

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