The Ambiguous Utopias of Ursula Le Guin

Essay by subojacUniversity, Bachelor's May 2005

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After the first World War the genre of utopian science fiction slowly started to disappear, almost vanishing later in the century. A new fiction genre had started taking its place, Dystopias, easily described as the opposite of a Utopia (a purely evil place where the people are suppressed). However, after this Utopias experienced a revival. They were mostly written by relatively young Americans and were fuelled by the social renaissance of the 70's. Le Guin and some of her more outspoken critics, such as Samuel R. Delany ("To Read the Dispossessed") were among this new brand of socially critical Utopias.

What marked this new brand of Utopias was the fact that they attempted to completely reform the Genre. Previously Utopias were boring, unrealistic and people found it hard to connect with them. What this new generation of writers had realised, was that their Utopias should not necessarily be perfect.

They had come to the conclusion that all of humanities problems could not necessarily be solved by simply changing people's current social and political situation; however it was possible to solve some problems. The fact that all problems were not solved and that it was never a perfect world made it more interesting and kept the reader hooked.

This was originally what utopias were created for. People like Plato and Thomas More (Who wrote "Utopia" in 1516) used utopias as a critique of their societies. They were a way to show people the flaws of cracks in the worlds they lived in. Yet, one must also acknowledge that these Utopias were not meant as means of practical reform; they did not suggest one put it in practice, but merely pointed out the flaws in the system.

Anarchism in the Dispossessed

The first edition of The Dispossessed had this description on...