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A science fiction novel by Ursula K. Le Guin. Subtitled An Ambiguous Utopia, it tells the story of Shevek, a brilliant physicist from the planet Anarres, traveling to the world of Urras to complete his work on the theory of time, which would make instantaneous interstellar communication possible. The planet Anarres, arid and barely habitable, was colonized by refugees from Urras who established an anarcho-syndicalist society there. Urras, by contrast, is a lush, rich world but the two superpowers on the planet, A-Io and Thu, are in a state of cold war. The even-numbered chapters describe Shevek and his family's life on Anarres while the odd-numbered chapters tell the story of his adventures on Urras.

Tropes appearing in The Dispossessed:

  • Actual Pacifist: Shevek and all the people of Anarres.
  • All Nations Are Superpowers: Actually averted. Although most of Urras is covered by A-Io and Thu, Benbili is much smaller and a pawn in the Great Powers' games. (It's rather like Vietnam.)
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: Both of the double-planets of the Tau Ceti system have an atmosphere which supports human life, although Anarres is far more inhospitable.
  • Anachronic Order: Sort of. The odd-numbered and even-numbered chapters are both linear, but they are interwoven in a rather interesting way, and the overall effect is similar to reading a book actually in anachronic order. See also In Medias Res.
  • Anarchy Is Chaos: Completely averted. One of the signs that the society on Anarres might not last is that the anarchists are developing an Obstructive Bureaucracy.
  • Crapsack Only by Comparison: While Shevek is hiding out at the decrepit Earth embassy in A-Io, he declares that Urras is surely "hell." The ambassador from Earth, which had recently suffered environmental collapse and the near-extinction of humanity, responds that to her, it seems like heaven.
    • Furthermore, the whole point of the novel is examining "what is a Crapsack World? And what is a utopia?"
  • Democracy Is Bad: Or rather, liberal, capitalist democracy is bad. So is statist, authoritarian socialism. And even democratic anarcho-syndicalism has its flaws. So...again, an Ambiguous Utopia.
  • Dirty Communists: The country of Thu is not shown in the same detail as A-Io, but is implied to be this.
  • Eagle Land: The republic of A-Io is an obvious stand-in.
  • Free-Love Future - It is mentioned that on Anarres people who aren't coupled frequently engage in one-night stands. Also, it is not uncommon for friends to have sex with each other to affirm their bond. The main character Shevek has sex with his male friend, even though Shevek is not particularly attracted to him.
    • That being said, there are strong hints that the most mature relationships are long-term and monogamous. Shevek himself is Happily Married in all but name with his partner Takver.
  • Founder of the Kingdom: Laia Aseio Odo for the Anarresti, sort of. She developed the social philosophy on which the Anarresti way of life is based, and the people revere her as their founder, but she did not actually live to see Anarres settled.
  • Good Republic, Evil Empire: Averted, both are pretty bad places to live. Interestingly, Anarres also has a seamy side, one that LeGuin implies could slide into something just as bad or worse than A-Io or yet again, ambiguous.
  • In Medias Res: The first chapter of the book is chronologically the middle of the story; the last chapter ends where the first one starts. See also Anachronic Order, above.
  • Language Equals Thought: Pravic, the constructed language used on Anarres, is designed so as not to include any distinction between work and play. Additionally, although there is a possessive, it's normally only used for clarity - children learn quickly to say "the hat I use" instead of "my hat" and so on.
  • Please Put Some Clothes On: Shevek's response upon seeing how the women of Urras dress.
  • Space Cold War: On Urras between A-Io and Thu, and in real danger of going hot.
  • Subspace Ansible: Shevek's General Theory of Time makes construction of one possible. (LeGuin is in fact the Trope Namer for Subspace Ansible, although the term first appeared in an earlier story set later in the same universe.)
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