Study Guide

The Left Hand of Darkness Chapter 10

By Ursula K. Le Guin

Chapter 10

Conversations in Mishnory

  • After a late breakfast, Estraven comes to check on Ai. Ai gives him the money, more to get rid of him than anything else.
  • Estraven suggests Ai needs information and advice. From him.
  • The advice is simple: Ai is a tool and he needs to be careful because they will not use him well.
  • What's with people calling this guy a tool?
  • Then Estraven leaves before clarifying what it means, spoiling an otherwise decent morning for Ai. Typical.
  • Ai has lunch with many of the Commensals of Orgoreyn. He meets a bunch of people with funny names, like Mersen, a spy for Tibe but one everyone knows about; and Gaum, an agent of the Sarf.
  • News comes from Karhide that King Argaven's child was born and died that morning. Gaum cheers and others follow with a toast.
  • Thankfully for our opinion of the Orgoreyns, some people think it's a little distasteful to cheer that a baby died.
  • There is some discussion as to who will be Argaven's heir now, but the talk is interrupted by lunch.
  • After the meal, the men question Ai. Since, after all, he's an alien.
  • Ai can't believe how straightforward the Orgoreynians are with their questions. Some openly don't believe Ai's story, which would never happen in the much more proper Karhide society.
  • Ai tells them about the Ekumen and how it isn't really a government so much as a society and culture of planets.
  • To summarize: the planets help educate one another to advance themselves and each other. Like an intergalactic study group.
  • When they ask why the Ekumen want to bring in Gethen, Ai answers that he is there to set up open trade. Trade in "goods, of course, knowledge, technology, ideas, philosophies, art, medicine, science, theory" and so on (10.34).
  • The choice will also be available to all the countries on Gethen, not just Oregoreyn or Karhide.
  • Ai mentions that he's got a ship orbiting around Gethen's sun. This causes quiet a stir. If movies have taught us anything, it's that people freak when they discover alien spaceships in orbit—what with the death rays and all.
  • Ai thinks things are going well. He sees that some of the Commensals want to use him in a power grab, but Ai believes he can use their power hunger to his own advantage.
  • Of course, he's asking them to swallow a huge belief pill, so the Commensals want proof.
  • Ai tells them he can radio his spaceship and have it land. How's that for proof? All he needs is a guarantee of the ship and crew's safety, meaning a public announcement made by the whole board of Commensals.
  • While driving home with Shusgis, Ai asks about Sarf. Oh, good, we've been wondering.
  • It seems it's an administration tasked with dealing with information processing and, though left unsaid by Shusgis, control. A sci-fi Big Brother if you will.
  • Ai finds it interesting and hilarious that the governments of Gethen are so similar to the ones of Earth's history. Anybody want to bet on whether those words will come back to bite him later?
  • Then they start talking about Estraven. Shusgis doesn't know much, just that he's a traitor who now works for Yegey.
  • Ai realizes that he hasn't felt cold since he arrived at Mishnory. He also feels the leaders of Orgoreyn are "not quite solid" (10.92). In the words of the famous Han Solo (and everyone else), he's got a bad feeling about this.