Study Guide

The Left Hand of Darkness Chapter 11

By Ursula K. Le Guin

Chapter 11

Soliloquies in Mishnory

  • Another switch in perspective. This time, we're diving into Estraven's diary. 
  • Note that the entry dates are in Gethenian. You'll have to use the "Gethenian Calendar and Clock" appendix to solve the code, although it's not necessary.

Mishnory. Streth Susmy

  • Estraven secretly works on Ai's behalf, colluding with Yegey and Obsle to help accomplish the Envoy's goal. Sarf, however, blocks information about Ai from the public and opposes his mission in general.
  • Obsle and Yegey hope to win a majority of the 33 Commensals to their side. Anyone else get the feeling we're reading C-SPAN in space?
  • Estraven is not hopeful their plan will work.
  • Thanks to the money Ai brought him, Estraven now lives on his own.
  • He remembers the time Ai gave it to him. He is amazed at the alien's ignorance although he admits it's a result of him being a total stranger to their ways.
  • Estraven now spends his days working in a factory and practicing the "skills of stillness and fasting" (11.10). Why, we don't know, but we're willing to guess it isn't about getting his figure back.

Harhahad Susmy

  • No word on the radio about Ai.
  • Estraven wonders if Ai realizes that he is actually being hidden in plain sight.
  • Another scuffle at the across the river Ey. Sarf gets what it wants + Tibe gets what he wants = everyone else loses (a.k.a. the War Equation).
  • Commensal Slose sees mystical implications in Ai's message. He believes the second coming of their prophet Meshe will begin with the coming of the spacemen. So, Commensal Slose is basically the L. Ron Hubbard of this story.

Guyrny Susmy

  • Estraven considers the notion that "to oppose something is to maintain it" (11.18).
  • He writes that, if Karhide and Orgoreyn are going to stop feuding, they must move in directions not heading toward each other.
  • Man, Estraven is even cryptic when no one is watching.

Tormenbod Susmy

  • Still no word of Ai on the radio, and no broadcast from Erhenrang ever reaches the Orgoreyn public.
  • See, Sarf has complete control over all communications going in and out of Orgoreyn, and they don't like the Envoy. Not exactly a recipe for success.
  • Estraven thinks this has less to do with fear of Ai (like Argaven had) but of how the other Commensals will use him against each other.
  • Again, Ai's a complete tool in Estraven's mind.
  • Obsle meets with Estraven, and Estraven implores him to get word out about Ai anyway he can.
  • Obsle complains about Sarf's control over the radio and printed media. Too bad the Internet doesn't exist on this planet yet.
  • Estraven counters that he should start people talking to get the gossip wheel moving along.
  • Countering the counter with a counter, Obsle says Ai needs to bring his ship to the planet ASAP.
  • When Obsle complains that Ai doesn't trust them, Estraven asks if he should. Obsle doesn't reply, evidently on the principle that if you don't have anything nice to say, you just should say anything at all.
  • Estraven believes he must be the most honest politician in the whole Orgota government. (A regular politician will lie to your face, but an honest politician just keeps his mouth shut.)

Odgetheny Susmy

  • Gaum "accidently" runs into Estraven and invites him out for a cup of ale.
  • He takes him to one of the Public Kemmerhouses and orders lifewater—the hard stuff—instead.
  • Gaum then tries to seduce Estraven with all the subtlety of a WWE wrestler.
  • Estraven declines but is bummed out that Gaum must have a really low opinion of him, to think he'd sell himself out so low.

Odsordny Susmy

  • Estraven listens to a tape of Ai addressing the 33 Commensals, giving a transcript of the event from memory. It's impressive, really. We can't even remember where our keys are half the time, but he remembers what amounts to a Congressional hearing.
  • The short and sweet of it: Ai wants to bring down the ship to prove his story but won't do it until the Commensality makes a public announcement on his behalf.
  • Some of the 33 heckle Ai like he's a bad stand-up comedian. Kaharosile thinks Ai's playing a joke on them, and a public announcement would simply lead to a mockery of the government.
  • Estraven finds his helplessness insufferable and is saddened that he can never "set [his] heart on a possible thing" (11.56).

Odeps Sumy

  • Ai has turned over his anisble for the Orgota government to look at, but Estraven doesn't believe it will change any minds. If they can't understand the device, they won't understand what it means.
  • Estraven presses Obsle to have Ai get word to his ship, so the people aboard can chit-chat with the Commensals.
  • Obsle says it's impossible since the Sarf control all radio transmissions and also want to see Ai fail.
  • Although Estraven knows there are ways around the Sarf, he also realizes that Obsle fears for his job.

Odarhad Susmy

  • Estraven bumps into Ai Gaum-style: the old "what a coincidence" meeting.
  • He tells Ai that it might be wise to go over the heads of the Commensals and just call down the ship himself.
  • Ai argues that it is not Estraven's business here in Orgoreyn. With that, Estraven simply says Ai's life is in danger and then leaves him.
  • Again, Estraven, buddy, would it kill you to give a little more information to the whole "life in danger" thing?
  • Estraven worries fear has undone Ai's mission once again and feels it his fault that it has come to this.