Study Guide

The Left Hand of Darkness Chapter 14

By Ursula K. Le Guin

Chapter 14

The Escape

  • Back to Estraven.
  • Unlike Ai, he knows what it means when Obsle, Yegey, and Slose all leave town, so he takes action rather than wait for the midnight train to labor camp.
  • He heads to Shusgis's house and lies like nobody's business. He tells Shusgis he's a spy from Karhide planning to assassinate Tibe. If Shusgis doesn't give him the information he wants, Estraven will tell everyone he's a double agent.
  • Naturally, Shusgis talks.
  • Estraven sets a plan into motion. He asks a favor of a friend in the Royal Embassy, Sardon rem ir Chenewich.
  • Chenewich agrees to get a message to King Argaven regarding the whole situation, although what that crazy king will do is anyone's guess.
  • Estraven jumps ship. He forges papers and works his way across Orgoreyn as a carry-loader on a landship.
  • He realizes he has to hurry. Winter is coming to Gethen, and Ai's body will do about as well in the arctic weather as, well, a human in the arctic.
  • In an Ethwen Transient-House, Estraven hears talk of fur traders in the area and decides that's the ticket.
  • After buying "skis, snowshoes, traps, and provisions" and picking up a hunter's license (14.7), he joins a party of hunters lead by a guy named Mavriva.
  • In the town of Turuf, he ducks out of the party by pretending to be sick.
  • Wonder if he used the classic "heat the thermometer with a light bulb" trick?
  • Estraven heads north, gets the lay of the land, and hides his gear.
  • Then back to town to buy a second set of gear. This thing's quickly turning to the science fiction version of The Great Escape here.
  • Estraven is totally McQueen. You know, Steve McQueen…. Oh, just Google it already.
  • J/K. We would never make you Google something yourselves. The Great Escape. You won't be sorry.
  • Finally, Estraven just waltzes up to the Voluntary Farm and hands them more forged papers. (He's getting really good at the whole forgery thing.)
  • These new papers say he's been sent for a stint as a prison guard.
  • Dinner is over, so Estraven goes to the kitchen to ask the cook for a bite to eat. There, he spies the cook's stun gun and decides to gank it.
  • He gets a guard to give him a tour of the camp. Bathrooms on your left, depressed prisoners on your right, and an alien creature from another planet over there.
  • Estraven is given the graveyard shift where it's just him and another dimwitted guard wandering about. He prepares himself to enter dothe (i.e., a state allowing him to perform super acts of super strength).
  • It's go time.
  • He stuns Ai in the head to knock him out and pretends he's dead. The other guard says to dump him outside.
  • Taking a side trip to the inspection office, Estraven casually shuts off the electric fence. Then, he just walks out.
  • Okay, this plan actually seems pretty simple. Is it seriously this easy to break someone out of Voluntary Farming?
  • He heads to his provision cache and loads Ai onto the sled, covering him up with some convenient piles of fur.
  • When the men from the Voluntary Farm show up, they only see Estraven the trapper. After all, it's what his papers say.
  • Estraven sets up camp and tries to return Ai back to health. Two things to note: Estraven is in thangen (a weakened state from using dothe), and Ai is still drugged out of his skull.
  • For a few days and nights, it snows, and Estraven tries to help Ai, who is currently in a delusional state due to a massively bad trip. It gets so bad that Estraven worries they mindchanged him.
  • Eventually, Ai wakes up to recognize Estraven. He's still weak, but his mind is back.
  • The two talk. Ai learns that Estraven was brought up in the Handdara religion, hence the reason he can go into dothe mode.
  • Ai doesn't understand why he went through all the trouble though.
  • Estraven is mad about this at first, but then he remembers just how foreign Ai is to his culture.
  • See, it was his fault all this happened to Ai. He initially tried to protect him from Tibe's power grab but failed. Then he tried to protect Ai in Orgoreyn by gathering friends to his cause. Again failure.
  • He's done all this because he believes in Ai's mission and thinks that the Ekumen will be able to save the Gethenians from themselves.
  • His greatest error was not making himself clear to Ai (you think?).
  • Ai accepts the apology and agrees to teach Estraven the lie-free language of mindspeech.