Study Guide

A Wizard of Earthsea Duty

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In A Wizard of Earthsea, Ged runs into one of the classic problems of growing up: he has to do some things that he doesn't want to do. Some of his duties don't matter all that much. Like helping his dad out at the forge – it would be nice if Ged helped out rather than wandered through the woods, but this isn't a life-and-death situation, right? Later in life, Ged faces situations where his duty is clear and he does his job – even when it's not a glamorous job that he can take pride in, or when he may not be powerful enough to do the job. As Ged grows older, he understands that he has responsibilities that he must take care of, and he's fine not wandering through the woods when those duties come calling.

Questions About Duty

  1. Are there any characters that are particularly associated with duty and responsibility? For instance, are Ged's teachers on Roke more dutiful than his aunt and Ogion? Is Nemmerle?
  2. The word "duty" doesn't get used often in A Wizard of Earthsea, so what word or words does Le Guin use instead when she writes about this concept? How does "duty" get described in this book?
  3. When we think about "duty," we're mostly thinking about jobs, but are there other positions or relationships where we can think of duty? For instance, does Ged have a duty to Pechvarry because of their friendship?
  4. How does the theme of "Duty" relate to the other important themes of the book? For instance, there definitely seems to be some crossover between duty and the theme "Choices" – that is, people who have a particular duty don't have a choice. But what about the other important themes, like "Coming of Age" and "Power"?

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