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Old 01-17-2019, 11:36 PM   #45
gmw
cacoethes scribendi
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Catlady, the difficulty is that singular "they" is only wrong in an ever narrowing set of circumstances - see the grammergirl link in astrangerhere's post. As you suggest, and as that article and referenced style guides recommend, rewriting to avoid the problem is a good idea when viable, but this becomes cumbersome and awkward in a novel (both writing and reading).

And to bring this back to The Left Hand of Darkness, I doubt if anything other than generic "he" was given serious consideration when the novel was written - Le Guin wasn't writing a feminist proclamation. In Le Guin's 1976 essay about the novel, she writes '"He" is the generic pronoun, damn it, in English.' She also goes on to say it was not very important, but in the 1988 redux of the essay says it is very important.


issybird, you can't have it both ways (left and dark). In the Yin-and-Yang symbol, and in "Tormer’s Lay" recited by Estraven, the left hand of darkness is light (and darkness the right hand of light). So either left-and-light or right-and-dark are our choices in duality in these examples.

Aside from duality, the book also rests on its own mythology which does not tie darkness to female but to death:
Quote:
Each of the children born to them had a piece of darkness that followed him about wherever he went by daylight. Edondurath said, “Why are my sons followed thus by darkness?” His kemmering said, “Because they were born in the house of flesh, therefore death follows at their heels. They are in the middle of time. In the beginning there was the sun and the ice, and there was no shadow. In the end when we are done, the sun will devour itself and shadow will eat light, and there will be nothing left but the ice and the darkness.”
I do think this bit of mythology is spoiled by "sons". I think that was careless and inappropriate. Although it was probably justified on the same grounds as "he" and "him" etc., I see it as a step too far.

Last edited by gmw; 01-17-2019 at 11:46 PM. Reason: Clarification
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