Department or Program



This thesis explores the depiction of sexual violence in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle, which includes The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), The Word for World is Forest (1972), and The Dispossessed (1974). Viewed through the perspective of Second Wave Feminism, which emerged in the 1970s and saw heightened attention to rape, these texts provide valuable insights into how science fiction explores sexual violence and where Le Guin situates herself within the feminist discourse. Chapter One examines an understudied scene in The Dispossessed that illustrates, with sensual language, protagonist Shevek’s sexual assault of a woman. I contribute to the limited literary discourse, including writer Samuel Delaney, that processes and attributes meaning to this scene. I also address and contemplate the novel's swift transition from the scene. I argue that Le Guin casts her hero in a new light–or darkness–to accentuate her ambiguous utopia to the degree that it is vague. As Le Guin paves her protagonist’s downfall, she simultaneously presents a redemption for his sexual assault: the collectivity of anarchism. In this chapter, I turn to Le Guin’s androgyny experiment, The Left Hand of Darkness, which offers her proclivity towards gender essentialism. Her perspective on gender elucidates Shevek’s capacity for masculine violence. His eventual embrace of anarchism signifies a shift towards androgyny. I assess the novel’s delicate and tender treatment of sex and love as a foil to the worlds of The Dispossessed–Urras and Anarresti. Chapter Two tackles The Word of the World is Forest, which offers an examination of inter-group violence originated by acts of rape. Does rape cause the Althsheans’ metamorphosis into violent individuals? World is Forest, I argue, suggests that sexual violence is an innate male trait that requires another cure: dreaming and technology. Le Guin’s texts demonstrate how science fiction operates as an outlet to portray the pernicious consequences of sexual violence. At the time and years later, critics struggled to assess or interpret Le Guin’s feminism. A focus on sexual violence helps to understand how her detailed utopias interact with contemporary science fiction and 2nd Wave Feminism.

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

First Advisor

Dillon, Steven

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages




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