Ursula K Le Guin: The Day Before the Revolution
Ursula Le Guin’s short story ‘The Day Before the Revolution’ focuses on the main character’s old age experiences, exploring several important and crucial themes such as ageing, loneliness and grief. It is often seen as a sort of prologue to the more famous story The Dispossessed in which Le Guin explores the rambling themes of racism and political ambivalence.
The story follows is about a woman, Laia Asieo Odo, and it follows her throughout a day in her life. Although she is sometimes referred to as Odo, this story is a personal narrative mostly and she is calls her ed Laia. The impending death of Laia is a recurrent leitmotif throughout the story that goes through substantial changes as tensions mount on the day the revolution takes place..
here. She had, in her younger days, developeds what might be termed as an anarchist philosophy which eventually inspired a full blown revolution and a secret society by the name of Anarres which featureds in The Dispossessed. However this story is set several decades after The Dispossessed and it is a nostalgic recollection of fonder and more enthusiastic times by a woman who is now approaching death. She has come to terms with the death of her husband, and her days as a political prisoner and the past when where she ruled the roost are – all long gone. It is interesting to note that Laia presently livess in a house which is is part of a community so, in a sense, her political philosophy has in a sense brought ings her notable success in ending her days in relative comfort which can be compared to the people which Laia had worked for, and who are generally urban, very poor and without hope.
The story goes through substantial changes and there is a lot of tension as the day where the revolution occurs takes place. The impending death of Laia is a recurrent leitmotif throughout the story.
in their critiques, Harris Fain (2005) and Donaworth (1997) tend to refute the claims that Laia isis actually repentant for her past life or that she is and is full of remorseful;, rather they feel she isis selfish, and egocentric and only interested in how she can an remain relevant.
Donaworth is scathing in her criticism of Laia: as follows. “A recurring figure in Le Guin's work is the character who is just ahead of his time. Shevek, the hero of The Dispossessed, argues for an intellectual freedom he himself may never see. For many of the citizens of Orsinia, the Wall falls too late. She has sympathy for these transitional characters, she told me, because she feels like one herself” (Donaworth, 2007)
“Laia is never really there, she is simply living in the past and cannot accept that she is no longer relevant” (Fain 2005).
This is apparently a reference to the frequent going back in time that occurs on that fateful day, when Laia gets up with memories of her dead husband Taviri, pinning her identity to “The one who loved Taviri”, her own childhood on the streets which shaped her thinking and her fanciful thoughts of her secretary Noi.
In a candid interview in the Paris Review, Le Guin was is also very unclear about the story and Laia’s eventual demise. “It has something to do with the very nature of fiction. That age-old question, Why don’t I just write about what’s real? A lot of twentieth-century— and twenty-first-century—American readers think that that’s all they want. They want nonfiction. They’ll say, I don’t read fiction because it isn’t real. This is incredibly naive. Fiction is something that only human beings do, and only in certain circumstances. We don’t know exactly for what purposes. But one of the things it does is lead you to recognize what you did not know before”.
The It appears that the story is about the hopelessness and grief experienced by a person as old age robs her them of their faculties to think and remain be relevant to society. There is also a consistent feeling of nostalgia throughout, which is also an almost intrinsic part of this unhappiness which is faced by those who see they have no future. In Laia’s case this is even more pronounced when one has to considers the importance of her previous life and how that this has all vanished away into nothingness. However, h Her observant faculties characteristics have not gone; departed from her however since she is constantly looking around her and observing the enormity and importance of the institutionsbuildings which were built by the community and which continue to provide comfort and shelter to the urban poor.
Ursula Le Guin’s short story ‘The Day Before the Revolution explores several important and crucial themes such as ageing, loneliness and grief when the main character experiences old age. It is also observed to be a sort of prologue to the more famous story The Dispossessedwhere Le Guin explores the rambling themes of racism and political ambivalence.
The story makes a number of allusions to the day before the General Strike, the day that it follows Laia.Since the novel deals with a day in her life, this day appears to be the one before the General Strike since there are a lot of allusions to this particular situation. It is set in a The setting is the fictional town, of A-Lo on the planet Urras and there is a revolutionary feel in the air with the anarchist principles being part and parcel of proceedings. Although Laia is old and broken, -down she still inspires confidence and is therefore essentially a force for good in a situation where life is tough and difficult. The racial suggestions and comparisons are crucial in our understanding of Laia’s thoughts, since the day of the strike will also start a full blown revolution. E and this eventually means that her life will end but she is happy and quite satisfied that all is going according to her plans for the revolution. The story eventually ends with Laia’s death on that fateful, long awaited day. coming to an end with her tragic death.
The main themes which are present in ‘The Day before the Revolution’ revolve around Laia’s age, her grief and sense of hopelessness when she realises discovers that some of the accolades which she receives by her followers are not in line with her committed principles. As she ponders on the oncoming revolution, Laia reaffirms her commitment to the anarchist principles which have shaped her life and which are the main themes behind the short story, The Dispossessed. An interesting comparison with another of Le Guin’s works is ‘The Wind’s Twelve Quarters’ where Laia discusses utopia in the context of misery and self-torture. The approaching of her impending death is also very much part of the narrative since this is something which is almost certain. Similarities with the themes in The Dispossessed include the reduction of authority and conviection although these are rather less pronounced in the story. The story includes considerable tension on account of its examination of in that it also examines existing social values and racism which show up rather negative amongst is slightly against the working classes.
A quote that I believe, exhibits d shows here the continuously expressed disappointment with aging that runs involvedlike a theme throughout the story: which is a constant theme. “She shuffled down the hall to the bathrooms. Mairoiro was there, washing her hair in a lavatory. Laia looked at the long, sleek, wet hank with admiration. She got out of the House so seldom now that she didn't know when she had last seen a respectably shaven scalp, but still the sight of a full head of hair gave her pleasure, vigorous pleasure”. In this quote I observed the sadness experienced by Laia as she observes a very young person man in her is prime going about his personal needs. That It is an alarming problematic experience for her since she always seemed to be on top in several aspects. N and now that she can no longer participate, thatis fear seems to haunt her. It is almost like a mother looking at her children about to face the challenges in the world in to which she can no longer participate.
In The Dispossessed, Laia was is a far more resourceful and powerful charactecharacter, who seemed r, she seems to stop at nothing to achieve her aims: a sharp and the contrast with her current situation dominated by grief and self flagellation. could not be greater. She continues reminiscing about on the past and her power in the movement when as she faceds certain challenges to make life easier for the urban poor. It seems that she has now forever lost the power to intervene and this galls her and irks her.
There is aAnother quote that presents’s Laia’s old age and how its distortsion of her identity, leading to her to questioning her own value in society. “Nearby was a fruit-seller, sitting silent behind his dusty, withered stock. People went by. Nobody bought from him. Nobody looked at her. Odo, who was Odo? Famous revolutionary, author of Community, The Analogy, etc. etc. She, who was she? An old woman with grey hair and a red face sitting on a dirty doorstep in a slum, muttering to herself. True? Was that she? Certainly it was what anybody passing her saw. But was it she, herself, any more than the famous revolutionary, etc., was? No. It was not. But who was she, then?” In this quote Laia is found comparing herself to a nearby fruit seller who she believes is seen as a comparison in social class. “Nobody bought from him. Nobody looked at her”, she lowers herself to a low class fruit seller who is irrelevant to society, then questions who she is. She begins the redundant process of trying to figure out who she is. She examines looks at her past constantly looking for an answer to the question of who she is; but the creation of Laia is an everlasting process and there is no past, there is no future, there is only now. In this process I believe that Laia realizes that no matter who she is, she existed. That was an , which presented the opportunity to continue her voyage and keep going to reach on home where she soon fell to her death. “True voyage is return”. Laia does return to the home where she has lived for sometime, but there is no opportunity to indulge in nostalgia of the days gone by.
The constant feeling of nostalgia is once again shown in this quote. “How brave of you to go on, to work, to write, in prison, after such a defeat for the Movement, even after your partner's death, people had used to say. Damn fools. What else had there been to do? Bravery, courage--what was courage? She had never figured it out. Not fearing, some said. Fearing yet going on, others said. But what could one do but go on? Had one any real choice, ever?” Here Laia almost reminiscences about what might have been with a direct yet false sense of security as her death approaches, she appears nostalgic and full of remorse.
“Laia Asieo Odo's right eye wept several little tears, as she stood between the lavatories and the latrines having her hair done up by the daughter she had not borne; but her left eye, the strong one, did not weep, nor did it know what the right eye did”. Here is a we can glimpse of the grief Laia feels lt by Laia when she realizes that she is no longer relevant in society. As a matter of fact, The grief from Laia’s grief can be felt throughout the story, the direct outcome of as a result of old age and her inability to continue with the work that what made her feel relevant in society and life. The connection could be made to an aging American pro superstar who has lost the ability to perform at a high level in their selected sport.
Ursula Le Guin’s preoccupation with science fiction is also an important, and fundamental part of the whole narrative in both The Dispossessed and s well as ‘The Day before the Revolution’. Le Guin is quite knowledgable about also very much informed on the new social sciences aspect and her perspectives on society and identity are perceptible. very marked. Repeatedly, s She introduces issues such as continually brings in the issues of race and gender into her stories with particular focus on humans who are non-white – this may be seen as a tactic to emphasise the diversity of the world’s population. She is also adept at using alien cultures in her narratives. This is again , this is often a strategy to dig deeperr into the characteristics of human culture and society together with their eventual impact on the individual. Thus we read have arguments which often focus on sexual and racial identity. This focus is particularly pronounced in the story, The Left Hand of Darkness which is full with such cultural allusions. The conflict experienced by humans through their sexual identity during an encounter with an alien race is vintage Le Guin in thatis story.
The Left hand of Darkness, The Telling and The Dispossessed form part of a trilogy which is known as the Hainish Cycle, that and which is alsoalso connected to ‘The Day Before the Revolution’. The entire collection allows the reader to Here we experience a number of societies who focus on instant communication and yet are simultaneously at the same time these are isolated from one another. In a sense, Le Guin is also very far advanced of her time when she introduces ing the Ekumen race, who is known as envoys or ‘mobiles’ on other planets. This style has also been echoed borrowed by several other authors, offering which are an impressive certificates for Le Guin’s powers as an author – isn’t imitation one of the best compliments?.
One of the other focuses of the story is However the story also subtly focuses on the discrimination between races. Without making any special mention of this factor, Le Guin depicts the discrimnation via her treatement of her lead character. Although this is not specifically mentioned, one can feel it consistently in the way with which Le Guin treats her main character. An old person may be referred to as a could be said to be a Negro; and if the gender is female, then the discrimination is that much far greater. This aspect is critical in rucially examined by Le Guin in her other longer story, ‘The Dispossessed’ , where this class of people ategory of persons includes those who are without any sort of hope in society and who face poverty and destitution on a daily basis. Thus the argument over regarding the Hhaves and the Hhave- nots comes turn around full circle. Laia does everything in her power to bring some form of sanity and happiness to the oppressed. But a but although she works extremely hard to reach that towards this goal, there remains a sense of unhappiness and under achievement in her mind. thoughts.
This maxim is also explored in the short story ‘The Wind Turns Twelve Quarters’ where we read of have Laia escaping from the challenges and adversities of life. However the very fact that she isremains still part of the Odonian community is indicative of the fact that structive as it demonstrates how she cannot get away from her past and the huge challenges which continually lie ahead. The next step Laia’s next step remains has to take is compa total mystery and somehow that also letely unknown and this also means that her legacy is a disappointment.
In this short story Laia is faced with two lacerating he facts: one, that she that she is soon about to face death soon; and two, her death would mean this means that her legacy too is about to disappear. The impending revolution serves to fill her with a thrill of excitement. Y yet there is also more than a whiff of nostalgia, rather deep regret as she realises since she knows that she cannot participate in the revolution which is about to change the face of the earth. Her old age, infirmity and and decrepit destitution leaves her with no choice but to observe while sitting and to sit out the prospect of dying without any hope of redemption. Is it merely on account of old age that she is unable to move forward, rather she finds she has nowhere to go? It is difficult to accept that Le Guin’s contention is that One could observe that this is old age which cannot allow you to move ahead or forward and where there is nowhere to go. So the argument that age, identity and gender are a barriers to progress is the main thrust here.
Donawerth, Jane (1997). Frankenstein's Daughters: Women Writing Science Fiction (1st ed.). Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0-8156-2686-2.
Harris-Fain, Darren (2005). Understanding Contemporary American Science Fiction: The Age of Maturity, 1970-2000 (1st ed.). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-57003-585-2.
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Le, Guin U. K. The Dispossessed. New York: Avon, 1975. Print.
Le, Guin U. K. The Wind's Twelve Quarters: Short Stories. New York: Harper & Row, 1975. Print.