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Themes of Space, Place, and Liminality in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Short Stories

“Betrayals”, “Forgiveness Day”, and “A Man of the People”

Tiina Suomaa 251052 Pro Gradu Thesis English Language and Culture School of Humanities Philosophical Faculty University of Eastern Finland April 2018

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Tiedekunta

Filosofinen tiedekunta Osasto

Humanistinen osasto Tekijät

Tiina Suomaa Työn nimi

Themes of Space, Place, and Liminality in

Ursula K. Le Guin’s Short Stories “Betrayals”, “Forgiveness Day”, and “A Man of the People”

Pääaine Työn laji Päivämäärä Sivumäärä

Englannin kieli ja kulttuuri Pro gradu -tutkielma x

25.4.2018 71+3

Sivuainetutkielma Kandidaatin tutkielma Aineopintojen tutkielma Tiivistelmä

Tutkielma käsittelee paikkaa ja tilaa teemoina kolmessa Ursula K. Le Guinin novellissa. Paikan ja tilan käytön ja vaikutusten lisäksi tutkielmassa analysoidaan myös niihin liittyvien teemojen, kuten liminaalisuuden, sukupuolen ja sosiaalisen luokan merkitystä sekä vaikutusta tarinan etenemisen ja sen henkilöhahmojen kannalta. ”Betrayals”-tarinan analyysissä keskitytään tiettyjen paikkojen merkitykseen tarinan kannalta, minkä lisäksi analysoidaan myös

henkilöhahmojen liminaalisuutta sekä sen syitä ja merkitystä tarinan kannalta. ”Forgiveness Day”-novellin analyysissä keskitytään sukupuolen ja sosiaalisen luokan merkitykseen ja vaikutuksiin hahmojen erilaisen paikkojen ja tilojen kokemisen ja niissä elämisen kannalta. Analyysissä keskitytään erityisesti niihin rajoihin, joita sukupuoli ja sosiaalinen luokka tuottavat tarinassa, sekä siihen, kuinka kyseisiä rajoja kyseenalaistetaan ja rikotaan. Kodin merkitystä niin fyysisenä paikkana kuin myös enemmän henkisenä ideana ja tavoiteltavana ihanteena käsitellään ”A Man of the People”-tarinan analyysissä. Tämän lisäksi siinä analysoidaan myös erilaisia liminaalisuuden ilmentymiä ja syitä. Näitä ovat muun muassa erilaiset rituaalit ja seremoniat sekä ajan ja tilan vääntymät avaruudessa lähes valonnopeudella matkustaessa.

Tutkielman mukaan paikka ja tila sekä erilaiset niihin liittyvät teemat ja ilmiöt ovat merkittävässä osassa kaikissa kolmessa novellissa. Ympäröivän tilan ja yksittäisten paikkojen vaikutukset ja merkitykset ovat keskeisiä hahmojen toiminnan ja identiteetin muodostumisen sekä muuttumisen kannalta. Tarinoiden esittämä liminaalisuus kytkeytyy seremonioiden lisäksi myös olennaisesti paikkoihin ja tiloihin sekä matkustamiseen. Matkustaminen sekä muu

liikkuminen eri tilojen ja paikkojen välillä ohjaa hahmojen identiteetin muutosta ja ohjaa myös tarinoiden kehittymistä olennaisesti.

Le Guinin pidempiä teoksia on aikaisemmin tutkittu melko kattavasti, mutta hänen novellejaan ei ole tutkittu läheskään yhtä paljon. Tämä tutkielma pyrkii paikkaamaan tätä ja tarjoamaan samalla uusia näkökulmia Le Guinin novellien tutkimukseen erityisesti paikkaan ja tilaan sekä niihin liittyvien teemojen kannalta.

Avainsanat

Tila, paikka, identiteetti ja tila, sukupuoli ja tila, Ursula K. Le Guin, novelli, Four Ways to Forgiveness, tieteiskirjallisuus

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Faculty

Philosophical Faculty School

School of Humanities Author

Tiina Suomaa Title

Themes of Space, Place, and Liminality in

Ursula K. Le Guin’s Short Stories “Betrayals”, “Forgiveness Day”, and “A Man of the People”

Main subject Level Date Number of pages English Language and Culture Pro gradu -tutkielma x

25.4.2018 71+3

Sivuainetutkielma Kandidaatin tutkielma Aineopintojen tutkielma Abstract

This thesis analyses three of Ursula K. Le Guin’s short stories, “Betrayals”, “Forgiveness Day”, and “A Man of the People” in connection to the spaces and places found in them. It also addresses selected more specific themes, such as liminality, gender, social class and the concept of home. The stories are linked by neighbouring planets, Werel and Yeowe, where all of the stories are set.

The analysis of “Betrayals” has two parts. The first one concentrates on the functions of specific spaces and places in the story, and the second one focuses on liminality and the liminal journey of the protagonists. The analysis of

“Forgiveness Day” examines the influences that gender and social class and the boundaries created by them have on the two protagonists’ way of perceiving and using different spaces and places, as well as how the protagonists challenge those boundaries. The analysis of “A Man of the People” concentrates first on the notion of home as a physical place as well as an idea present in the story, and its importance to the protagonist’s identity. The second part of the analysis is concerned with the different modes of liminality found in the story, such as different rituals and ceremonies, as well as with the way in which the travel in space affects the outcome of the story. It also analyses how liminality influences the protagonist’s journey.

The thesis shows that the way in which the spaces and places in the stories, as well as the related themes, influence the three stories is highly significant. In each of the stories the protagonist’s relationship with the surrounding spaces and places is an important part of the story, and it is presented as dynamic and changing. In all of the stories protagonists experience feelings of alienation connected to the changes in the inhabited spaces and places as well as liminality. The various spaces and places guide the formation and change of the protagonists’ identities and actions. Travel and other forms of geographical movement are connected in the stories to the experiences of liminality and the transformation of identities. While travel in space is not the main topic of any of the stories, all of them feature it in some way and its effects play a part in the conclusion of the stories.

While Le Guin’s longer works of fiction have been studied quite extensively, literary studies on her short stories are considerably less common and this thesis works to fill that gap. The stories analysed in this thesis, as well as the theoretical frameworks used in it differ from the earlier literary studies, providing new viewpoints to the analysis of Le Guin’s fiction.

Keywords

Space, place, liminality, identity and place, place and gender, Ursula K. Le Guin, short fiction, Four Ways to Forgiveness, science fiction

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Contents

1. Introduction... 1

1.1 Aims and the Structure of the Thesis ... 1

1.2 Le Guin and the Stories... 2

2. Space, Place and the Related Themes ... 7

2.1 Space, Place and Identity ... 7

2.2 Liminality – Victor Turner and Arnold van Gennep ... 13

2.3 Space, Place, Gender, and Social Class ... 17

2.4 Conclusion ... 21

3. Themes of Space, Place, and Liminality ... 22

3.1 Liminal Persons, Spaces and Places in “Betrayals” ... 22

3.1.1 Places and Spaces in “Betrayals” ... 23

3.1.2 Liminality and the Liminal Existence in “Betrayals” ... 27

3.1.3 Conclusion ... 34

3.2 Boundaries Created by Gender and Social Class in “Forgiveness Day” ... 34

3.2.1 Boundaries of Gender and Social Class in Relation to Solly ... 36

3.2.2 Boundaries of Gender and Social Class in Relation to Teyeo ... 46

3.2.3 Conclusion ... 53

3.3 Home, Journey and Liminality in “A Man of the People”... 53

3.3.1 Home as a Space/Place in “A Man of the People” ... 54

3.3.2 Liminality in “A Man of the People” ... 62

3.3.3 Conclusion ... 68

4. Conclusion ... 69

References ... 72

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1. Introduction

Short stories are in many ways strongly linked both to the concept of liminality and to different spaces and places in which they occur. A significant part of this has to do with the short story as a genre, as will be discussed shortly later. Some of the chosen places also function as liminal spaces which are defined as the spaces between, for example, clearly defined spaces or identities. This makes them integral to the construction of a character’s identity especially in cases in which it undergoes a transformation during the story. In addition, different spaces and places have an effect on the character’s identities, and the process is guided by various features such as gender and social class. Furthermore, some of the notions related to spaces and places are loaded with significance, such as house and home. Leaving them, as well as relating to them afterwards, is connected to the notion of liminality and the liminal journey.

1.1 Aims and the Structure of the Thesis

The general aim of this thesis is to examine three of Ursula K. Le Guin’s (1929-2018) short stories in relation to space and place and the way in which these and other more specific themes and concepts such as liminality, gender, and home are linked to them and consequently have an influence on the analysis of the story. The analysed stories are

“Betrayals” (1994), “Forgiveness Day” (1994), and “A Man of the People” (1994). All three stories are a part of a story collection called Four Ways to Forgiveness (1995). This thesis continues with a theory section, which introduces the theories used in the analysis of the stories. The following analysis section is divided into three chapters, one for each of the stories. I will first examine Ursula K. Le Guin’s science fiction short story “Betrayals”

and how different spaces and places function in it as well as how their liminality affects the transformation of the characters’ identities. In the second chapter of analysis I will analyse

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the story “Forgiveness Day” in relation to the notions of gender and social class and how they interconnect with concepts of space and place in the story. The third and final analysis chapter will concentrate on “A Man of the People” and the thematic notion of a home as a physical place as well as an idea. I will also analyse different ways of liminality found in the story. The thesis will end with a short concluding chapter. Next, I will briefly introduce Le Guin and the stories.

1.2 Le Guin and the Stories

Le Guin is known for her anthropomorphic brand of science fiction writing in which the focus is strongly on the “soft” side of sciences, such as anthropology and psychology.

Many critics have noted that Le Guin’s fiction is difficult to define in terms of genre, as she has written both science fiction and fantasy in addition to non-fiction (Cadden xiii). Le Guin’s series of loosely interconnected science fiction books and short stories are called the Hainish Cycle. Some of her better-known works, which also belong to the Hainish Cycle, are The Left Hand of Darkness as well as The Dispossessed, which are maybe the most researched of all of her works. The stories of the Hainish Cycle, which the analysed stories are also part of, are set into an alternative universe/future in which various alien worlds as well as the Earth are a part of a diplomatic confederacy of worlds called the Ekumen. In her writing Le Guin describes complex new worlds and societies in addition to creating histories and cultures for them.

Some of the recurring themes that Le Guin addresses in her writing are feelings of isolation and otherness, the search for one’s identity, exile and how perceiving new cultures forces the characters to re-examine their own preconceived notions of humanity and norms. James Bittner notes that “what Le Guin’s characters learn on their quests is that freedom and wholeness are not to be found in individualism, but in partnership” (218). The

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need to connect with people and find that partnership is important in the analysed stories as well. Karen Sinclair has noted that “Le Guin has, essentially, two modes for representing her protagonists as outsiders: either they are true aliens [...] or they are natives of a society, yet their perception of social life nevertheless sets them apart” (52). This is true in the case of the protagonists of the three analysed stories: all of them are in their way either “true aliens” like Solly or Havzhiva, or they see their surrounding world differently, as is the case with Yoss and Teyeo. These themes are closely connected to the places Le Guin creates in her writing, which make the use of theories regarding space, spatiality and the liminality of spaces exceedingly suitable for analysing the stories. Mike Cadden notes in Ursula K. Le Guin Beyond Genre that Le Guin’s “larger text baits us with binaries of home places and journeys, but at the same time the texts – collectively and individually – resist clearly identifiable “other sides” (51). The lack of clear divisions in particular enables the analysis of the stories with the concept of liminality. Various critics, including Cadden, have noted that while place and home are important in Le Guin's works, “she often denies her characters the actual planting of roots in one soil – or defers it for a time extrapolated beyond the end of the tale” (51). The same theme can be seen in the stories of Four Ways to Forgiveness, which all have quite open endings. Le Guin’s fiction has been researched before in connection to the use of myths as rhetoric (cf. Rochelle Warren) and how her writing crosses over between the different genres (cf. Mike Cadden). In addition, her novels have been studied in connection to the themes of ecocriticism (cf. studies on The Word for World Is Forest) and her fiction in connection to the themes of utopia and dystopia, such as studies on The Dispossessed, and notably, on a short story “Those Who Walk Away from Omelas”.

“Betrayals” is part of a collection of loosely interconnected short stories called Four Ways to Forgiveness (1995). The stories in the collection are set in the twin worlds of

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Yeowe and Werel. “Betrayals” is the first story of the collection and takes place in Yeowe, an old slave colony of Werel. “Betrayals”, as suggested by the title, deals with themes of betrayal, isolation and self-imposed exile, which are interconnected with the spaces and places found in the story. The protagonist of the short story, Yoss, is a former teacher who has chosen to leave the life in town behind and move to a rural area to search for enlightenment and isolation according to the customs of her people. Another important character is a former politician and rebel leader named Abberkam, who has partly chosen and partly been forced into exile after losing his reputation and honour after betraying the trust of his people. These two characters from very different backgrounds and social standings meet in their exile and these meetings begin a change in both of them.

In the second chapter of my analysis, I will examine a story called “Forgiveness Day”. The story takes place on a planet called Werel, a neighbouring planet to Yeowe. The two neighbouring planets have a complex and problematic relationship due to the history of slavery and colonisation which the Werelian people imposed on Yeowe. This story continues the same theme as mentioned above “Betrayals”, as the liberation movement of the slaves and the subsequent civil war on Yeowe are also present in “Forgiveness Day”.

The main theme of “Forgiveness Day” is the conflict between the two protagonists and the cultures and values they each represent and their eventual overcoming of their previous prejudices. The theme of making a human connection despite initial conflict and differences is very typical for Le Guin. Elizabeth Cummins notes in Understanding Ursula K. Le Guin (1993) that “Le Guin’s science fiction world underscores the importance of maintaining a balance among the peoples of the Hainish planets by recognizing the commonality of humanity within the different races and cultures” (11). In “Forgiveness Day” the central idea is reaching out across the differences and attaining an understanding, which the two protagonists achieve in the end of the story.

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In my analysis of “Forgiveness Day” I will concentrate on the different ways in which issues of gender and social class interconnect with the notions of space and place in the story. I will concentrate especially on the boundaries they create and how those boundaries have an effect on the characters. Given that place is an element of space, these two concepts will be used in this chapter in connection with each other. The analysis will concentrate more on space as an abstract concept than analyse the physical surroundings, since the boundaries exist mainly on the level of cultural beliefs and traditions than on physical plane of existence. In the story two individuals from very different cultures are forced to overcome their previous boundaries and prejudices, which were interconnected with notions of gender and class.

The third and final analysed story is “A Man of the People”, in which the protagonist, Havzhiva, leaves his home to become a historian and ends up finally in Yeowe as an Envoy of Ekumen. The story partially features the same themes as the two previous ones, as Havzhiva journeys through various planets and finds a place to belong to in Yeowe. I will first analyse the notions of home and home as a place found in the story in connection to Havzhiva’s childhood home Stse, as well as the way in which the geographical location and the different social networks shape Stse as a space/place and consequently Havzhiva’s relationship with it. I will also analyse liminality found in the story and how it connects to Havzhiva’s journey. The Stse culture in the story features various rites and ceremonies, which can be seen as rites of passage. In addition, Havzhiva’s journey after leaving Stse is liminal in its nature.

Lastly, before moving on to discussion about the theoretical background, a brief word about how short stories and liminality are connected. One could argue that the very format of short stories is liminal, as a lot of material is compressed into a far fewer pages than, for example, in a novel. This compression of the story brings on the liminal aspect of

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the text. Jochen Achilles and Ina Bergmann note that short stories “[b]ecause of their very brevity […] cannot elaborate on the determining factors of their fictional worlds and values and therefore demand a more projective and inferential understanding” (12). They continue that this is the fact that causes a sort of liminal sphere to develop, in which the reader makes their own assumptions based on the limited knowledge the short story offers.

Achilles and Bergmann state that “[t]o a higher degree than the novel, the short story can be considered the liminal genre par excellence” (4). Achilles and Bergmann note that as a genre of fiction, short stories are the ones that mediate the most between different styles and subgenres (4). Notably, Achilles and Bergmann also mention that fantasy and science fiction in particular are genres that are remarkably “open up to liminal perspectives” (4).

Consequently, it makes all three stories exceedingly suitable for analysis through theories regarding liminality, spaces and places.

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2. Space, Place and the Related Themes

The rising interest in spaces and places as well as their significance is called the spatial turn and its effect is also apparent in literary studies. Literary space studies are interconnected and interdisciplinary, crossing over and borrowing from geography and psychology as well as sociology and political theory. For example, the relationship between traditional geography and literature studies is one of such interdisciplinary fields of study, seen for example in the use of geographical studies and terms in the analysis of literature. Likewise, the use of sociological and anthropological terms and theories in connection to the analysis of literature and spaces and places in it is common. This is also one of the ways in which the interconnections between different fields of study are visible.

Some of the researched topics are the mapping of spaces and places in the stories, analysis and study of meanings of the spaces and places, as well as their effect on the narrative of the story. However, it is important to remember that traditional geography is not the same as human geography and literary geography which are the theoretical frames used in this thesis. In this thesis I will use a selection of theories regarding space, place and liminality as well as the theme of journey. The theories to be used are connected to and originate from various theoretical backgrounds that range from sociology to psychology and philosophy. In this thesis, I analyse space and place in connection to notions of identity, liminality, and boundaries created by gender and social class. In the selected theories, the concepts of space and place are seen in various different ways, which I will describe in the following theoretical section.

2.1. Space, Place and Identity

I will start this section by defining a key term appearing in my thesis: identity. Identity as a term becomes more complex and vague the more it is analysed. The most basic definition

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of identity is who a person feels they are and what they know and think about themselves.

In Encyclopedia of Social Theory the act of identifying is described as follows: “before we can act toward or interact with some object, it must be situated in time and place. To do so is to give the object a name in the sense of classifying it as a member of a particular category (e.g., a soldier, a woman, a man, a chef, a student, and so on)” (390).

Traditionally identity has been considered as something fixed and lasting. However, the postmodern way of thinking has challenged that, as Kobena Mercer notes in “Welcome to the Jungle”: “identity only becomes an issue when it is in crisis, when something assumed to be fixed and coherent and stable is displaced by the experience of doubt and uncertainty”

(43). The postmodern thinking has problematized the fixedness of identity, and thus issues of identity, especially changes and threats against it, are foregrounded. In this thesis, issues of identity intertwine with the spaces and places found in the stories.

An important theoretical point of view used in this thesis concerns the concepts of space and place. Generally speaking, place can be defined as a localised, differentiated part of a larger surrounding undifferentiated state that is space. However, when academically used, space and place are complex terms to define theoretically. In many contexts they are used interchangeably, although technically they are separate terms when used in theoretical contexts. Humanist geographer Yi-Fu Tuan states in his book Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience that “[i]n experience, the meaning of space often merges with that of place” (6). He also states “[t]he ideas ‘space’ and ‘place’ require each other for definition” (Space, 6). It is impossible to define one without the other. To further illustrate the complexity of the terms, following quotes from different theorists offer further views on terms of space and place. Hubbard, Kitchin and Valentine point out in Key Thinkers on Space and Place that “given the different ways space and place have been operationalized, they remain relatively diffuse, ill-defined and inchoate concepts” (6). In Literary

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Landscapes de Lange, Fincham, Hawthorn and Lothe state that “[p]lace is an element of space” (xiii). Later, Lothe expands on this in chapter “Space, Time, Narrative” by stating that “[a]s an element of space, place is less abstract in that it is located” (3). By this he means that place possesses physical coordinates, whereas space does not, thus localising it.

The concepts of space and place are connected with social relations. In Key Thinkers on Space and Place Hubbard, Kitchin and Valentine state that space and place are

“inherently caught up in social relations, both socially produced and consumed” (4-5). In other words, space and even more precisely, place are socially produced. Moreover, Linda McDowell states in Gender, Identity & Place that “[i]t is socio-spatial practices that define places and these practices result in overlapping and intersecting places with multiple and changing boundaries, constituted and maintained by social relations” (4). She also emphasizes that the limitations of the places are caused by the rules created by surrounding power relations.

Likewise, for Hubbard, Kitchin and Valentine in Key Thinkers on Space and Place, places much like spaces, are also defined in terms of social, lived experiences of people and constructed through them. Places are seen as distinctive and having certain limitations to them due to their localisation, compared to spaces (5), much in the same way as McDowell has described. Hubbard, Kitchin and Valentine’s definition follows the same ideas as Tuan’s. Tuan has noted in The Perspective of Experience that “’[s]pace’ is more abstract than ‘place’. What begins as undifferentiated space becomes place as we get to know it better and endow it with value” (6). For Tuan, experiences are the key component that transforms an undistinguishable space into a contained place. Tuan also describes more clearly the difference between space and place by stating that “[p]lace is security, space is freedom” (Perspective of Experience 3). Thus, following his thought, the idea of place can be seen as linked with stability and continuity whereas the idea of space is linked

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with movement and change. In much the same way, Thomassen has noted in Liminality and the Modern that “[h]uman experiences of freedom and anxiety (they do belong together) are condensed in liminal moments” (1). In other words, space, freedom and liminality can be regarded as connected.

Much like Tuan, Gaston Bachelard has written about the link between places and experiences. He has also observed how they connect to identity formation. Lothe describes Bachelard’s idea in Literary Landscapes by stating that Bachelard “stresses the link between place and identity-formation. For Bachelard this quality of space is affiliated with the question of when, and how, an empirical person (or a fictional character or narrator) is situated in a given place” (14). Tuan writes in “Space and Place: Humanistic Perspective”

about the relationship between place and experience that “[p]lace incarnates the experiences and aspirations of a people. Place is not only a fact to be explained in the broader frame of space, but it is also a reality to be clarified and understood from the perspectives of the people who have given it meaning” (“Space” 387). In other words, people’s experiences are what create a place out of space and thus it can only be understood from the same cultural viewpoint. Tuan continues to clarify that “[t]he study of space, from the humanistic perspective, is thus the study of a people’s spatial feelings and ideas in the stream of experience. Experience is the totality of means by which we come to know the world” (“Space” 388). The experiences and feelings connected to specific places guide our understanding of those places. For example, just visiting a random house is not particularly interesting, but knowing for example, that someone famous has lived in that house changes the perception significantly. The same applies to the locations and places appearing in a story, as the character’s experiences guide their perceptions of the places.

To better understand how characters are situated in a given place and how the spaces and places affect the characters identities, the analysis of spaces and places found in

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the text is important. One useful tool for understanding the character’s setting in the story is the notion of a literary landscape. The idea of a literary landscape acting as a midway between a fixed place and space is presented in Literary Landscapes. This allows the relationship between the places and the narrative to be shown in a new way. De Lange, Fincham, Hawthorn and Lothe note that “the landscape typically consists of several places, and yet it is linked to an area, a region, in a way space is not” (xv-xvi). Thus, the notion of literary landscapes allows the analysis of a selection of places and their interconnections.

In the introduction to Literary Landscapes de Lange, Fincham, Hawthorn and Lothe also remark that “[i]n a narrative text, the plot, that is the dynamic development of the action and the interplay of the characters contributing to this action, will usually occur in one or more defined places” (xiii). These defined places are those that form the literary landscape of the story.

Concerning the link between identity and place, de Lange, Fincham, Hawthorn and Lothe write that “[p]lace is linked to identity, and not only to identity formation but also, under given circumstances, to a sense of threatened identity” (xiii). This notion of place being a significant factor in both supporting and possibly threatening character’s identity is an important one. Another notable scholar who has written about the connections between spaces, places and identity, as well as the question of locality, is Doreen Massey. She has written in Space, Place and Gender about the connection between society and space, stating that “the social is spatially constructed too, and that makes a difference. In other words, and in its broadest formulation, society is necessarily constructed spatially, and that fact […] makes a difference to how it works” (255). The differences between spaces and places create differences between groups of people. In terms of literary analysis, the idea that the surrounding society and the spaces which it contains are interconnected and define each other is important. The same socio-spatial forces that control and define places guide

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the formation of identity. Massey also writes about the connection between geography and social relations and states that “[t]he geography of social relations forces us to recognize our interconnectedness, and underscores the fact that both personal identity and the identity of those envelopes of space-time in which and between which we live and move (and have our ‘Being’) are constructed precisely through that interconnectedness” (123). Thus, in literature, the character’s identity and places in which the story occurs are linked. Another, a more recent point of view regarding the issues of identity and space, is summarised by Marita Wenzel:

The historical reality of colonization and the diaspora has resulted in cultural fragmentation, displacement and exile, which at present, is further exacerbated by globalization and a lack of belonging. As a result of this experience of rootlessness and alienation, traditional perceptions of identity as static concept have been superseded by the postmodernist conceptualization of identity as a process of interaction with various geographical, social and cultural contexts over a period of time. (“Houses, Cellars and Caves” 143)

Following Wenzel’s thinking, the importance of the geographical surroundings, spaces and places, is important for the development as well as the process of change of identity.

Identity is not fixed, thus, for example, a significant change of surroundings can act as a catalyst for change of identity. The themes of rootlessness and alienation, whether due to the change of surroundings or different experiences, are central to all of the analysed stories. In addition, since the analysed texts are works of science fiction, it should be noted that the imagined worlds depicted in them require adjusting the theories to fit to them. For example, there is only a global scale to analyse; when in the Hainish universe in which the stories take place, there are multiple worlds with different cultures. This brings a whole new level to the relationship between the processes of interaction mentioned, for example,

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in the previous quote by Wenzel. The two main worlds Yeowe and Werel, where the stories take place, are in the middle of globalisation, but it is taking place on an interplanetary scale. This brings on a whole new set of conflicts which link to threatened identities in connection to places, as noted earlier by Wenzel. Each of the three stories takes place in various specific places and spaces, which all in turn determine the different boundaries and preconceived notions that the protagonists have.

2.2 Liminality – Victor Turner and Arnold van Gennep

This analysis will use the concept of liminality which has been used most notably by Victor Turner and Arnold van Gennep. Liminality as a term is complex and highly versatile. Therefore it has an extremely vague general definition and when used, it should be clearly stated how it will be used in the analysis. Otherwise, it has a risk of being too vague to function properly. Related to this, Bjørn Thomassen has noted about liminality as a concept in Liminality and the Modern: Living Through the In-Between that “the danger must be recognized that as a concept it can and easily come to signify almost anything” (7).

Thomassen defines liminality as a concept following both Turner’s and van Gennep’s ideas by stating that “[a]t its broadest, liminality refers to any ‘betwixt and between’ situation or object, any in-between place or moment, a state of suspense, a moment of freedom between two structured world-views or institutional arrangements” (7). Following this definition, liminality can be seen both as a physical and as a mental state of existing in- between. In this thesis, the concept of liminality will be used to analyse the effects of existing in the liminal state of in-betweenness and the liminal experiences connected to the places and spaces found in the text. Liminality will also be connected through the places and spaces to the formation of the character’s identity.

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As a term liminality was first used to describe the rites of passage of indigenous

tribes in anthropological research. Victor Turner originally borrowed the term from Arnold van Gennep, who had first used it to describe liminal phase of existing in-between different states, or, as van Gennep named it, rites de passage. Van Gennep described the liminal phase as transition rites accompanying all the different changes of place, state, age and social positions. In The Rites of Passage he described the change as passing from one clearly defined position to another, the liminal part being the uncertainty in between (3).

Van Gennep attempted to create a classification for various rites. A part of this attempt was to divide the liminal phase into three parts, separation, margin and aggregation in his book Les Rites de Passage, which was later translated into English in 1960 as The Rites of Passage (11). Victor Turner rediscovered van Gennep’s idea almost hundred years later and developed it further. Turner’s initial idea of the liminal evolved over the years, from simply describing transitional rites as van Gennep had, to adapting the concept to the more modern societies. Consequently, he developed a new term liminoid, which he introduced in his article “Liminal to Liminoid” (1974), dividing the two terms to signify processes in differently developed societies. According to him, the notion of the liminal was to be used in connection of the liminal processes of indigenous tribes, whereas the liminoid as a term was connected to modern Western societies. To Turner, the key to the division between the two concepts is that for the use of liminal, the accompanying rites are a key part of the culture, and thus usually holy. Because of this, they are compulsory, and taking part in them is not optional, whereas in modern societies, the liminoid is a choice, a way of having fun, and Turner uses carnivals as an example: “[p]eople do not have to act invertedly, as in tribal rituals; some people, but not all people, choose to act invertedly” (“Liminal to Liminoid”, 74). He also states the difference between liminoid and liminal as “[o]ne is all

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play and choice, an entertainment, the other is a matter of deep seriousness, even dread, it is demanding” (“Liminal to Liminoid”, 74).

Both Turner and van Gennep divide the liminal phase into three steps. However, I will base my presentation on Turner rather than van Gennep since some of van Gennep’s ideas are presented in an outdated discourse. Turner summarises Van Gennep's work on rites of passage in “Betwixt and Between”:

Van Gennep has shown that all rites of transition are marked by three phases: separation, margin (or limen) and aggregation. The first phase of separation comprises symbolic behaviour signifying the detachment of the individual or group either from an earlier fixed point in the social structure or a set of cultural conditions [...] during the intervening liminal period, the state of the ritual subject [...] is ambiguous; he passes through a realm that has few or none of the attributes of the past or coming state; in the third phase the passage is consummated. (47)

The first phase is separation which is marked by deviation from the norms and boundaries set by the surrounding society. This deviation starts the process of transition. In the case of indigenous tribes, the liminal phase is set into motion for example by an individual coming to an age and undergoing a coming-of-age ritual. The next stage after separation is margin, also called limen or threshold. It is an ambiguous state, a kind of limbo, which exists in between the old state and the new. Thus, the margin is the key state in liminal phase and also the state which will be analysed the most in connection with liminal phase in this thesis. The final stage is aggregation, in which the liminal phase and the transformation are completed. After the liminal phase and the transitional rites connected to it are completed,

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the individual reintegrates into society. Once again, in the case of the coming-of-age rituals this would mean that the individual is accepted back to the tribe as an adult.

Turner calls those people who undergo the liminal phase liminal personae.

According to Turner’s article “Liminality and Communitas”, the characteristics of liminal personae are

necessarily ambiguous, since this condition and these persons elude or slip through the network of classifications that normally locate states and positions in cultural space. Liminal entities are neither here nor there;

they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremonial. (“Liminality and Communitas”

359)

In addition, Turner has noted that “[t]he passage from one social status to another is often accompanied by a parallel passage in space, a geographical movement from one place to another" (“Liminal to Liminoid”, 58). In other words, a person existing in liminal space is defined by ambiguity concerning not only one’s identity but also the physical place in the world. In “Betrayals”, this idea of existing in-between the conventions and customs is a central one. In addition, both protagonists break the conventions and boundaries set by the surrounding society during the short story. Furthermore, the two central characters undergo, at least partially, liminal phase during the short story. Therefore, they can be regarded as liminal personae. However, it can also be argued that neither of the characters completes their liminal phase, thus leaving the ending of the story open to various interpretations.

The concept of liminality is also connected to the idea of crossing different boundaries such as geographical or social ones. These boundary crossings and fading of clear boundaries are connected to spaces in which they happen, making them liminal

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spaces. In his chapter in Literary Landscapes from Modernism to Postcolonialism Jacob Lothe writes that “[i]n many works of fiction [...] the borderline between a place [...] and the space outside it proves particularly significant for the narrator and the characters alike”

(3-4). Following this idea, the boundaries created by spaces and places create also possibilities of transition and transgression. These, in turn, are directly connected with the idea of liminality and liminal places. It is usual that different transformations, especially in a character’s identity, are a result of those boundary crossings. Such places in “Betrayals”

are the protagonist Yoss’s cabin, Abberkam’s house, as well as the surrounding countryside which all function in different ways in the story.

2.3 Space, Place, Gender, and Social Class

The relations between space and various social issues have been the target of much research since the spatial turn in literature research. For example, a considerable amount of research has been conducted on the relationship between space and gender, as well as on the ways in which space and social class affect each other. One of the issues has dealt with the way in which gender and social class influence on the limitations and boundaries placed on space and place. The spatial shift in literary studies has concentrated on the spatiality and the effects of geography, different spaces and places, as well as abstract manifestations of spaces and boundaries depicted in literature. For example, there are studies on fictional representations of space and place as well as on how writers experience and represent spaces and places in their works.

There are many different ways to analyse spaces and places and their use in literature. In my analysis I will concentrate on the key spaces and boundaries found in the short story “Forgiveness Day” and analyse them in connection to gender and social class.

The notions of status are also is connected to the idea of social class, which will

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consequently be addressed briefly in the analysis. Encyclopedia of Social Theory defines status as “an individual’s position or rank, along a standard of honor or respect, within a group or social hierarchy. As such, status relations are defined as observable rank-ordered pairings of individuals in some social situation” (794). Gender, social class and status are all interconnected social hierarchies, as are the status positions and boundaries they create.

For example, in the literary text, the gender and the social class of a character guide the boundaries which limit their use of spaces. Both gender and social class are connected to the notion of transgression, and will also be addressed in the analysis. All of these factors are connected to the way in which different characters experience and see the surrounding world.

Gender is one of the factors which are common for dividing as well as guiding the usage of different spaces and places. It is often used especially in relation to women as a device limiting their use of spaces and places. The importance of gender in relation to spaces and places is a recognised one in literature research. Jeremy Hawthorn notes in

“Travel as Incarceration” that “[o]ur relation to different physical spaces is always mediated through the social, the cultural, and the historical, and for all of these axes the issue of gender is of fundamental importance” (58). Similarly, Susan Rosowski notes in her chapter “Willa Cather” in Geography and Literature, that “gender [functions] as a critical factor in the process by which individual or groups establish a relationship to environment” (89). She continues by stating that “imagination and gender primarily determine the relationship of people to their environment […] status, class, and power also influence that relationship” (90). In relation to this, Sara Mills notes in Gender and Colonial Space that “the classed and raced nature of gender affects the way that space can be inhabited and spatial relations experienced” (4). In her study of gender and colonial spaces, Mills notes that constraints placed on people concerning their use of spaces and

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places are connected to their gender and social class as well as race in various ways and that they are dynamic rather than immutable: “constraints themselves were constituted in relation to other subjectivities and cultural values. […] I found that spatial relations were not simply imposed on individuals, but that they were constantly affirmed, modified and transgressed” (3). She also notes the importance of culture and its rules in creating and maintaining the constraints. Hawthorn emphasizes the importance of remembering that

“[w]hen we discuss the ways in which people occupy spaces, we need to bear in mind the ways in which spaces occupy people. People are defined, constituted, changed […] by the spaces they live in and move through” (59).

Linda McDowell notes in Gender, Identity and Place that the effects of movement are “almost always associated with the renegotiations of gender divisions” (2). McDowell continues by stating that “[p]laces are made through power relations which construct the rules which define boundaries. These boundaries are both social and spatial – they define who belongs to a place and who may be excluded, as well as the location or site of the experience” (4). An example of such boundary in which gender affects the use of space is a so-called gendered partition of space. As the term already suggests, spaces are divided according to gender. In practice, they are usually places which do not allow women, such as some men-only clubs. Connected to the ideas of separating sexes in their use of places are the ideas associated with traditional ways in which women, for example, have been associated with the private sphere such as home, whereas men have been associated with the public sphere. As a result, the assumed living sphere for women is strongly connected to their homes, which in turn limits their use of other spaces and places outside of it.

Social class is one of the major social hierarchies, much like gender and ethnicity.

The concept of social class is much contested in the field of sociological theory. In this thesis, I will use the concept of a social class in relation to the notion of it as a subjective

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location. According to Encyclopedia of Social Theory, class is defined in this way as a shared subjective understanding of people about the ranks of social inequality: “[c]lass, in this sense of the word, is contrasted to other forms of salient evaluation – religion, ethnicity, gender, occupation, and so on – that may have economic dimensions but that are not centrally defined in economic terms” (717).This definition of the notion of social class is more suitable for this thesis since the issues of social class are connected to the ethnicity and gender in the analysed stories.

In addition to gender influencing the use of space and place, the effect of social class is connected to it as well. Linda McDowell notes in Gender, Identity and Place that the way in which people act is always rooted in their “intentions and beliefs, which are always culturally shaped and historically and spatially positioned” (7). Consequently, she states that,

What people believe to be appropriate behaviour and actions by men and women reflect and affect what they imagine a man or a woman to be and how they expect men and women to behave, albeit men and women who are differentiated by age, class, race or sexuality, and these expectations and beliefs change over time and between places. (Gender, Identity and Place 7).

McDowell stresses both the importance of cultural expectations presented to men and women as well as the fact that those change over time and between places. This difference between the expectation what a woman should be and how she should behave can be a source of conflict. Hawthorn notes, regarding the issues of gender and space as well as class that “talking about gender and class identity is difficult or impossible without also talking about money” (60). The connection between class differences and money concerns

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is who has money and the status it brings, and who does not. Since women have traditionally been the ones without money or status, the connection is clear.

The studies on space and social class are often connected to the study of racism and the notion of ‘race’. Other fields of study are the effects of the social class on mobility and the use of spaces. Money being an enabler for easy mobility to higher class people, lower class and those without money have to take alternative routes. The same applies to the use of space, much like in the case of gender limiting the movement of people. Social class functions as a limitation as well. Various fields in the social sciences especially are interested in and study the effect that the social class has on the lives of people.

2.4 Conclusion

I have introduced in this theory section a broad selection of theories and ideas which I will use in the analysis section. The concepts of space and place are complex, as are the various social hierarchies and rituals connected to them. Liminality, space and place are interconnected, as are also the various social hierarchies and the boundaries which they create. Whether the topic of analysis is a fictional representation of a space or a place, or not, the same theories can be used to study them in real life, as well as in the works of literature.

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3. Themes of Space, Place, and Liminality

In this analysis section of my thesis I will analyse three short stories, “Betrayals”,

“Forgiveness Day”, and “A Man of the People” written by Ursula K. Le Guin. All three analyses concentrate on the notions of space and place found in the stories. The analysis section starts with the analysis of “Betrayals”, in which the topic of analysis will be the liminal journey and the liminal nature of the characters’ identities. The next section of analysis is on “Forgiveness Day” and the effect of social categories of gender and social class on the boundaries found in the story. The last section of the analysis deals with “A Man of the People” and the notion of home and home as a place found in it, as well as how liminality is present in the story and the protagonist’s journey.

3.1 Liminal Persons, Spaces and Places in “Betrayals”

The goal of this analysis section is firstly to analyse selected spaces and places found in

“Betrayals”, concentrating on their function and formation in the story. The selected spaces and places all form the literary landscape of the story, which is connected to the characters and their experiences. The liminality in the story is partially linked to the spaces and places as well. Thus I will also connect the spaces and places to my analysis of liminality to show their interconnections. Secondly, I will analyse in depth the liminal features and the characters’ rite of passage in the story. The analysis of liminality will concentrate on the protagonists Yoss and Abberkam and how their existence can be seen as liminal and how this liminality manifests in the story. Concerning the analysis of liminality, I argue that both Yoss’s and Abberkam’s journeys can be seen as following Turner’s idea of a rite of passage. However, as it is unclear whether the rite of passage can be considered complete or not, I will present both viewpoints in my analysis.

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3.1.1 Places and Spaces in “Betrayals”

As a short story, “Betrayals” is naturally formed on the basis of a few selected places and spaces. There are few distinct locations in the story, mostly due to the short story format.

In this analysis, I will analyse Abberkam’s house in depth and the surrounding marshes in a more general way. The totality of places in the story, its literary landscape, guides the formation of the story as well as the characters’ identities. It is also noteworthy that the descriptions of the surroundings transform according to the characters’ experiences.

According to Jacob Lothe, the nature can be seen as a dimension of space (“Space, Time, Narrative”, 8). The interplay between the characters and nature is one of the ways in which various elements of space are present in “Betrayals” as well.

The story starts with the protagonist, Yoss, reading a book about the other planets and worlds of Ekumen. She compares her war-torn home world to others and marvels the fact that there are worlds in which there is peace: “‘[o]n the planet O there has not been a war for five thousand years,’ she read, ‘and on Gethen there has never been a war’” (7). In this way the story establishes the larger setting for the story right from the beginning.

Yoss’s contrasting the distant peaceful planets with her war-torn home also establishes the setting of the framework for the short story since the history of slavery and war on her home planet affects the events in it. Using the idea of a literary landscape in relation to this world building, all the parts of the greater whole function together and create the universe of the short story. Her statement “[w]hat would that world be, a world without war? It would be the real world” (“Betrayals” 7), tells the reader much about the world of the story as well as Yoss’s opinions. In addition, the references to the other planets and far-away cities in the story function to bring a sense of context to the world of the story. All of them remain as relatively inchoate spaces instead of clearly defined places, which there are few in the story.

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In the case of “Betrayals”, the story takes place completely in a desolate countryside, a marshland left behind after centuries of exploitative farming. This desolate landscape is the place where the main characters have chosen to retire to. The history of the marshes mirrors closely that of their worlds. Yoss’s home planet Yeowe was originally a slave colony for the neighbouring planet Werel. The twin planets have two different races living on them, one of them being the lighter-skinned people to which Yoss belongs, and another blue-black skinned race, called Owners or Bosses, which used Yoss’s people as a slave labour. As Yoss narrates the history of the marshes, “[t]hree hundred years ago these marshlands had been a vast, rich agricultural valley, one of the first to be irrigated and cultivated by the Agricultural Plantation Corporation when they brought their slaves from Werel to the Yeowe Colony” (“Betrayals” 13). The land was used as farmland but the overexploitation left it useless; “[t]oo well irrigated, too well cultivated; fertilising chemicals and salts of the soil had accumulated till nothing would grow, and the Owners went elsewhere for their profit” (“Betrayals” 13). The useless land was left behind for slaves to use, “useless people on useless land” (“Betrayals” 13) and they colonised it. Since the owners of the slaves had no more use for the destroyed land, there comes a certain kind of freedom with it for the slaves, “a freedom of desolation” (“Betrayals” 13) and the marsh is populated with solitary houses and villages.

The connection between the harsh history of Yoss’s people and the maltreated land is clear. It is emphasised by the fact that even after the great liberation the former slaves still choose to live in the marshes instead of moving away. In addition to this, despite the devastated landscape, Yoss still finds it beautiful and connects with it:

The afternoon on the marshes: the sky a cloudless misty blue, reflected in one distant curving channel of water, and the sunlight golden over the dun levels of the reedbeds and among the stems of the reeds. The rare,

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soft west wind blew. A perfect day. The beauty of the world, the beauty of the world! (“Betrayals” 10–11)

However, the description of the surroundings fluctuates with Yoss’s feelings and experiences. When her pet fox dies, the surrounding marshes seem to echo her feelings of sadness in an almost symbiotic relationship: “[i]t was a silent, overcast evening. The reeds stood grey and the pools had a leaden gleam” (“Betrayals” 22). Similarly, after Abberkam propositions her and she storms out berating herself “[s]tupid woman, she told herself, striding into the mean east wind that scoured the greying reeds” (“Betrayals” 33), it is as if the nature itself mirrors her reaction of apprehension. Consequently, if both Lothe’s argument of seeing the nature as a dimension of space and Tuan’s view that the space is

“clarified and understood from the perspectives of the people who have given it meaning”

(“Space and Place” 387) are taken into an account, it makes perfect sense that Yoss’s perspective emphasises certain features of the surrounding places according to her experiences.

“Betrayals” can also be examined by using Tuan’s ideas of space and place and what makes them distinctive. Tuan has written that what makes a general space a place are the experiences that people link to them. Thus it is only natural that some places become more important than others depending on the memories or the knowledge of them.

According to Rochelle Warren, “freedom is a defining characteristic of humanness” which the former slave characters explore in “Betrayals” (160). With this exploration of freedom comes the search for a place to belong. General spaces become places as they are known.

This is true in the case of “Betrayals” as Yoss’s hut and later Abberkam’s house become important. Yoss’s hut is her own safe place in which she feels comfortable. In contrast, the first description of Abberkam’s house when she goes to see Abberkam after getting worried about his health is starkly different than that of her own hut. Abberkam’s house is

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described as an old, rundown farmhouse made of wood, “a rambling, dark place, the roof in ill repair, some windows boarded over, planks on the porch loose as she stepped up on it”

(“Betrayals” 19). The way in which the house is described does not give a flattering image of it. The house’s fallen glory can be seen as mirroring to that of its occupant.

As Yoss ends up nursing Abberkam to health, she spends time in the house and finds herself connecting with it. Following Gaston Bachelard’s ideas connected to the importance of a home, Yoss is, if unknowingly at first, building a place or even a home for herself with Abberkam. Bachelard writes in Poetics of Space that “all really inhabited space bears the essence of the notion of home” (5). He argues in addition that “memory and imagination remain associated, each one working for their mutual deepening” (5). The effect of imagination is present, as Yoss connects especially with one of the rooms in Abberkam’s house, going as far as speculating about its previous occupants: “’[t]here’s a beautiful room upstairs,’ she said, ‘the front corner room, looking west. Something good happened in that room, lovers lived there once, maybe. I like to look out at the marshes from there’” (“Betrayals” 31). She grows more in peace with the house and connects with it as the story progresses. This links also to another idea of Tuan’s mentioned earlier in the theory section, as he has also noted that place is considered as security, whereas space is seen as freedom (Space and Place 3). As freedom is also seen as unknown and maybe even dangerous, well-defined and especially well-known places create a sense of security. For Yoss, this security of knowing the house in which Abberkam lives is created during the story. In doing so, she also creates her own place there. A contrast for this feeling of security is the uncertainty in connection to what she feels for her daughter and her grandchildren due to their ambivalent existence related to the mechanics of interstellar travel. They have left the security of their home planet and travel through the unknown.

This is a particularly strong contrast since it could be argued that the cosmos as a space

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cannot be any more free or indeterminate. Doreen Massey has noted that “[w]hen time- space compression is seen as disorientating, and as threatening to fracture personal identities (as well as those of place) then a recourse to place as a source of authenticity and stability may be one of the responses” (122). Yoss’s need for a stable place to live in and the choice to live with Abberkam can be seen as a result of this.

3.1.2 Liminality and the Liminal Existence in “Betrayals”

Liminality and the liminal existence in connection with a rite of passage, as well as the liminal nature of the places, are prominently present in “Betrayals”. In the beginning of the story Yoss has left the city and her old life behind and settled down in the desolate marshland to live the rest of her life there. It is told in the story that it is common for people to do this when they reach old age:

Growing old, the people of Werel and Yeowe might turn to silence, as their religion recommended them to do: when their children were grown, when they had done their work as householder and citizen, when as their body weakened their soul might make itself strong, they left their life behind and came emptyhanded to lonely places. (“Betrayals” 13-14)

The geographical movement from cities to the desolate countryside is a part of the tribal culture bound to the religious practice on her home planet Yeowe. The people who follow this tradition are called soulmakers and they are revered and taken care of: “[s]ome of the houses were derelict, and any soulmaker might claim them; most, like Yoss’s thatched cabin, were owned by villagers who maintained them and gave them to a recluse rent-free as a religious duty, a means of enriching the soul” (“Betrayals” 14). Yoss’s actions can be seen as a rite of separation, which marks the start of her liminal journey. Following the ideas of rites of passage as Turner has described them, Yoss is going through a rite of

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passage related to her change from middle age to the old age. As Turner has noted, a rite of passage is usually accompanied by both geographical movement and a change of social standing (“Liminal to Liminoid” 58), which are both true in the case of the soulmaking tradition in “Betrayals”. Those who participate in it leave behind their previous lives and their social status in the society, as well as their previous homes in order to follow the tradition. The same applies for Abberkam as well, who is also going through the same rite of passage, but for slightly different reasons. For him, leaving his old life is a part of a punishment in addition to the adherence to the social rules which Yoss follows.

In “Betrayals” both characters are living the last part of their lives in a state of limen, or the threshold, before their death, which at least initially, functions as an aggregation of their journey. The rite of passage starts for both characters when they leave their old lives behind, taking on the quest of soulmaking. The liminal nature of their existence is highlighted by the holy text of their people and the ideas according to which they are expected to live the rest of their lives. The ritualistic aspect in the world of

“Betrayals” is connected to the religion of the Yeowan people. The holy text, Arkamye, which is referred to in the story on several occasions, places the idea of letting go as its central ideal. According to the text, it is only through letting go that people can achieve true freedom. Their tradition of turning into silence is founded on the teachings in Arkamye, which Yoss and Abberkam both follow.

Achieving freedom is seen as the most important goal for Yoss’s people. The soulmaking tradition is a traditional way of achieving it. However, Yoss notes her troubles of achieving freedom by letting go of her old life. For instance, she notes that “[s]he liked to feel useful. She took it for another sign of her incapacity to let the world go, as the Lord Kamye bade her do” (“Betrayals” 14). In addition, Yoss is shown to disregard some of the rules of the soulmaking, as she remarks that “[a]ll the holy abstinence she had intended

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when she came here two years ago, the single bowl of unflavored grain, the draft of pure water, she’d given that up in no time” (“Betrayals” 9). She still lives a modest life, reading her book about the other worlds and visiting the neighbouring village for food and news.

For the most part she seems content with her existence but at the same time she still despairs for not being able to let go and be truly free: “what a fool I was to think I could ever drink water and be silent! I’ll never, never be able to let anything go, anything at all.

I’ll never be free, never be worthy of freedom” (“Betrayals” 10). She still clings to the past and her absent daughter, as well as stays in contact with the outside world, instead of living as a recluse as she is supposed to do. Keeping her connection with the past gives Yoss a sense of security otherwise absent from the limen stage of her rite of passage. Her old life and relatives left behind, the only comfort for her are her two pets and the book about the worlds of the Ekumen, which she habitually reads.

The importance of ideals like freedom and letting go can be seen as a result of the history of slavery the people of Yeowe have. The soulmaking tradition was the only way to achieve a measure of freedom in the age of slavery, as Yoss notes that “[e]ven on the Plantations, the Bosses had let old slaves go out into the wilderness, go free” (“Betrayals”

14), and as “Betrayals” shows, it remains as one. The history of slavery is mentioned in the short story many times. In addition, it becomes apparent that both Yoss and Abberkam had been slaves in their youth, growing up in plantations before the liberation of the slaves occurred. Their shared history of slavery can be seen as one of the reasons for their choice of a place since the untamed and desolate marshes offer a sense of freedom. As a matter of fact, the notion of freedom and learning to let go is given such an importance in the story, that attaining it could be seen as achieving aggregation in their liminal journey. The story itself does not offer a concrete ending for Yoss or Abberkam, rather it leaves the ending open for interpretation.

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