When I started this novel I was a little worried because the prose seemed clunky and I was having a hard time settling into the novel. After a few pages that all changed, either I adjusted to her writing style or the writing smoothed out. If you experience this, hang in there, it is well worth sticking with this book.
I see some reviewers think of The Dispossessed as an anti-Ayn Rand book. I didn't come away with that impression at all. I thought LeGuin did an excellent job of showing the fallacies of capitalism and socialism. The reason that any system does not work is always because humans are all too human. Bureaucracy, consolidation of power, judgment, and inequality always start to wiggle their way into the social matrix regardless of the intent of the society.
Shevek, the main character, talking about his home planet Anarres, a socialist framework society.
"You see," he said, "what we're after is to remind ourselves that we didn't come to Anarres for safety, but for freedom. If we must all agree, all work together, we're no better than a machine. If an individual can't work in solidarity with his fellows, it's his duty to work alone. His duty and his right, We have been denying people that right. We've been saying, more and more often, you must work with the others, you must accept the rule of the majority. But any rule is tyranny. The duty of the individual is to accept no rule, to be the initiator of his own acts, to be responsible. Only if he does so will the society live, and change, and adapt, and survive. We are not subjects of a State founded upon law, but members of a society founded upon revolution. Revolution is our obligation: our hope of evolution."
Pretty heady stuff. Actually Ayn Rand could have wrote that statement. People find themselves on what seems to be polar opposites of politics, Republican, Democrat, Socialist, Capitalist, but in actuality all of them have more in common than they would ever admit. We all want the same things that is, in my opinion, the most freedom possible and still sustain a safe society. The difference is what system do we use to achieve those ends. Whatever system that the majority chooses to follow will eventually start to devolve into a facsimile of the original intent. Sometimes revolution, as abhorrent as it is, can be the only solution to wipe away the weight of centuries of rules and regulations that continue to build a box around the individual with each passing generation. I am not an anarchist, but I understand how people become an anarchist.
The book certainly made me think about my place in the universe and about the aspects of my culture that I accept as necessary truths that on further evaluations prove to be a product of our own brainwashing. Too many of the governing parts of our lives that we accept as necessary truths have never really been questioned and weighed in our own minds.
Why do so many of us work for other people now when a generation ago so many of us owned our own businesses? Walmart, though not the only culprit, has had a huge negative impact on communities destroying what was once vibrant downtown areas and forcing so many small businesses to close that it actually changed the identity of small towns. We were complicit in this destruction. We valued cheap goods and convenience over service and diversity. The capitalist swing currently is towards big corporations and I can only hope that eventually the very things we lost will eventually be the things we most want again.
So okay, I have to apologize for pontificating about subjects seemingly unrelated to The Dispossessed. This novel is about ideas and regardless of how shallow a dive you want to take on this novel you will find yourself thinking, invariably, about things you haven't given much thought to before.