Gateway's Child: The Transformation of Power in Le Guin's Tehanu

Yoshimoto, Elaine
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
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Le Guin has all along, considered herself and every thinking woman, a feminist. But since she wrote the Earthsea trilogy, almost twenty years ago, she has gotten stronger and surer of the strength within herself as well as all women. Looking back on her very popular trilogy, she must have realized, with some fear, how patriarchal her own world was. With Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea, she critiques and re-evaluates the unbalanced power structures of her novels. Le Guin is not saying that feminism is the right answer to a better world, but on the other hand, no one knows that it is not the answer because it has never been given a chance. "Feminist" is a very elusive word to define ranging from the "men hating" to the "man copying" woman. Although Le Guin considers herself a feminist, the novel she has written is not necessarily feminist. Neither is it a radical leap from her original trilogy. Like those who try to lead our world, Le Guin must work within the system she has already set in motion. Her patriarchal power structure needs to run itself out to its own destructive ends. So the characters need not actually do anything, rather than "let be," and allow for the transformation to happen. Although the tone is soft and not strongly feminist, Le Guin's message is awesomely powerful. She has matured as a writer and makes changes in Tehanu that she felt were necessary. Le Guin subtitled Tehanu, the "The Last Book of Earthsea," but I respect her for not renaming the trilogy, a tetralogy. Tehanu closes the trilogy, but it also stands apart as a critique of her former works. We are shown the gateway from a hierarchical and destructive patriarchal power to something balanced, equal, and promising. Le Guin and her readers will probably never see the transformations, but all the potential lies within our children and the children within ourselves.
55 pages
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