DannyL

Wild Horses
Le Guin herself stated that the theme of The Tombs of Atuan was sex, a statement which reviewers have suggested meant not physical intimacy, but yearning and the recognition of potential for intimacy.[54]

The orgasm is a reach but I am a fan of Wilhelm Reich.
 

subvert47

I don't fight, I run away
It is, but it absolutely has that deliberate layer of symbolism. Veiling of women's power, sexual awakening etc. She says so herself somewhere, can't remember where though.
It's about coming of age for sure and so, yes, sexual awakening as well. But the symbolism was not deliberate. The passage you're referring to is in one of her essays, Dreams Must Explain Themselves (collected in The Language of the Night).

The subject of The Tombs of Atuan is, if I had to put it in one word, sex. There's a lot of symbolism in the book, most of which I did not, of course, analyze consciously while writing; the symbols can all be read as sexual. More exactly, you could call it a feminine coming of age. Birth, rebirth, destruction, freedom are the themes.
But I'd put that retrospective view as Le Guin going through her Jungian phase. After she later revised the tenets of the whole series (following her greater interest in feminism) I doubt she'd describe Tombs so simplistically. Indeed, in later essays (e.g. The Young Adult in the YA) she talks instead about power. That it's about:

a girl who, like [Ged], had been given a terrible power, but unlike him wasn't taught rightly how to handle it.
Though I'm not sure that's quite right either. Yes, Tenar/Arha has power, but most of the book is about her lack of power, that her role is mostly ceremonial and the political power by that time increasingly lies elsewhere, not least with Kossil.
 

DannyL

Wild Horses
Cool, thank you. It's very weird to me she would write something that's reads as so heavily symbolic unintentionally.

I can't recall her having any specific power beyond her symbolic role? Remind me if I'm wrong.

The thing the story most powerfully reminds me of is veiling of women in the Islamic world and the separation of menstruating women out from shared social spaces that happens in some societies.
 

Corpsey

call me big papa
Only just occurred to me that Great A'Tuin the Discworld's giant turtle is presumably named after The Tombs of Atuan?
 

luka

Well-known member
Staff member
It's very weird to me she would write something that's reads as so heavily symbolic unintentionally.
in my experience symbols only really have magical power when they are formulated unconsciously. they become a bit one-dimensional and on the nose otherwise. there has to be a high degree of ambiguity and slippage for them to work. if you say earthquake=sex and nothing else then I think you perform an act of violence to the book. if you say no, it's just an earthquake, well that's obviously equally reductive and injurious
 

luka

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a symbol should suck meaning into itself very greedily. very basic, fundamental symbols like the cross are good examples of how this works.
 

luka

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if you take, as Freud and Reich do, sex as the ultimate underlying reality, with everything else being a kind of secondary effect then of course every symbol is primarily sexual. i wouldn't personally centre sex in that way.
 

luka

Well-known member
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if you take movement, basic movements can be seen as dance, as sexual, or as martial for instance.
 

DannyL

Wild Horses
in my experience symbols only really have magical power when they are formulated unconsciously. they become a bit one-dimensional and on the nose otherwise. there has to be a high degree of ambiguity and slippage for them to work. if you say earthquake=sex and nothing else then I think you perform an act of violence to the book. if you say no, it's just an earthquake, well that's obviously equally reductive and injurious
Why do you and Subvert hate woman's sexual pleasure!
 

luka

Well-known member
Staff member
Why do you and Subvert hate woman's sexual pleasure!
well, basiclly we decided between ourselves that pleasure was a distraction from the struggle and should be banned for everyone. it was a pragmatic decision to accelerate the revolution and the ascension of J.C.
 

DannyL

Wild Horses
in my experience symbols only really have magical power when they are formulated unconsciously. they become a bit one-dimensional and on the nose otherwise. there has to be a high degree of ambiguity and slippage for them to work. if you say earthquake=sex and nothing else then I think you perform an act of violence to the book. if you say no, it's just an earthquake, well that's obviously equally reductive and injurious
Yeah, I wouldn't argue it was *the truth* - just an odd reading (that does come out of reading Reich tbh). I might be sheepishly embarrassed next time I read it. I remember my experience of reading the book though - again, it was so tonally different from the first one I didn't like it. I then reread it some years later with symbolic googles on and found it totally enthralling. That reading of the earthquake came out of this (over?) excited reading.
 

luka

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no pleasure till Jeremy sits upon his throne and peace reigns throughout the land.
 

luka

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Yeah, I wouldn't argue it was *the truth* - just an odd reading (that does come out of reading Reich tbh). I might be sheepishly embarrassed next time I read it. I remember my experience of reading the book though - again, it was so tonally different from the first one I didn't like it. I then reread it some years later with symbolic googles on and found it totally enthralling. That reading of the earthquake came out of this (over?) excited reading.
i dont know if you noticed but i said i agree with your reading and it is 100% correct.
 

luka

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it's not always easy to do, and you don't want to be forcing it, but when you can tap into this symbolical dimension of a text (or advert, or movie or whatever) it can transform your understanding and appreciation of it 1000 fold. i don't have the talent for it to be honest. it doesn't come naturally to me but i love reading other people explaining it. that's one thing i love about groupname for grapejuice.
 

luka

Well-known member
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it's also part of why i'm fascinated with a lot of the conspiracy stuff i read.
 

DannyL

Wild Horses
no pleasure till Jeremy sits upon his throne and peace reigns throughout the land.
Will pleasure be allowed then? Spontaneous orgasms for the faithful I'd imagine, sexless years of abstinece for the wicked centrists.
 

luka

Well-known member
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Will pleasure be allowed then? Spontaneous orgasms for the faithful I'd imagine, sexless years of abstinece for the wicked centrists.
that's how it will work Danny, yes. you'll be whipped with stinging nettles in a horrible dungeon by a horrible old dinner lady
 
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