The Dispossessed

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Centuries ago, the moon Anarres was settled by utopian anarchists who left the Earthlike planet Urras in search of a better world, a new beginning. Now a brilliant physicist, Shevek, determines to reunite the two civilizations that have been separated by hatred since long before he was born.

The Dispossessed is a penetrating examination of society and humanity -- and one man's brave undertaking to question the unquestionable and ignite the fires of change.

Curriculet Details
76 Questions
81 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in the ninth and tenth grades, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining political and social influences of the 1960s and 70s, emerging themes of human nature, egalitarianism, and proprietary and the unique structure of the text. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about making inferences from the text and character development throughout a text. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of feminism, language development and culture and how identity is formed from both external and internal influences. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

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Chapter 1

Consider the function of walls and why they are described as "ambiguous, two-faced." Walls keep objects in, but they also keep objects out.  
The actions of the "mob" reveal all of the following about the structure of their community except 
There is an obvious difference between the world that Shevek leaves versus the place he intends to visit. As Shevek listens to the others speak, the narrator states that "all the little things made sense; only the whole thing did not." This implies that the worlds have some sort of connection, but it is limited. When the other doctor refers to Shevek as doctor, he replies, "You are a doctor... I am not." This implies that Shevek's society does not use labels. As you read, record other differences between the communities.  
Shevek is given vaccinations before landing on Urras. What does this and the other precautions that the Urranian crew takes indicate about the relationship between Anarres and Urras? 
There are many things that surprise Shevek: the Urranians wear pajamas, they burn trash, and they have locks on doors. What do these habits imply about life on Anarres? 
What does the Shevek's treatment by the other crew members reveal about Urras? 
Critics believe that this text expresses feminist views that prevailed during the late 1960's and early 1970's. Click on the link below and scroll down to the seventh paragraph to read about the women's movement during this time period.  (This annotation contains a link)
Based on the dialogue between Shevek and Kimoe, what can you infer about the woman's role on Anarres? 
The geography of Urras and Anarres differ vastly. Urras's land is fertile and lush compared to the barren desert land of Anarres. As a result of its geography, life on Anarres is difficult and working the land is arduous.  
As Shevek is introduced to life on Urras, what is one hurdle that he must consistently overcome? 

Chapter 2

The structure of the text is unique. The first and last chapters take place in the present day. Chapters 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 take place throughout the past and on Anerras. Chapters 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 take place on Urras. The plot structure is not linear but circular; the text begins and ends in the same place and period of time.  
Based on the highlighted passage, what can you infer is a value of this society? 
Because Shevek is an exceptional thinker, he struggles to fit into this society and causes his teachers to dislike him. Do you think they don't like him because of his inability to conform or are they jealous of his abilities? 
Shevek grows up in a dormitory for children. His mother abandoned him to continue her work when he was very young. Though his father visits him, he does not live daily with Shevek. What does Shevek's dream convey about his relationship with his parents? 
The idea of prison is foreign to the Anarreti. "Prison" is not a term in their vocabulary and it is a strange idea to them. 
How does the idea of prison and prisoners change the boys' behaviors? 
The idea of power over another human being completely changes the boys in a matter of hours. In a sense, Tirin loses his morality: he lies, he treats Kadagv as subhuman, and he enjoys the power over Kadagv's fate. This illustrates the emerging theme of human nature. Click on the video below to review emerging theme.  (This annotation contains a video)
When Tirin asks about the age of the films, it implies he _______ the veracity of the information in the films about Urras. 
When Tirin makes the point that "But why hate? Hate's not functional;" this illustrates a fundamental characteristic of Anarresti society: anything that is not functional or does not serve a purpose does not have a value or place in the society. This is backlash to the lavish and "profiteering" society of Urras.  
Based on the song the girl's song and her explanation of its origins, it is evident that the Anarresti were  
Throughout the text the author uses the motif of sexual intercourse in order to convey the differences between the Anarresti and the Urranian people. The Anarresti's attitude toward copulation may seem casual compared to our standards, but the author is implying something about what the Anarresti value by not allowing themselves to be dominated or controlled by lust. To review the function of a motif in the text, please click on the link below.  (This annotation contains a video)
The narrator refers to Shevet's beating of Shevek and Beshun's sexual encounter with Shevek as "gifts." What is the connotation of the term gift? What can you infer about Anarresti values based on these descriptions? Use textual evidence to support your response.  
Before answering the next question, please view the video below and review what an inference is and how to make one.  (This annotation contains a video)
The term used for rape is an acronym or an abbreviation which stands for "forced unlawful carnal knowledge." This does not exist in Shevek's world because the idea of sex does not denote power. According to the narrator "it meant something that two people did, not something one person did or had." This develops the motifs of sexuality and feminism. 
The narrator describes Shevek as alone but "he welcomed isolation with all his heart." How is this antithetical to the values of Anarres? 
The author uses language to convey the lack of individuality and proprietary on Anarres. Language is another motif in the text.  
Shevek and his classmates' discussion about  suffering and enduring suffering. Which theme does this conversation develop? 

Chapter 3

Shevek views the luxuries he experiences on Urras such as the private bathroom as the "ultimate apotheosis of the excremental." Use the define feature to help you determine what that phrase means. After doing so, consider how the author develops characteristics of Anarres versus Urras. Use the video below to review how characters develop in order to help you.  (This annotation contains a video)
Though Shevek greets the servant in a proper Urrasti fashion, why does the servant react surprised by Shevek's greeting? 
Chifoilisk's characterization of Sabul as an "older rival; jealous" is accurate. He determines this relationship because he believes, "Human nature is human nature." What does this imply about people - no matter where they live? 
When Shevek explains that he is quarantined for three days, Atro scoffs at the idea, Pae is inclined to follow the doctor's orders, and Chifoilisk states, "After all, the doctor's from the Government, isn't he?" "with evident malice." What does this imply about Chifoilisk's character? 
Based on the dialogue between Oiie, Pae, and Shevek, it is evident that women are not valued or seen as equals on Urras. Why? This develops the motif of feminism and the theme of equality.  
Which statement best describes Shevek's goal in visiting Urras? 
"Birdseed" is the term used to describe non-government publications and newspapers. In our society it would be the equivalent to tabloid newspapers. Tabloid newspapers are known for publishing sensational headlines and stories that may not be factual or verified as true. Below is an image of popular tabloid newspaper covers.  (This annotation contains an image)
The author relies on the use of archetypes in order to develop characters, enhance mood, and create conflict. Please click on the link below to review the definition of archetype.  (This annotation contains a link)
As Shevek speaks to Pae, he believes he comes up against "the wall." A wall is an archetype that symbolizes  
Shevek's "guides" purposely do not take him to meet the poorer and lower social classes on Urras. Do you think the idea of Anarres and Shevek's existence will give them inspiration for rebellion? 
With Shevek's theory, instantaneous travel will be achieved. How may this impact the relationships between the Terras, Hainish, Urrati and the Anarresti? Make a prediction based on your knowledge of historical colonization, invasion, and technological advancements.  
Following the text, there is a study guide that you may refer to in order to broaden your understanding of some ideas and concepts expressed in the text. If you click on the "C" in the left hand corner of your screen, then click on "Table of Contents," and then scroll down to study guide, you can access this feature. In Chapter Three of the study guide you will find a brief explanation of basic physics so you may understand Shevek's research and its potential.  
As Shevek contemplates what he is doing on Urras, he thinks about the room he is in and how it was built before the time of Odo and the settlement of Anarres. It will also be there after Shevek leaves Urras. This illustrates the circle or cyclical motif in the text.  

Chapter 4

Though Anarres considers itself an independent nation, why does the narrator classify it as a "mining colony of Urras"? 
Some critics believe the author is promoting anarchy. However, the author was quick to point out that her theory about Anarres was not anarchism in the terrorist or Social Darwinist sense, it was "as prefigured in early Taoist thought." She believed in morality based on cooperation and considered anarchism "the most idealistic" of the political theories. To review the basic principles of Taoism, please click on the link below.  (This annotation contains a link)
The narrator states:That brilliant, deep green of the fields was unmistakable: a color not native to Anarres. This implies ALL of the following about Anarres EXCEPT 
As Shevek walks under the leafy trees, he questions their necessity and if their "extravagant foliage" is "mere excess, excrement"? This conflict between nature and man is illustrated throughout the text. It helps to develop the theme of human nature. The author contends that she presents fault in life on Anarres because it is not a utopia but an "ambiguous utopia." What do you think that means? 
Sabul instructs Shevek to learn Iotic, the language spoken on Urras. This is an example of which literary device? 
Anarres is a civilization that requires people to work together and rely on one another in order to succeed. There is not a system of authority in place, so people are kept "in check" by their neighbors. Transparency is essential in this society, so when Sabul tells Shevek to keep his studies to himself and not share his findings, this conflicts with the foundations of Anarresti ideals.  
Shevek knew that goods were traded between Urras and Anarres, but he was unaware that letters were also traded. Do you think that other members of the Anarresti are aware that ideas are shared with the "profiteers" on Urras? 
Based on the highlighted passage, what is implied about Anarres? 
Sabul plagiarizes Shevek's ideas and claims they co-authored the paper. Sabul's character illustrates the theme of human nature. Though he lives in an "ambiguous utopia" where there is no centralized authority or individual ownership or proprietary of anything, Sabul cannot help but want something of his own- whether it be recognition, authority, or ideas. He cannot suppress his ego or pride. Do you think anyone can? 
Sabul claims that Shevek can publish any thing he wants and Shevek doesn't "need permission." What is ironic about this statement? 
The highlighted passage is a prime example of the relationship between language and action in Anarres. The author utilized a linguistic theory called the "Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis." The fundamentals of the theory states that the structure of a person's language shapes the person's thoughts about life. In this case, there is such a negative connotation about the term "sick" that it implies a relationship to something Urrasti (similar to profiteer. Shevek will not admit or accept he is ill. To learn more about Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, click on the video below.  (This annotation contains a video)
Based on the dialogue between Shevek and his mother Rulag, compare and contrast their feelings about his father. Use textual evidence to support your response.  
Quiz #1 
Shevek cries because of the isolation he feels. He has not connection to his mother and he is reminded of the loss of his father. Though Anarres is a non-proprietary nation, the natural bond between parent and child is an exception. This helps to develop the theme of human nature.  

Chapter 5

Do you agree with Shevek's feelings about the examination and grading requirement? Why do you think you must be graded and pass examinations? Use specific examples to support your response.  
As you read, keep a list of details that contrast the Anarresti and the Urrasti. The author's use of indirect and direct characterization helps to develop the theme of identity. What makes someone identify themselves as one or another? It is about appearances, beliefs, actions, or a combination of all three? 
What does the highlighted passage reveal about Shevek's character? 
Just as Shevek is becoming comfortable with himself on Urras, Chifoilisk reveals the truth about life on Urras: it is driven by self-serving intentions. Shevek's idea that he can achieve a peaceful symbiotic relationship between the two worlds may be too far-fetched to be achievable. Do you think the author purposely inserts this dialogue to remind the reader of the overall purpose of the text as well? 
According to Shevek, what is the key difference in the ethics of the people of Anarres and Urras? 
What is ironic about the narrator's description of Atro? 
Atro is one of the few characters who views Anarresti and Urrati as the same race of people: Cetians. He wants Shevek's theory to propel them to the forefront of the "interstellar civilization." In that way, he is very much an Urrasti.  
When Shevek views Oiie at home, he notices that he is different from when he is with others. Shevek describes the relationship between Oiie and his wife as chivalrous. What does this imply about their relationship? 
Shevek makes an interesting point about laws and order. If you want to murder someone, does a law prevent you from taking action? What does this dialogue illustrate about human nature? What does it also reveal about the relationship between ownership and freedom? 
The highlighted passage reveals that Oiie's family was not wealthy but earned their money and success. Why do you think Oiie seems bitter about this? How would Oiie's life been different if he was an Anarresti? Use textual evidence to support your response.  

Chapter 6

Desar's room is important because it illustrates how there are faults in the Anarresti people just as there are faults in the Anarres' system of non-government. This illustrates the themes of human nature and proprietorship versus egalitarianism.  
Shevek feels like an outsider and isolated. As a result, he feels like an "egoist" or someone who rejects the ideals promoted by the Anarresti. This illustrates which theme? 
Based on Shevek's attempts to circumvent Sabul and share his work with Urrasit, do you think the Anarres practice what they preach? What does this reveal about the Anarresti? 
Why is Bedap considered a "native Odonian" though he is the same age as Shevek? 
The wall is mentioned again. What does any "wall" in the text symbolize? 
Shevek blames the poverty on Anarres for the societal frustrations. Below is an article on the correlation between poverty and crime in India. Use the information to help you answer the next question.  (This annotation contains a link)
Do you agree with Shevek's point of view about poverty's role in Anarresti society? Do you think that "human solidarity is [their] only resource"? Use textual evidence and current research to support your response.  
What does Bedap imply about Anarresti society through his anecdote about Tirin? 
The sexual encounter between the two men is not a commentary on sexual preference but illustrates how copulation is not used as source of power over another person. This is similar to the view of sexuality in the 1960's where slogans like "Free Love" epitomized the hippie movement. Below you can view a brief film that summarizes the hippie movement.  (This annotation contains a video)
Use the DEFINE feature to look up the meaning of the term syndicate. What does the term imply about Anarres society? What does Salas reveal about the faults in Anarres society? How does it differ from an anarchy? Use textual evidence to support your response. 
Shevek's meeting with Takver is a turning point in his life. It is the end of his isolation in some ways.  
Shevek and Takver's need to have a bond rather than simply copulate with random people illustrates which theme? 
Takver and Shevek do not have a formal wedding ceremony. This is typical in an anarchist society. Anarchist do not believe that there must be a government to deem a union solidified.  
Takver's connection with nature is similar to Shevek's dedication to physics. Both passions make Takver and Shevek ________ Anarresti. 
Reread the highlighted passage. It states that man is merely a vessel. Once he has fulfilled his intended purpose, he will die. Do you find this as difficult to accept as Takver does? 
Why does Takver claim that Shevek's philosophy is "propertarian"? 

Chapter 7

In his conversation with Efor, Shevek tries to get to know someone of he "unpropertied class," but fails. This is an example of which literary device? 
Vea is a unique character. As you read, be sure to note how she is different than other women in the text and how she contrasts with Shevek's perception of Urrasti women.  
When Shevek explains how Anarresti are named, Vea's response is "How do you tell men from women?" This implies that Urrasti value all of the following EXCEPT 
The discussion of the terms "partner" and "wife" is another example of the language motif. How do the denotations and connotations of the terms differ? 
What do the revolutions in Benbili symbolize to Shevek? 
The central conflict in the text is an internal conflict between Shevek and himself. He is not sure if he should share his gifts: his intelligence, his abilities, and his theories with anyone outside the Anarresti because he feels he may be betrayal the culture and people he values. Ironically, the Anarresti do not value his gifts, yet he tries to share them in order to bring value to the Anarresti people.  
What does the highlighted passage reveal about the author's beliefs about contemporary society? 
Why do you think Shevek calls Oiie's sister? 
What does the highlighted passage reveal about the relationship between women and men in Urras? 
Do you agree with Vea and her perception of women? Or do you think that her portrayal of women is too manipulative and downplays the role of women as mother, provider, and nurturer.  
Shevek considers the idea that Vea may be a prostitute because he must pay for everything on their day out in the city. What makes him doubt this notion? 
Queen Teaea is the authority figure the Odonians rebelled against.  
The conversation between the party guests and Shevek may be difficult to follow because of the references to physics. One of the most important elements of the argument is the idea of a circle, "the circle of time." This illustrates the theme of endurance. What does it mean to endure? 
Which current political or social issue does the highlighted passage relate to? 
The party scene is important because we see a darker side of Shevek. It is a culmination of his internal conflict and the external conflicts he faces while trying to pursue his goal. Because of the structure of the text, there is not one definitive climax or turning point.  
How does this sexual encounter differ from the others in the text? 
The politicians and scientists on Urras are using Shevek for his theory. Do you think they are any better or worse than Shevek? 

Chapter 8

What does the lack of the term "hell" imply about Anarres' society? 
Consider what you know about Sabul's character. Sabul keeps Shevek's manuscript of theories for three decads or thirty days and does not respond to it. What does this foreshadow? 
When Takver compares Shevek's manuscript to their unborn child, what does she imply about the manuscript? 
Takver's mood during her labor and delivery reveals the level-headed and logical element of her character. She is becoming a more complex character.  
Some critics thought it was ironic that the main character in an anarchist novel is in a "marriage." Which textual excerpt justifies this choice and rationalizes the existence of marriage in an anarchist state? 
The text is subtitled "An ambiguous utopia." As you read note the subtle differences between this text and other dystopian texts you have read. For example, in the novella Animal Farm by George Orwell, the animals work days grow longer despite less food available to eat. In this text, the Anarresti work shorter days because "protein issue at commons was not insufficient for full normal expense of energy." 
Takver does not like the baby name assigned to their daughter. She states, "it doesn't fit her." This illustrates the theme of  
There is no privacy in Anarres because it is viewed as "privatism." Do you think this may be a means of controlling the populace? 
After reading how Shevek and Takver are separated, what do you think about the PDC on Anarres? How do they exert control over the Anarresti? Use textual evidence to support your answer.  
The Odonian value system hinders on the fact that people have a conscience and have a sense of shame. This further develops the theme of human nature. 
The author inserts certain characters whose sole purpose is to introduce an idea that rattles Shevek. Though Shevek does not like Bunub, what does she reveal about Anarres society? 
Why is the term "Sabul's office" ironic on Anarres? 
What does Shevek imply when he tells Sabul to "say it plainly, because you're not going to arrive at it by way of my social conscience"? 
Are you surprised that the Divlab cannot find a job for Shevek with Takver? 
Quiz #2 

Chapter 9

Which term describes Shevek's state after his night at Vea's party? 
As Shevek speaks to Pae, he is careful about what he says and reveals to him. This is indicated by the term "reconnoitering." Use the DEFINE feature and look up the definition of the term. What else does Shevek do that indicates he does not trust Pae? 
How is Efor's relationship with Shevek different from the other relationships Shevek has developed on Urras? Provide specific textual evidence to support your conclusions.  
The more time Shevek spends on Urras, the more conflicted he feels. His internal struggle helps to develop the themes of human nature and identity.  
Which motif does the highlighted passage exemplify? 
As Shevek determines the theory, he has a revelation: the theory is greater than him. This relates to the Odonian value that the universe is a cyclical. It does not begin or end with one creature, so there is no need to feel ownership over any element of the universe. Creatures are just one piece of a very large picture. 
Efor's dialect and language changes as he speaks to Shevek as a friend. Do you have a different way you speak to adults than to your friends?  
What does Atro believe motivates people to participate in war? 
Efor is another character who enters as the voice of reason. He points out to Shevek that if Shevek involves himself in the wars on Urras he will be endangering himself. There is no place for Shevek to hide.  
The man asking for "a little blue" is a(n) __________ to Tirin's play.  
Why do you think Anarres appeals to the lower classes of Urrasti society and not the upper class?  
Maedda believes that a revolution can be achieved without the use of force or violence. His beliefs are similar to which historical figure?  
Please reread the highlighted passage carefully. Shevek is sincere and frank when he addresses the protestors. What does Shevek mean when he says, "You cannot make the Revolution. You can only be the Revolution"? 
Though the injured man and Shevek do not share the same political or economic views, Shevek feels a _________ to him because they both are united against the Urrasti virtues. 
The man tells Shevek very plainly that the police will shoot he and Shevek on sight if they leave their hideout. What does this reveal about the Urrasti's tolerance? 

Chapter 10

Feminism is a motif in the text and egalitarianism is a theme, but the author presents "partnering" in a positive way. Do you think this is in accordance with feminist ideals or subverts them? Use the list of feminist ideals in the study guide and other information to support your response.  
In 2014, the Anti-Feminist movement emerged and gained popularity through social media sites such as BuzzFeed and Twitter. Please use the Washington Post article to help you answer the proceeding question.  (This annotation contains a link)
The author uses the flaws in Anarresti society to illustrate the morality of the individual Anarresti.  
Why is Takver crying? 
There is something unique about the way Shevek sees Takver. He sees her "as she was." The time spent apart has not affected the way he feels about her.  
The way Sadik speaks exemplifies which motif? 
Do you think that Takver and Shevek's actions to be together are selfish or self-serving? What does this illustrate about human nature? 
What is ironic about Shevek's feelings about Takver's mobile? 
Takver wishes she had the orange blanket from the first "home" she and Shevek shared. She claims she is sentimental. How is that different from "propertarian"? 
What does Tirin's story reveal about human nature? 
Please read Shevek's theory about "social conscience" and "individual conscience." Click on the link below for the definition of "social conscience." Do you agree with Shevek that the people of Anarres are not really free because they "fear our neighbor's opinion" more than they respect their own freedoms?  (This annotation contains a link)
The highlighted statement illustrates all of the following themes EXCEPT 

Chapter 11

It is important that you understand how an embassy functions- even on foreign soil. Click on the link below to read about the functions, purposes, and rights of an embassy.  (This annotation contains a link)
By going to the Embassy of Terra, what has Shevek provided for himself? 
The idea that the Terra and Hain work together to monitor the activities on Urras may seem a little paranoid, but it based on actual governmental actions. Click on the link below to read about the Russian warship currently docked in Cuba and its purpose.  (This annotation contains a link)
How does the Terras' perspective about the device differ from the Urrasti? 
Shevek has not failed entirely. He realizes that the Anarresti do not need anything from the Urrasti, but he learns that the Anarresti can work with other nations.  
Which motif is illustrated through the highlighted passage? 

Chapter 12

Based on the dialogue between Bedap and the PDC, the PDC is reminiscent of a government authority. 
What is Rulag's primary concern about Bedap and Shevek's syndicate? 
It is evident that Rulag and other members of the PDC are opposed to Bedap's communication with Urras. But what is surprising is Rulag and other members' threats against Shevek and Bedap. However, other members use Rulag's own words against her; they show her how her idea of deserving punishment is not an Odonian ideal. 
Based on Bedap's feelings about Pilum, you can infer that  
The impact of Shevek and Bedap's work on the Anarresti is polarizing. It reveals so much about human nature. People are happy with what they know and fearful of what they don't know. Change is not easy but as Shevek said, "Uncomfortable." 
This chapter immediately precedes Shevek's departure to Urras in chapter one. What hypocritical and manipulative measures do the other Anarresti take that pushes Shevek to leave? Use textual evidence to support your response.  
This scene is an example of dramatic irony. Shevek and Bedap don't know that the Urrasti are not well-intended with their invitation to work with Shevek.  
In this scene with Sadik, what element of Shevek's identity is evident? 
Do you think that moving is going to solve Sadik's issue? She is an outcast because her parents are going against Anarresti custom; they are viewed as anarchists against the Anarresti culture.  
Shevek refers to the ostracism that he and his family receives as "tribal resentment." What does that term imply? 
Shevek's idealism is reinforced in this chapter. He truly believed that the Urrasti wanted to share his theory for the betterment of all people.  

Chapter 13

Which term best describes Shevek on his journey home aboard the Davenant? 
Shevek instructs Ketho that he must enter Anarresti with his hands empty and prepared to completely adapt to Anarresti ways. This is essential to Anarresti life: there is no ownership. 
This final scene is an allusion to Shevek's departure in chapter one. This illustrates the _____________ structure of the text.  
Quiz #3