Text Review – Switching Identities among cultures and societies

The book I’d like to talk is named The Dispossessed, which is a science fiction. The author Ursula K. Le Guin depicts the interactions between people in two planets, Urras and Anarres. The protagonist Shevek was born and grew in Anarress and continued to become a physicist. He betrayed his home country and then left Urras and went back to Anarres agian, which confused me a lot. But after learning a psychological theory named Social Identity Theory (Abbreviated as SIT theory in the following text), I can use the theory to explain the behavior.

The SIT theory suggests that as a man who lives in the society, everyone needs an identity, which is a “self – reference that create and define the individual’s place in a group. People create in-groups and out-groups and compare the group level to create their identities. To be more specific, people discriminate others who do not belong to their social groups, which is called “out-group discrimination” and favor their own social groups, which refers to “in-group favoritism” to secure their identities.

We can use the SIT theory to analyze the protagonist Shevek’s behavior. The first time Shevek escaped from his homeland, he felt terrible about his original social group. Shevek wanted to flee from the mob and Anarres, since he thought that the society in Urras was better for him to stay comparing to his original community in Anarres. Applying the term out-group discrimination, Shevek switched his identity from Anarres to Urras by discriminating his original community. In order to secure his identity, Shevek must find something better in society of Urras.

However, Shevek found a lot of injustice within the society of Urras, including the poverty, the inequivalence of the property, and the extravagance of the elites. For Shevek’s case, he viewed issues that even did not exist in his original social group in Anarres, so Shevek failed to complete the second step, the in-group favoritism, of securing his identity, since he was unable to integrate into the society of Urras. Shevek questioned himself about his previous choice. For he did not find enough reason to accept the Urras society, Shevek left Urras and went back to Anarres again.

As a result, the protagonist Shevek is always trying to build his identity by comparing various social groups to find which one is better, while finally he cannot tell which society is absolutely advanced than the other one because those two all contain problems. The SIT theory explains why Shevek moves between two cultures again and agin and why Shevek’s mind finally did not belong to any of these two groups of Urras and Anarres, as he fail to form his identity in the end of the book The Dispossessed.

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