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"The Day Before the Revolution" is a Nebula Award-winning short story by Ursula K. Le Guin, first published in 1974.
It is considered a short story prologue to The Dispossessed and represents an idealized anarchy by following the character of "Odo", the semilegendary woman who led the revolution that founded the anarchist society in The Dispossessed.
Plot and themes
The story follows Laia Asieo Odo through a day of her life. In The Dispossessed, she is usually referred to as the historical figure "Odo", but in this story, told from her point of view, she's called Laia.
Laia is the woman who developed an anarchist philosophy that inspired the revolution that founded the anarchist society of Anarres in the novel The Dispossessed, which is set several generations after the events in this story. At the time of the story Laia is an elderly woman who has already had a major stroke. Her husband is long dead, her days as a political prisoner are in the past and her major anarchist treatises were written many years ago. She lives in the nation of A-Io on Urras in an "Odonian House", a building or commune in which her anarchist principles are followed and she acts as a focal point and inspiration for revolutionary action. The day is strongly implied to be both the day before the general strike which becomes a revolution and results in the settlement of the barren moon Anarres by Laia's followers, and also the last day of Laia's own life.
The experience of aging, death, grief and sexuality in older age are themes explored in the short story that were largely absent from The Dispossessed, which has a younger protagonist. During the day Laia both re-affirms her commitment to anarchism and to "her people" (the urban poor and dispossessed), and is distanced from them by her partial foreknowledge of her impending death. There are also echoes of some themes in The Dispossessed. In particular the temptations of convention and authority have already appeared; Laia recognizes that some of the status and honor she is accorded by her fellow anarchists is not in keeping with her principles or theirs. In her discussion of the story in The Wind's Twelve Quarters, Le Guin refers to Laia as one of the ones who walk away from Omelas — a reference to Le Guin's short story of an apparent utopia that rests on torture and misery.
The story was first published in Galaxy in 1974, and collected in Le Guin's influential short fiction collection, The Wind's Twelve Quarters in 1975. It has been anthologized and reprinted many times, including in the second volume of Pamela Sargent's Women of Wonder series, More Women of Wonder (1975).
- Spivack, Charlotte, Ursula K. Le Guin, (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1984), page 74.
- Spivack, Charlotte, Ursula K. Le Guin, (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1984), page 159.
- Ursula K. Le Guin (1975). The Wind's Twelve Quarters. New York: Harper & Row, p. 285.
- Nebula Awards Winners List. The Locus Index to SF Awards. URL accessed on 2011-07-09.
- Locus Awards Winners List. The Locus Index to SF Awards. URL accessed on 2011-07-09.
- Hugo Awards Nominee List. The Locus Index to SF Awards. URL accessed on 2011-07-09.
- Donawerth, Jane (1997). Frankenstein's Daughters: Women Writing Science Fiction, 1st, Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
- Harris-Fain, Darren (2005). Understanding Contemporary American Science Fiction: The Age of Maturity, 1970-2000, 1st, Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.
- Hassler, Donald M. (2007). Patterns of the Fantastic II (Starmont Studies in Literary Criticism), 1st, Borgo Press.
- Sargent, Pamela (1976). More women of wonder: Science fiction novelettes by women about women, 1st, Vintage Books.
- Spivack, Charlotte (1984). Ursula K. Le Guin, 1st, Boston, MA: Twayne Publishers.
- Full text of The Day Before the Revolution
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