In Ammonite, Nicola Griffith tells the story of one woman’s encounter with and assimilation into the culture of an alien world. Ursula K. LeGuin’s “Forgiveness Day” similarly recounts one woman’s experiences as she confronts an alien culture. In both cases, these women, Solly in “Forgiveness Day” and Marghe in Ammonite, learn about themselves as their position shifts away from that of an outsider and they find their place in society. Although there are similarities in the characters’ backgrounds, their journeys, and their quest for belonging, there are fundamental differences in the process the characters go through in order to find a place where they belong. Specifically, LeGuin and Griffith mirror one another in describing the causal relationship between accepting oneself and participating in a romantic partner relationship. This difference is telling as it reflects the differing attitudes towards the role of romantic partnerships in one’s growth process as well as in society as a whole.
As these stories begin, both Marghe and Solly are striking in their lack of attachments to the outside world. Moreover, they confident in their professional abilities and proud of their independence. In their freedom, both are spiritual orphans. Marghe’s mother is dead and she is not in contact with her father. In addition, she has no real friends and is distrustful of her colleagues on Jeep. Solly is also an orphan in a very real sense; she has spent most of her life in space, and the technical restrictions of travel mean that as she traveled she would skip “another half millennium in the process” (LeGuin 47). Her parents, as well as anyone ...
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...serve “with great distinction as a Stabile” (123). Solly finds places to belong, and Teyeo finds he belongs at her side. Marghe is only able to find a place and fall in love after she has truly come to know and understand herself. She joins a family, helps to support it, and learns to belong. Romantic love, instead of making her belong, becomes possible only after Marghe has taken significant steps towards finding her place rn the world. Nonetheless, in both cases, the authors demonstrate their characters’ need for true human contact and companionship and their own belief that such contact is an important part of life. To become whole, the outsider must come in.
Griffith, Nicola. Ammonite. Toronto: Ballantine Books, 1992.
LeGuin, Ursula K. “Forgiveness Day.” Four Ways to Forgiveness. New York: HarperPaperbacks, 1995. Pp. 47-124.
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