Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

23 Dec 2011

(Short Story) The Flyers of Gy by: Ursula Le Guin

(Reaction) Soaring Allegories by: Antonio Conejos

Le Guin's Flyers of Gy is a fairly straightforward allegorical tale of the relations between the serious type of folk (those who studied/worked hard and see their crowning glory as having graduated with honors or finally getting that corner office) and those with a more laid back style to life. Simply put, this is a tale of the attitudes of those who prefer a grounded, terrestrial existence as compared to those who soar over the heads of the earth-bound.

The non-flyers, as befitting their grounded existence, are characterized as steady, traditional people... They go on doing exactly as they have always done... On the other hand, flyers are seen as, well, flighty; never able to think a thought through, never able quite to hold on to an idea.

Both groups, naturally, view each other with quiet disdain which never quite crosses over into contempt. Neither can understand why the other would want to love the way they do.

The critical question implicit in the non-flyers disdain is: why? Why fly when you lose everything; the family you leave behind on the ground, prospects of a career and a future. Moreover, to fly is to court death, to literally lose life itself as flyers' wings are liable to sudden, total, disastrous failure... Failure may come on the first flight or the thousandth... Every time a flier goes up, the chance of wing failure is the same.

For the flyers, the question they throw back to their flightless brethren is: why not? Flying is everything, It takes everything to fly. Everything you are, everything you have. Given this state of blissful freedom the risk of wing failure is really no risk at all, Those who do not want the risk do not fly. Or perhaps those who consider it a risk do not fly and those who fly do not consider it a risk. For what risk is there in dying free, And so if you go down, you go down whole.

Thus flight, its literal as well as connotative dimensions, is the key by which Flyers of Gy dramatizes the tension between the serious and the flippant, those who count beans and those with clouds under their wings.

Neither group is evil, just as neither side is as mutually exclusive as they appear to be. Flyers of Gy ends with a rare breed: a flyer who chose to stay on the ground. Moreover, he is a solidly decent man with responsibilities and obligations who views the life flyers,

Yet even he who has turned his back on flight can occasional look out a window, and when asked if he dreams of flying, can reply, Doesn't everyone.


This is one of my favorite short stories as it takes well known opposites and injects the topic with creativity and wit. Yes, it is straight forward and unpretentiously so. Flyers of Gy simply revels in the world it creates (with many nice touches, such as the Gyr practice of gifting their feathers as writing instruments to their beloved, that create a plausible culture for the Gyr) and in so doing imparts a bit of flight to each reader.

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