In the novels The Planet of Exile and The City of Illusions Ursula K. Le Guin uses the character development of the farborns, Jacob, and Falk-Ramarren to convey the message that here is no core self; identity is ever-changing as a result of experiences.
In The Planet of Exile the identity of the different species constantly evolves on a biological level. As Rolery and Wattok treat sick patients, Wattok tries to explain to Rolery how life naturally “Adapts. Reacts. Changes! Given enough pressure, and enough generations, the favorable adaptation tends to prevail.” (184) The hilfs and farbornes are almost in no way alike as the hilfs are more suited for the planet in comparison to the farborns. However, slowly the farbornes are starting to change along with the time spent on the new planet. Their identities will soon evolve as they breed with the hilfs and with many generations of this hilf-farborn hybrid their identities will soon be one with the hilf’s identities and in the end “the favorable adaptation tends to prevail.” Similarly, on Earth humans have evolved from monkeys to homo sapiens and therefore our physical identity has changed over time.
Not only can identity change biologically, but it can also be altered as the perception of other races changes. When Jacob goes to the Men of Tevar to tell them about the enemy coming, he is rejected. He feels that “having lived all his life in a little community of his own kind .. it was hard for him to face strangers. Especially hostile strangers of a different species, in crowds on their own ground” (116). On Jacob’s way back to home he feels insecure as the hilfs are staring at him as some sort of alien creature. Near the end, when hilfs and the farborns defeat the enemy, Jacob talks about how “the Men of Tevar kept our walls side by side with men of Landing. They are welcome to stay with us or to go, to live with us or leave us, as they please” (190). Jacob welcomes the hilfs to live along with his people. Now his identity has shifted along with his perspective as he sees both species as equals and acknowledges the other species with respect. Jacob’s change in perception of the other race is similar to how white people have now let go of their prejudice toward black people. Jacob and the white people’s beliefs in their own superiority changed causing their identity to change as well.
In The City of Illusions, the main character’s identity is defined by the separate experiences of two separate people, proving that identity changes as a person accumulates different experiences. As Ramarren and Falk get used to being in the same body, Falk explains that “It was Ramarren who took over, for the Navigator of the Altera was a decisive and potent person. Falk, in comparison, felt childish, and tentative; he could offer what knowledge he had, but relied upon Ramarren’s strength and experience” (316). Falk and Rammaren are two different people but are in the same body. Falk has had his own experiences in this world firsthand, meanwhile, Ramaren comes from a more advanced land, and is very experienced as he was the previous Navigator for the Altera ship. Their different personalities prove the ever-changing identities of Falk-Ramarren that are caused by the individual experiences of each person.