Don Davidson begins our tour of the world in Ursula K. LeGuin’s science fiction novel, The World for Word is Forest. A satirical construction of the guide in classic utopian stories, Captain Davidson is the worst kind of villain. Davidson seems ignorant of his own evil, so high and mighty is his confidence in himself.

He enters onto an alien planet with no curiosity or sense of wonder. He holds zero desire to understand the native inhabitants. He sees them as smaller, and therefore childlike and lesser in intelligence. They are foreign and therefore repugnant. Their green skin color, smaller stature and “strange” way of behaving off puts Davidson, and like any small minded man who places more heft in the deftness of his muscles than in his brain, he automatically treats them with no ounce of respect.

It is largely Davidson’s cruelty and inability to open his mind to possibilities other than the ones that he automatically assumes, which leads to the disastrous degree to which the Terran settlement on New Tahiti is destroyed. Despite Lybov’s explaining that the “creechies,” as Davidson so kindly calls them, demonstrate submission to each other in physical displays of lying prostrate on the ground, Davidson refuses to process or entertain this as the truth. Instead, he sticks to what he first assumed— that the creechies are stupid and less than human.

Davidson represents the worst fear of many Americans when traveling overseas: Am I the classic “American” stereotype they expect me to be? Do they see me as ignorant, rude, and entitled? Or, when superimposed to LeGuin’s world: Do they see me as I see Captain Davidson? The true genius of LeGuin in crafting this character is the fact that he is not a caricature. His demeanor and attributes are completely believable, which truly adds to his wickedness. Davidson is the true villain in this story, and LeGuin heightens the dram and intrigue of her novel by allowing the reader inside his head and to have part of the story narrated by him.  

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