The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas
Analysis Of “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” By Ursula K. Le Guin
The author in his foreword defines the work as a psychomyth whose central idea is the theme of a “scapegoat”, which means thinking about the price that people are willing to pay for their prosperous existence . The author’s subtitle – “variations on a theme from the works of William James” – is omitted in most Russian editions, as is the author’s foreword. The parable raises one of the eternal problems – is it justified the existence of a society in which those who have found themselves in the backyard of life coexist, and the prosperous majority, proud of the gusts of compassion for them.
In this form, this theme already sounded in Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov (reflections on the “tear of a child”) and in William James in The Moral Philosopher and Moral Life (passage about the “lost soul”). The plot as such is absent. The parable is a description of the happy life of the town called Omelas. The well-being of this town in some mysterious way turned out to be connected with the life of a child who drags out living in complete solitude in a dark basement. Neither the inhabitant of the town dares to change the life of this child, nor even just to approach him with a kind word of comfort – otherwise the happiness for the whole town will end. And all residents know about this child. Most continue to enjoy life, although memories of the unfortunate poison their being. They find reasons to put up with this order of things. But there are those who find the strength to reject him – they are those who leave Omelas.
On Mars, the first landing in the world was made to develop new lands. Harry Bitering, his wife Kora and their children Dan, Laura and David are some of the pioneers. Harry feels like a grain of salt, which was thrown into a mountain stream. He does not belong here, and he understands this. Bittering anticipates misfortune, which soon happens. The next day, Harry’s daughter runs in tears and shows his father a newspaper from which he learns about the onset of an atomic war on Earth and the destruction of all missiles that brought the necessary supplies for survival on Mars. A few days after that, Harry wanders around the garden, alone fighting fear. He is terribly lonely. Suddenly, Harry notices strange changes. Vegetables and fruits have become somehow different, the roses have turned green, the grass has acquired a purple hue. Bitering decides to do something and goes to the city. There he meets other calmly seated men. On their proposal to build a rocket, they only laugh. Here he pays attention to their appearance. They became tall, thin, in the depths of their eyes, barely perceptible golden sparks. Looking in the mirror, he notices the same changes in himself. Harry is in the workshop and begins to build a rocket. He agrees to eat only what they have taken from the Earth, the rest rejects. At night, the unfamiliar word “Yorkt” flies from his lips. He learns from his friend that this is the ancient Martian name of the Earth. A few days later, Kora says that the food supplies from the Earth are over, encourages him to eat a Martian sandwich and go with his family to swim in the canal. Sitting on the edge of the canal, Dan asks his father to give him another name – Lynl. Parents agree. Going to an abandoned Martian villa, his wife offers to move there for the summer. The same evening, at work, Harry recalls the villa. A week later, all begin to move to the villas. Something in the depths of the creature Harry desperately resists, but under the onslaught of the family, he agrees to move to the villa until the fall, planning then to take up work again. Over the summer to the bottom, canals dry out, paint is falling off the walls of houses, the skeleton of the rocket begins to rust. The family is not going to return. Looking at the homes of earthlings, his wife and children Harry consider them funny, and people – an ugly people, and rejoice that they are no longer on Mars. Five years pass, and the rocket falls from the sky. People who leave it shout that the war is over. However, the town built by the Americans is empty. Soon the earthlings find Martians with dark skin and golden eyes among the hills of the peace-loving. They have no idea what happened to the city and its population. The captain begins to plan future actions, but the lieutenant does not listen to him anymore. He cannot tear his eyes away from the hills, which are curled by a gentle haze, that bluish away in the distance, beyond the abandoned city. We have a lot to do, Lieutenant! We must build new settlements. Search for minerals, lay mines. Take samples for bacteriological studies. Work on the throat. And all the old reports are lost. We must re-create maps, give names to mountains, rivers, and so on. Let’s call those mountains the mountains of Lincoln, what do you say to that? That channel will be the Washington canal, and these hills … the hills can be named in your honor, Lieutenant. Diplomatic move. And you are kind enough to name a city in my honor. A graceful turn. And why not give this valley the name of Einstein, and that one … are you listening to me, Lieutenant? What? Yes, yes, of course, sir!
What can robots dream of, created by man? Probably, about becoming people, because they are so little like their creators. And, probably, these metal people with electronic brains will have such opportunities and qualities, which should not be dreamed of by representatives of the human race. Indeed, it is not clear who to consider a man who has freedom, who has his whole body, not artificial. After all, now some people have already replaced limbs, parts of the body for artificial ones, and we often feel suspicious about it, his hand does not feel, so it’s not painful and easier for him to lift a weight that is beyond the strength of another with the hand that is given to him from birth. But this is the same person, but … And if you replace a person with almost everything, what will it be different from a robot? There are many questions in the book, you can think a lot. Of course the robot Andrew, who achieved freedom, has achieved the rights deserves respect, but the end, when he decides that a robot from a man is distinguished by immortality or death and prefers to die to become a man, is strong. But a person hopes that he will become almost immortal, then who will he be?
A Providing Theme in The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas And I Am The Messenger
Free will is one of those concepts that is hard to wrap your mind around. Do living things have free will, or is our existence predetermined by some higher power. Because so little is known about free will, it is commonly used as a theme in literature. Authors are free to manipulate our ideas about free will without the boundaries many other themes face due to fact or science. Two stories in which this theme is prominent are “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” and I Am the Messenger. Though these stories share a common theme, Le Guin and Zusak use the malleability of free will to convey different ideas about it.
In “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, the idea of free will is used to emphasize the influence of society on morals. As a reader, one would assume that leaving the community of Omelas would be the obvious choice; however, this is not the case. Many of the citizens of Omelas happily stay with no second guesses. Which brings up the question: why do they stay when there is no force keeping them from leaving or trying to make change? The citizens have free will and know right from wrong, yet they encourage the suffering of a child. One answer to this question could be that the pressures placed on the citizens by the society in which they live has altered their morality and the pressure felt to assimilate is greater, for most, than the pressure placed on their conscience. If this is true, wouldn’t the citizen’s free will be impeded on by their own culture and peers? This powerful question brings to light a sad truth about the weakness of morality. Even more upsetting is the fact that Omelas is founded on the trust and belief that a so called societal norm can be so detrimental to a person’s free will and morals that an entire society can thrive at the expense of a helpless child. The child could be kept a secret, or the citizens of Omelas could be required to stay, but this is not so, indicating that the author, Le Guin, intended to plague the reader with the idea that free will can be revoked. The concept of revoking free will has an especially strong presence in “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” because of the child which is trapped in the closet. There is no indication that the child chose to be there or wishes to stay in the closet. This child is a slave to the citizens of Omelas, and the description of her life and how she is treated causes readers to think about the effects of not having free will can have on a person, group, or even an entire society. There is no doubt that in writing “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, Le Guin had the intention of forcing her audience to realize that this dystopian society is much more similar to our own than many of us would like to admit.
Markus Zusak, on the other hand, forces his readers to play an active role in deciding whether or not his character has any free will at all. The theme of free will is key in two points in the story. The first of which is when Daryl and Keith visit Ed for the first time. So far, Ed has been fulfilling the instructions on the cards willingly and, though he did not kill the rapist from Edgar Street, he has been doing fairly well. However, when the two wannabe hit men come to his house and threaten him with violence if he stops completing the cards, his free will is taken from him. Zusak’s motivation behind this is puzzling, especially since there was no need to take Ed’s free will away. Aside from some anxiety and fear from almost committing murder, there are no clear signs that Ed even wanted to stop. Perhaps this act was simply a way to make Ed more vulnerable; he is already a half-ass citizen who has no light at the end of his tunnel in regards to his career or his life, for that matter. Also, the reader is left wondering if Ed would have done the right thing and continued to fulfill the cards if he was never threatened. Would the burden of attempted murder cause him to stop? Or would Ed realize the good he is doing and continue on his journey? Zusak eliminated any way of knowing the answer by taking away Ed’s free will. While Ed is with Daryl and Keith, he thinks to himself, “I fall deep inside me and feel trapped. I fall through several layers of darkness, almost reaching the bottom wen a hand seems to pull me up by my throat into the pain of reality” (Zusak). The hand represents all of the elements in his life which prohibit him from becoming the nonexistent citizen he clearly has the ability and motivation to be. The elements which are pulling him back into reality are the cards which are forcing him to play and active, beneficial role in society, Audrey who keeps Ed emotionally alive, and the few other people in his life who seem to care, such as his mother, his friends, and the doorman. If taking away Ed’s free will is a ploy to make him even more vulnerable and easy to manipulate, then Zusak could be setting Ed up for the second instance in which free will plays a major role. As the book is coming to a close and Ed’s life is finally falling into place, the reader is plunged into a realm of literature which is not often explored by writers: Ed becomes self-aware. Ed meets the author, Mark Zusak, and has a conversation about life, it’s meaning, and if Ed is even real. After Ed completes the cards and receives the joker, he slowly begins to figure out the next chapter of his life. In the cab he realizes that the bank robber was right at the trial, he was a dead man inside, and now he is truly living. Finally, after he receives the folder of his life and reflects on what he has been through, it dawns on him that his next chapter is not written yet and it is his responsibility to make sure that it is worth reading. He discovers that though the cards took his free will away, once he completes his tasks, he has the free will to live a much better life.
“The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” and I Am the Messenger share the theme of free will, but even more so, the authors of these two works seem to have similar points to get across to their readers. For example, both authors illustrate circumstances in which free will can be taken away by others. In “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, the influence of the society in which the people live impedes on their ability to make sound decisions and pursue the life they ultimately know is right. Also, the child whose only free will is confined to the activities she can perform in a closet, demonstrates the torture and agony which is inflicted upon any person whose free will is taken away. Similarly, when Ed’s free will is taken away, it causes him to question the good deeds he has been doing. When someone is threatened to do something, the act the person is forced to perform is rarely a good one; this concept is what causes Ed to rethink what he has gotten himself into. There is also Newton’s third law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction; it is human nature to rebel or fight back whenever one is forced to do anything. This reaction can come in the form of violence, fleeing, or, in Ed’s case, doubt, confusion, and skepticism. Through his reaction, the reader is subjected to the mental battle a person is subjected to when free will is revoked. Both authors communicate the ramifications of the loss of free will in their own ways, and in turn, give the reader a broader look at the theme.
Though these authors convey similar points, there are many differences in the two works and how they convey their message. “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” portrays a dystopian society in which all happiness is derived from the agony of one child. In using a fictional society which is hard for a reader to imagine, Le Guin may not have been able to create the emotional and mental struggle she intended her readers to feel. By placing her story in a place which is so different from anything her audience has ever seen, some readers may perceive not only the setting and story as fictional, but also the message. On the other hand, Zusak conveyed his message through a relatable character who lives in a society similar to many of his readers. By using a more believable setting and character, it is easier for Markus Zusak to convey his message to his audience. Another difference can be found in what aspects about free will the authors focused on. Le Guin emphasized the influence of society on free will and the moral and physical implications the loss of free will can have on a person; she does this by describing the child in such graphic detail and writing about the people who do choose to leave at the very end, as if they were a side note. One almost gets the sense that in Omelas, the ones who leave are so misunderstood that the citizens could care less if the ones who leave return because of the brief portion of the text that is dedicated to them and the mystery that shrouds them; it is as if no one ever took the time to care where sons, daughters, mothers or fathers went. Zusak, however, focused on the existence of free will, or lack thereof, by having Ed become self-aware and question it himself. Throughout I Am the Messenger, Ed’s free will is taken and returned, but Zusak throws the reader for a loop when he reveals that Ed is nothing more than a character in his book. The entire novel has been Zusak sending Ed cards and controlling the story; now, one may think that the previous statement is an obvious one: clearly the author controls the story and makes the character do things. However, while reading a novel, readers often forget that behind this thrilling story is a man at a computer typing it all up, and perceive it as an actual account of Ed’s life. When the reader is so abruptly thrown back into the reality of the situation, it causes them to reconsider what is real and what is fiction, what is free will and what is pre-planned for us. Through this non-conventional tactic, Zusak conveys his story in a way that stays with the reader for some time and invokes deep thought about free will.
Both Markus Zusak and Ursula K. Le Guin use what little is known about free will and shape their readers’ minds through a powerful story about a utopian society which, upon further inspection, is in fact dystopian and a novel about a learning to live his life and take his free will back. These narratives not only convey powerful messages about free will, but cause the reader to create their own ideas and philosophies about free will as well. Using vastly different ideas, settings, and characters, Zusak and Le Guin illustrate the power of free will and the consequences of losing it.
A Description Of Town in The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas
In Ursula K. Le Guin’s short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” the town of Omelas is depicted as a thriving, successful, utopia with the exception of one thing. The dark secret of the city is that a child is locked below the grounds, sitting in misery, alone, abandoned, and abused. The people of Omelas are aware of the child, and know it is down there, but they do nothing for the child since child’s sacrifice is the source of the city’s happiness and success. In Le Guin’s story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” the city’s happiness and success can not exist without understanding the pain of the child locked away and the corresponding empathy of the citizens.
Throughout the entirety of the story of the Omelas, the pain of the child suffering and the empathy of the citizens of Omelas is juxtaposed against the happiness of the city in that one can not exist without the other. The children of Omelas first learn empathy when they learn about the locked away child during adolescence. Their immediate reaction is anger, resentment and the need to help the child. Upon first realizing the cruelty of the situation, the adolescent Omelas “would like to do something for the child. But there is nothing they can do” (252). Some of the people and children of Omelas are frustrated because they want to help the child, but know that the city will collapse on itself with out the sacrifice of the child. The compassion and empathy of the people of Omelas is what is used to recognize the happiness they wouldn’t have if not for the sacrificial child. The people Omelas acknowledge, “if the wreteched one were not there sniveling in the dark, the other one, the flute player could not make joyful music” (252). Since the people of Omelas correlate all of their city’s success and happiness with the exchange of the sacrifice of a child, the Omelains recognize that all of their joy would not exist if the pain of the child and their empathy didn’t exist.
Because the child is living in misery and the Omelas are not, they can better understand that their life is happy and wonderful because it is not the same life the child has to endure through the empathy the feel towards the child. As the narrator explains the wretched compromise of the city, it is evident that the people of Omelas know about the child’s suffering, but some of the citizens live their lives regardless of it. The Omelas live in the way that
“Some of them understand why, and some do not, but they all understand that their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery” (252).
Recognizing that the child’s misery as the source of their happiness forces the Omelas to understand the pain of the child in order to enjoy their happiness. If the Omelas were unable to be empathetic and understand the sacrifice of the child, their happiness would be irrelevant because there would be nothing to compare it to.
The people of Omelas are said to “know compassion” and are sympathetic towards the child but still do nothing for it because of the success the child’s sacrifice brings to the city. One of the effects the sacrificial child has on the city of Omelas is explained, as “It is because of the child that they are so gentle with children.” (253). The reason the child is the main source of success for the city of Omelas is not a tangible exchange of the child for good soil, happy people, or successful business, but it is what they learn from the child that makes the Omelains successful as a society. Because the Omelains know about the existence of the child “their knowledge [of its existence], makes possible the nobility of their architecture, the poignancy of their music, the profundity of their science” (253). The success of the city is not materialistic, but rather lays in the success of the people themselves and the lessons of compassion, empathy, and concern that they learn from grieving for the child locked beneath the city.
Although the people of Omelas have empathy for the child, their empathy is also what helps them justify that the child should never be released. The citizens of Omelas have concluded that the child would not even be able to function in society, were it to be released. The thoughts of the Omelains are that “If the child were brought up into the sunlight out of that vile place… that would be a good thing, indeed; but if it were done, in that day and hour all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and be destroyed” (252). The Omelas fear that the child would not have the same happiness and enjoy the pleasures of the world as much as the rest of the society and decided that the child would be isolated whether it were in or out from under the city because of its time spent in abuse. The Omelas “begin to realize that even if the child could be released, it would not get much good of its freedom: a little vague pleasure of warmth and food, no doubt, but little more. It is too degraded and imbecile to know any real joy”(253). Because of the conditions the child has lived in, the Omelains believe that the child would not appreciate the joy and the success of the city, which would make the sacrifice of the child purposeless. In order to be successful, utopian society, the city of Omelas and its members need to be happy, and if everyone is not happy, the city is not considered successful.
The majority of the current citizens of Omelas live their entire lives empathetic towards the child locked away whereas the citizens who choose to walk away from Omleas waver on accepting that the sacrifice and pain of one is worth the happiness of the city. The citizens who chose to leave the community, “They leave Omelas, they walk ahead into the darkness, and they do not come back. The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness” (253). The citizens who recognize the child’s sacrifice leave the city for a release of the burden of living off the misery of a child. Additionally, the people of Omelas who choose to leave are described as “they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas” (253). The defiance and tenacity required to reject the societal construction of being empathetic towards the child and doing nothing to help it, gives those who walk away from Omleas the ability to leave the city with assurance of their decision. The place where those who leave Omelas go to is unknown but those who leave have chosen the unknown over complying with the sacrifice of one for the greater good. The ones who walk away reject empathy as a solution towards the situation of the child, and instead remove themselves from the situation entirely
Throughout the entirety of Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” the battle of happiness vs. the pain of the child and the empathy of the citizens are explored. The short story delves into the complexities of emotion and how happiness can not exist without understanding and experiencing sadness, empathy and pain. Additionally, themes of sacrifice for the greater good and being empathetic towards a situation with no solutions are investigated.
Hypothetical Utopian Society in The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas
People make choices based on what they believe will ultimately lead to their own personal happiness. This ‘good life’ so to speak is the driving force of our daily routines, whether or not we are consciously aware it. This conception of the good life, though subjective by nature, requires permission from society for a person to explore his or her own peace. It promotes safety, well-being, growth, and the pursuit of pleasure while encouraging community and discouraging malice between individuals and groups. In practical applications, not all societies agree on what exactly constitutes human rights. In this way, the good life is inconsistent across cultures and relies on geographical chance. There exists today an infrastructure of bigotry and classes that hinder many peoples’ ability to achieve a good life. When considering the cost of the good life, it is imperative to acknowledge that sacrifice is always involved, but also that there is not one general cost for all people, but rather that the cost vastly differs between the privileged and the underprivileged members of any society.
In The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, Ursula Le Guin describes a hypothetical utopian society in the city of Omelas. The citizens are not simpletons; they are mature, intelligent, and passionate. The dilemma to this city is that their happiness depends on the suffering and misery of a single child locked in a dark cellar room the size of a broom closet. This child is devoid of sensory stimuli, nourishment, and human contact to the point where it has become fearful, mentally deficient, and incapable of feeling real joy. All of the citizens of Omelas see the child when they come of age and feel disgust, anger, outrage, and impotence, but eventually come to accept their helplessness. She writes, “To exchange all the goodness and grace of every life in Omelas for that single, small improvement: to throw away the happiness of thousands for the chance of the happiness of one: that would be to let guilt within the walls indeed” (Le Guin). The act of accepting the terrible justice of reality inspires the citizens of Omelas to be good, gentle, have compassion, and thrive. Finally, there are some who see the child and leave the city of Omelas to places unknown.
The citizens of Omelas clearly represent a more privileged society. Despite reacting negatively to the child, those who stay in the city have come to peace with the existence of this social injustice towards the child for the benefit of thousands. Thus the cost of the good life for the privileged is guilt. This is comparable to the mass social injustices that occur in the world today. Typical middle-class Americans are a perfect example of those who disagree with child labor, slavery, and exploitation of third-world populations but feel useless to actively speak against it because of how intertwined it is with the luxuries that we’ve grown accustomed to in our culture. We live in a society where morality comes second to financial needs; the literal cost of the good life makes it near impossible to alter the systematic oppression inflicted by corporations and other larger powers. Obstacles to the good life are numerous and often out of a person’s control because a lack of basic resources and inaccessibility to higher pleasures arise from economic discrimination; the cycle of poverty cannot be easily broken without outside assistance. Thus another cost of the good life for those with privilege is the effort made to help others in need.
For some in the city of Omelas, their feelings of helplessness and compassion toward the child are what lead to them being gentle to the other children of the city and consistently raising a functional society that promotes the best interests of all but one citizen. For others, the cost of the child’s life is too much to bear and they leave the city. I interpreted those who left to be going on a personal philosophical journey and that they would rather live in a faulty world that allows them to attempt to help others directly rather than a utopian world that restricts them standing up for what they believe is right for the benefit of the majority. It is significant that those who choose to leave do so by themselves. Had they left as a group, this could be interpreted as making a political statement. Leaving separately shows personal moral dilemma and highlights that the quest for the good life is ultimately an individual process. Thus, the cost for the good life differs based on what an individual is willing to pay as well as what they are actually capable of paying.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have strongly disagreed with the system by which the city of Omelas operated. He was a firm believer that any injustice towards even one person is a threat to justice everywhere, saying “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly” (MLK). Underprivileged members of society must pay the price that accompanies fighting for their good lives; the measure of their efforts are often greater than that of privileged members, and the potential gains made by fighting are more significant. The cost of the good life for underprivileged persons is more complex because they must also take basic needs into consideration for every choice made whereas the privileged can take these for granted. Accepting one’s sense of helplessness is a cost shared between the privileged and underprivileged; the latter must come to terms with injustices against them and find creative solutions to survive and attempt to overcome injustices so they may still live a quality, good life. Learning how to utilize limited resources is a skill that promotes the acquisition of a good life. King points out that groups are more immoral than individuals and freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; there comes a time when “men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair” and the underprivileged must actively fight back (MLK). This will cost the oppressed their dignity, physical comfort, and in some cases their life.
The cost of the good life requires accepting that we are not always capable of doing what we feel is right. Life involves interactions with people and the environment. These interactions can both help us grow as individuals and hold us back. The privileged members of society can achieve a good life by helping others to the best of their abilities without reducing themselves to the same level of impoverishment. For the underprivileged, achieving the good life involves a tight sense of community that enables them to subsist with limited basic resources but also grow as individuals. Regardless of the methods we employ to attain the good life, the decision has to be conscious and with good intent in order to be ultimately successful.
The Concept of ‘The Greater Good’ in “The Lottery” and “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”
Written during separate times of war, Shirley Jackson’s 1948 short story “The Lottery” and Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” written in 1974, both chillingly demonstrate the concept of the scapegoat. By definition, the scapegoat often represents a person or object who is subjected to carry unwarranted blame or irrational hostility, usually to the benefit of others. The meaning of this symbol, as depicted by the two towns in these stories, lies in the belief that they must choose one person to suffer for the greater good of the people. Seeing as how Jackson wrote her story in the aftermath of World War II and Le Guin wrote hers during the final years of the Vietnam War, we can understand how this idea of conflict and suffering in a society and need to displace it has permeated into their works.
In “The Lottery,” Jackson presents a town that commits a ritualistic human sacrifice every year under the tradition of “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon,”—meaning the death of a townsperson is necessary for the success of their harvest (Jackson). “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” however, presents a more hypothetical town which forces one child to live in suffering so that the rest of the people can live in harmony and bliss. While both stories make provocative commentaries on society’s need for a scapegoat to preserve the ‘greater good’, they also seem to present these concepts in two very distinctive and separate ways that make the reader question the worth of the lives of many over the life of one.
Shirley Jackson’s famous gothic short story “The Lottery” begins in a surprisingly realistic and simple way. The narrator describes a small town of “only about three hundred people” who gather on a sunny June morning to engage in what seems like an annual festival-type of activity (Jackson). The narrator in this story goes into great length to describe the townsfolk and the idea that this tradition had been conducted for many years. We get a notion of the relative age of this event when Old Man Warner refers to this lottery as the “Seventy-seventh year [he’s] been in the lottery” (Jackson). The fact that this event has been going on for so long gives us the impression that the town seems to value more conservative beliefs of tradition and ritual.
We see also how calculated the actual lottery process is as the story goes into heavy detail of how the townsfolk plan for the event, such as preparing the names of the townspeople and even where they store the lottery box. All these details seem to function as a way to make this town more realistic and support the idea that this event could really happen. In fact, when this story was first published, Jackson received letters from people who “thought that the fiction was based on fact and wanted to know the details of where, when, and to whom the events described had happened” (Bogert 45). After the lottery commences and we find out the winner, the reader is led away from realism and into a more symbolic and shocking conclusion. The conventional idea of winning the lottery is turned on its head as the chosen person, in this case Mrs. Hutchinson, is stoned to death by her friends and family. In this case, “there is only one loser, everyone else wins” (Beauchamp 201).
As Jackson’s story is presented in such a realistic manner, it truly raises the question of morality. The townspeople all seem to know and care about each other and in fact seem to have their misgivings about the lottery, as is implied by rumors of giving the ritual up and the anxiousness of the crowd “wishing they’d hurry” (Jackson). Yet they still engage in this barbaric and primitive ritual. This could be explained in a Paganistic sense where sacrifices to nature are made to keep a healthy harvest. Evidence of this in the text lies in the fact that the lottery occurs in June. As the tradition says “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” and seeing as how this is during the summer solstice, it would naturally be a concern of the town to be preparing for the upcoming harvest (Jackson). In this sense, we could see the town’s need for a scapegoat as a literal need for survival and success. However, the primitive violence of the stoning in the ritual suggests that the scapegoat is more about releasing frustrations and finding someone to blame. The town seems to be engaging in the lottery simply for the sake of tradition, leaving their participation in the event mindless and involuntary.
Some critics attribute Jackson’s motives as a way to comment on such historical atrocities as the Holocaust, McCarthyism, Japanese internment camps and even racism. Edna Bogert examines “The Lottery” in this light and suggests that “a group of ordinary of people has the ability to commit extraordinarily horrible deeds, if people in the group are unable or unwilling to think for themselves” (Bogert 47). So it seems that Jackson’s use of the scapegoat in “The Lottery” is more of a way to question the morality behind tradition and whether or not it is truly worthwhile to punish one person for the benefit of the rest.
“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” presents the same concept of the scapegoat but in a much more hypothetical way. This short story is written in the style of a psycho-myth which often takes place in a realistic setting that is out of any particular set time. In this theoretical town, the narrator urges the reader to participate in the story, saying the details of this town are “As you like it” and entirely up to the preferences of the reader (Le Guin). This not only forces the reader to internalize the situation and make their own choices for the details but also feel a sense of responsibility for the town’s actions. While both short stories begin with immense details regarding the town, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” actually asks the reader to question the reality of this town. At one point, the perfect bliss and delight of this town begins to seem questionable, and the narrator asks us “Do you believe? Do you accept the festival, the city, the joy? No?” and then decides to bring validity to the town by adding one more distinctive detail (Le Guin). In the basement of one of the buildings there is a child being held captive. He is known by all the inhabitants of Omelas, yet is left to live in filth and suffering. This is the catch—the reality of living in a utopia. All the pleasure and delight that the town experiences “depends wholly on this child’s abominable misery” (Le Guin).
The fact that this scapegoat’s existence seems to authenticate the realism of the town certainly says something about our own society. Are our lives so tainted by underlying hatred and evil that a town without either could simply not exist? Le Guin is making the point that in the world we live in “Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting” and “To embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe a happy man” (Le Guin). This is why it is necessary in this hypothetical society to have at least one person suffer. If we know that there is some sort of hidden evil occurring under the surface, then society can revel in its own happiness and know that it is real. In this way, Le Guin’s commentary on the concept of evil for “the greater good” differs from Shirley Jackson’s. Furthermore, in this society, there are those that actually choose for themselves. There are the people who rationalize their actions as necessary for the sake of their survival or tradition, much like the town in “The Lottery.” However, there are others who see this poor child’s treatment as a question of morality. They decide whether or not to “renounce the exploitation of others” that “justifies their comfortable life” or to walk away from the town (“Ursula”). Those who choose to walk away, do so in darkness and risk living in an unknowing existence.
The motif of the scapegoat is a very appropriate way to comment on our society. Gothic literature is always about revealing the dark motives hidden under the surface and reveals society’s truest faults. As human beings, we are always willing to allow another to take blame for our own sins. Often when it comes down to it, we would choose to have them suffer if it meant we could live in a delightful existence. Both Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” present this idea of the need for one person to suffer for the “greater good” of the town. In “The Lottery,” we see how this concept has been developed by tradition, and the town’s actions are those of mere followers. They act on this tradition simply for the sake of tradition, in a very mindless and terrifyingly realistic way. In “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” however, the town is willing to sacrifice the happiness of one person in order to maintain their own way of life. This is because they understand that happiness can not exist without suffering, and selfishly they prefer to let someone else be in pain. If we look at the world and the terrible actions of people, such as the Holocaust or slavery, we can see how humans have always been willing to let other suffer. Sadly, history has shown us that the scapegoat motif is not restricted to literature, and both Jackson and Le Guin’s works allow us to step outside of the story and reconsider our own sense of morality.
Reflection On The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas
The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas is an allegory in the form of a short story based on an utopian society in which displays philosophical ideologies and theories on society and its relation to scapegoatism. One of the main focuses throughout the text is the concept of happiness within the town and its people. The story begins with the protagonist explaining the setting for the town of Omela; The Festival Of Summer is in occurrence and the protagonist explains the mental and physical state of those who live in Omelas. They are happy. The authors philosophy on happiness is described as this in the text; “Happiness is based on a just discrimination of what is necessary, what is neither unnecessary nor destructive, and what is destructive. In the middle category, however – that of the unnecessary nor destructive, that of comfort, luxury, exuberance etc. “The towns happiness is provided by the suffrage of one child. This child remains in a perturbing state, and is confined to a diminutive basement underneath one of the town’s comely buildings. The child who appears around the age of six is genuinely ten; this is due to the lack of food and water this child receives. However on occasion the door opens, and in its doorway stands one, or many citizens of Omelas who have consequently come to despise the child. What I admire about the text is that the author has given the reader the capability to interpret the allegory of this child on their own. My interpretation of this child and its contrast to the town is in vigorous comparison to third world and first world countries. In particular, child labour, and how the suffrage of one child leads to the pleasure and luxury of many… in this case the entire town of Omelas.
We as a society and as individuals tend to close the door on topics such as poverty, slavery, how privileged we are and the reality of how many people live in complete pain and exhaustion in order to provide us with prosperity. This text, this child has opened my eyes to see how selfish and greedy we are as a society and has made me sit in reconsideration for hours as to whether I truly practice my morals and has forced me to question whether or not I am the person I aspire to be; considering I would have trouble giving up my luxuries in order for a child to be exposed to freedom, food, warmth and much more. My hypothesis is that many of us would also struggle to give up what provides us with happiness in order to make somebody else feel the happiness we have felt since the day of our first breath and will potentially feel till our last. As a society we boast about unity, and our love for everyone, but have we forgotten about the poverty and child labour that’s out there? What are we doing to help? We turn a blind eye to an issue that can in a sense only be resolved by sacrificing items which bring us pleasure such as money and technology. I would love to use the excuse of ‘we are too uneducated to interpret third world countries and what we can do to help.’ But the harsh reality of it is that; we as a society simply just do not care. We are to selfish.
This story was published in 1974, yet we can still visualize the resemblance to our world today, 44 years later. I personally believe that ‘The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas’ should be studied in level 2 English, as it provides readers with a deep understanding of the allegory behind Omelas. It additionally sanctions readers to interpret the text predicated on their own philosophy, and forces you to reconsider your morals, it is a clear example of how dark the society we live in genuinely is. The self-reflection that was pressured toward me after studying this text avails me to build emotional self-cognizance. By taking the time to ask myself the paramount questions, I gained a better understanding of my emotions, strengths and feeblenesses. Which I strongly believe is a necessary life skill to conquer. After year 12s study the text I hypothesize that many will not be able to perceive society the same again, and hopefully we can make a change, to provide future generations with what we never experienced; A nation’s culture resides in the heart and in the soul of its people.
Analysis Of Storytelling In The One Who Walk Away From Omelas By Ursula K. Le Guin
The tale of ‘The One who leaves Omelas’ is composed by Ursula K. Le Guin. The story opens with the depiction of a perfect city Omelas, brilliant transcend via ocean and residents commending celebrations. The harbor sparkled with flags on the rigged boats. All people were dancing, the music beats were faster, a shimmering of gong and tambourine, their procession was just dancing. The scene sounds like a joyous fairly tale. Youngsters evaded in and out, their high considers rising like the swallows’ intersection flights, over the music and the singing. All children’s boys or girls were roaming naked in the bright air covered with mud from top to bottom. Everyone just seems happy. Now the author talked about the people of the city Omelas. He describes that they were not the simple folks, they do not say the words of cheer much anymore. They were looking for the new who were surrounded by their knights, or maybe by big muscled slaves. But there was no king. Narrator also explains that he does not know the laws and regulations of the society, but he suspected that they were very few. These individuals have gone to a comprehension of what is essential, what is risky, and what is both or not either. Those things that are indispensable, they have. Those guilty pleasures that are neither essential nor ruinous, they in like way have. Omelas is a cheerful city constrained by make, sharp, enthusiastic grown-ups. Their lives are not despairing, nor are they serious. The city has a confirmation of joy; it has struck an arrangement, but how and with whom it isn’t clear. The arrangement is this: In a room under the city is an impeded, panicked, half-starved adolescent, and everyone over energy in Omelas understands that the child is there. Thusly, the overall public has been appeared and the awful truth of value, and on this they base their lives.
After that the storyteller clarifies the terrifying foundation of this spot. One little youngster is kept in high debasement, in little clammy and austere room in a storm cellar. Nobody addresses the kid and the tyke is malnourished as the greater part of the occasions the kid endures starvation. The kid is typically alluded as ‘it’ rather than sex. Everybody in the city thinks about the youngster. In short words, the tyke is the cost of bliss and joy of the city. Nearly everybody stuns when told about the youngster and some even express their blame, yet many them later figures out how to acknowledge the circumstance and sees the kid as miserable. Also, a few people choose to leave the spot. Through the storyteller itself doesn’t think about where they go however every one of them doesn’t acknowledge the youngster’s wretchedness.
The story features the appalling and unpleasant condition of human condition. Individuals and social orders have dependably battled with the ethical quality while confronting situations with what’s up and what is correct. The story portrays a bright network commending a mid year celebration. This delineates Omelas as a city of unbounded satisfaction. By the by, every one of these solaces are made with a trade of a heartbreaking condition.
The story passes on the message of exemplary nature to be really glad; one must hold up for what is correct, regardless of whether implies relinquishing the recognizable. Omelas is an ideal spot to live. Individuals of Omelas, have the ideal existence without any pressures and stresses. Indeed, even the general population of the Omelas must make a penance by managing the penance of a little tyke fail to accomplish the total and extreme joy.
Subsequent to knowing reality of satisfaction of Omelas, inhabitants of Omelas are left with two alternatives. To begin with, overlook the enduring of the tyke and carry on with their ordinary cheerful life or second, to battle for what is correct and leave their home and move to another city. Which one ought to be favored and regarded: enable an honest kid to endure and carry on with your life for what it’s worth or dispose of solaces of Omelas and leave the city of Omelas?
At last, it might be reasoned that everybody takes things in an alternate manner and there are two or three youngsters, and sometimes, even an adult, who, not long after examination the tyke, leave Omelas through its portals and head into the mountains they don’t return. Finally, I need to say some word regarding story like this story is eccentric to the degree its record structure. The setting is set up and the development of the plot starts, yet the plot is never made. Or then again perhaps, the producer rotates around.
Review Of The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas By Ursula Le Guin
In this amazing short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, by Ursula Le Guin. It is all about a society, that has a perfect image of itself and its people. However, there is a dark and twisted secret, a child that sacrifices its life to provide prosperity, equality and happiness between the habitants of this city called Utopia. As a reader, you are challenged to visualize and create your own perfect place in the world, your own Utopia. With the means to embrace this horrible dilemma: The happiness of all, but with a cost, the extreme unhappiness of one. The thesis statement reflects problems that our society has been suffering since the beginning, such as military sacrifice, slavery, and injustice among us.
The author describes that Omelas does not have any type of ruling system, no king or president, political system, technology or many things that engulf our society nowadays. As human beings, we have always fought for freedom, it is encrypted in our D.N.A. But what we see in our world or in this story, is that nobody is truly free. “They know that they, like the child, are not free” the author writes, enlightening the reader that although the citizens live what it seems “free”, within their feelings and thoughts, they are not free. There are no slaves in Utopia, as the author describes. However, this poor child’s freedom is taken from it, just as slavery. This poor child symbolizes slavery in every way, because it does not have any liberty, it is a servant to all citizens of utopia so they could have a happy life. The author offers to us, as readers, a contradiction that says: “… she did it without… the slavery”, but it does not reach the conclusion that the child is a servant of Omelas like a slave to his owner.
All Utopia’s habitants are described as prosperous, equals and filled with joy, off course, excluding this poor child who is mistreated and confined in a tiny basement which is in horrible condition. This child reflects the lives of many slaves in America and the world. Where the son of a slave would have to become a slave as well and will never be freed. Moreover, the terrible and poor condition of this prison where the child lives, reflected how slaves lived back in the day. Another symbol that reflects the slavery in this story would be the smelling rags and buckets next to the closet, which it is a reminder to the child of its role as a slave, and servant of this city.
This amazing story shows that human beings are creatures of habit. That sometimes we continue to participate, or even do not pay attention into harmful practices. Just for the simple fact that we as individuals, feel powerless and unable to stand up against societies in which the behaviors have always been accepted.
Analysis Of Symbolism In The One Who Walk Away From Omelas
Would you be able to live happily knowing that there is a child suffering for your happiness? In “The One Who Walk Away From Omelas,” Le Guin describes a scenario in which an entire city’s population can experience a pure form of happiness as long as one child suffers as a sacrifice. Le Guin uses symbols such as the city of Omelas, the child who never stops playing the flute, the child in the basement, and the ones who walk away to expose the moral weaknesses within modern society, and to suggest the fact that no society is perfect. Omelas is described by the narrator as the story begins as “In the silence of the broad green meadows one could hear the music winding through the city streets, farther and nearer and ever approaching, a cheerful faint sweetness of the air…and broke out into the great joyous clanging of the bells.” The narrator shows that the citizens of Omelas are healthy, happy by describing the city of Omelas through many senses like the sounds, the visual, the smells. Omelas is a city with frequent celebrations and other festivities. However, there is an exception for the one child that lives in the basement under a public building who is malnourished, mistreated, and confined. Furthermore, the city of Omelas is portrayed as a utopian society by using symbol of “a child of nine or ten sits at the edge of the crowd, alone, playing on a wooden flute… for he never ceases playing and never see them, his dark eyes wholly rapt in the sweet, thin magic of the tune”. He keeps playing as though there is nothing else in the world can make him feel any happier.
Children are the symbol of purity and carefree happiness. The child never stops playing the flute is symbolic because the flute is a simple primitive instrument with nothing to offer except a simple melody. The child finds joy in it anyways, although this optimistic scene has something darker to reveal. The life of the people who live in Omelas was described as joyous but in fact is one of mindless happiness. Everything is given to them by a miserable child who lives in a locked room in a basement. To help this one tormented child would result in the suffering of the entire city. Le Guin proves her point by explaining that if the child were to be freed, all the prosperity and beauty of Omelas would disappear. She states that the natives of Omelas are well-educated, warm-hearted people. Yet, they are aware that “the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars… depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery.” Even though the narrator tells us that Omelas does not keep slaves, the child symbolizes slavery because he is not free and is a servant of Omelas like a slave is to its owner. The dirtiness on the bottom of the tiny prison floor where the child sleeps in is similar what many slaves in America used to sleep in. The narrator is suggesting that in today’s society, not everyone can be happy and live a delightful life. All around the world, people are living in poverty and abandon, but they cannot always be saved from what is happening to them.
The reactions of the people after acknowledging the existence of the child is also a very essential detail. The ones who walked away from Omelas is a symbol for morality in the story. By deciding to leave the city, they are sending a message that no one person should be miserable for the happiness of other people: “They go on. They leave Omelas, they walk ahead into the darkness, and they do not come back… But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.” Le Guin shows that there is no such thing as a utopian society. When the ones who walk away from Omelas leave, it is as if they are going to a society where everything is not as blissful. It may not be a perfect society, but it is a place that is more realistic to live where they do not have to suffer the guilt of knowing that there is a child being tormented for their happiness.
Le Guin uses many different methods to portray Omelas as a Utopian society. In the end, she reveals that there are some people who leave the city after they saw the child and uses them as a symbol of morality. Le Guin exposes the moral weaknesses within modern society by using the ones who stays at Omelas because they enjoy living in a “perfect society” and they do not care about the fact that there is a child living in the basement suffering for them. She proves that no society is perfect, and there will always be someone out there living in poverty and neglect.