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Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery and Ursula Le Guin’s The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas

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Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” have long been considered some of the greatest short stories of the twentieth century. They have been compared and contrasted for many years because of the presence of a common major theme: happiness in a community because of a single scapegoat, whether it is the same person or a different one from time to time. Although we can look at the main idea in the story and simply say that both Jackson and Le Guin are feeding us the same primary message, the authors’ approach to the scapegoat thought, the reactions of the fictional populations, and the conclusion that we should identify in each story are quite distinct. These are the aspects I will analyse.
To begin with, we must immediately realize that these are indeed two different stories. However similar the main ideas are, we have to take other pieces into account. After a quick reading of both stories, one notion comes to mind immediately: how do the people react to these atrocities, or do they even react as a whole? I speak, of course, of the feeling of guilt, or to some extent, responsibility. It is not hard to notice that in the case of the people of the unnamed village that practices the lottery, guilt is very rare, but not entirely nonexistent. One of the instances that we realize that some of the citizens in the village might have second thoughts about the lottery is a few hours before the draw, when Mr. Adams tells Old Man Warner “that over in the north village they’re talking of giving up the lottery” (Jackson 3). However, we are immediately slapped in the face by the elderly man, who ensures us that the lottery is the only civil way to proceed since it has always been ...


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...y to make us think about our daily activities, whether we enjoy some things at the expense of others. We do not need to go further than our clothes that could be made in countries where the workers are paid 50 cents an hour to produce clothing sold at 80 dollars, or cities in Africa that are destroyed and the population exploited to extract diamonds or gold that our fellow citizens joyfully attach around their necks and wrists. We cannot leave, though; we cannot escape it like the people of Omelas. It is the same situation everywhere in the world.


Works Cited

Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” The New Yorker 26 June 1948.
Le Guin, Ursula. “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.” The Wind’s Twelve Quarters: Short Stories. 1st ed. Somewhere: Harper & Row, 1975.
Vladimir Lenin Quotes. 30 April 2010.


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