Ursula K. LeGuin's The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas Essay

Ursula K. LeGuin's The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas Essay

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Ursula K. LeGuin's The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
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In "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," Ursula K. LeGuin makes use of colorful descriptions and hypothetical situations to draw us into a surrealistic world that illustrates how unsympathetic society can be. LeGuin's ambiguity of how the story will go is purposeful; she cunningly makes her case that each of us handles the undesirable aspects of the world we live in differently, and that ultimately, happiness is relative.

As we explore this peculiar world of Omelas, we are prompted to ask ourselves, "What do I think is the `perfect society'? What is happiness to me?", and most importantly (to me), "Would I walk away from Omelas?" While we explore these questions, LeGuin expects that we will discover how far we are willing to go to indulge our need for comfort at the expense and pain of others. How important is our material possessions and comforts?

"Perhaps it would be best if you imagined it as your fancy bids, assuming it will rise to the occasion, for certainly I cannot suit you all"(1264), LeGuin invites us to take part in what at first seems to be a surrealistic trip through Omelas -- to explore our own Omelas. To partake as the main character in this utopia, this city of odd joy; we are urged on by a climaxing tempo of colorful passages and lush scenery, "Far off to the north and west the mountains stood up half encircling Omelas on her bay" (1264), and jubilant music and dance, "In other streets the music beat faster, a shimmering of gong and tambourine, and the people went dancing, the procession was a dance" (1264). One can almost hear the children's laughter, "[their] high calls rising like the swallows' crossing flights over t...


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...at has become desensitized to the pain and suffering of others. LeGuin creates a paradox by offering us the mercy that is not extended to the child. We are given a chance to escape from Omelas. Will we walk away from Omelas and leave the child to suffer, or stay and become the people of Omelas, with their blank empty smiles?

"The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness" (1267). We don't know where the place is that these people escape to. Their fate is uncertain, but for those who leave, it is better to go into the unknown than to remain and be a part of this uncaring, indifferent society.

LeGuin's short fiction "Those Who Walk Away From Omelas" suggests to us that it is possible to break away from our learned behavior and take on a new, more caring approach to each other, and the world around us.

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