Ursula LeGuin's The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas Essay

Ursula LeGuin's The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas Essay

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Ursula LeGuin's The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas


Utopia is any state, condition, or place of ideal perfection. In Ursula LeGuin's short story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" the city of Omelas is described as a utopia. "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" presents a challenge of conscience for anyone who chooses to live in Omelas.

Omelas is described by the narrator as the story begins. The city appears to be very likable. At times the narrator does not know the truth and therefore guesses what could be, presenting these guesses as often essential detail. The narrator also lets the reader mold the city. The narrator states the technology Omelas could have and then says "or they could have none of that: it doesn't matter. As you like it"(877). The method of letting the reader make the city the way he choose makes the city more desirable by him" Perhaps it would be best if you imagined it as your own fancy bids, assuming it will rise to the occasion, for certainly I cannot suit you all"(LeGuin 876). Now the reader might feel that the city is fictious. The narrator also asks the readers "Now do you believe in them?"(879) Asking if the reader believes what the narrator says about the festival, city, and joy of the people of Omelas implies that the reader should have doubts. Can the narrator be trusted by a reader who is being asked to approve the details of the story? Such questions raise doubts in the reader's mind about what the narrator is conveying.

With the help of the reader, the narrator makes Omelas appealing to everyone. "Omelas sounds in my words like a city in a fairy tale, long ago and far away, once upon a time"(LeGuin 876). Omelas does sound too good to be true. While the narrator is saying all that Omelas has and does not have, she says "One thing I know there is none of in Omelas is guilt"(877). The reader later finds out that all Omelas' happiness and joy depend on a child who is locked in a cellar. If the child were rescued from its cell, the whole city of Omelas would falter. The city's great happiness, is splendors and health, its architectural, music, and science, all are dependent upon the misery of this one child. The Omelas people know that if the child were released, then the possible happiness of the degraded child would be set against the sure failure of the happiness of many. The people have been taugh...


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...opefully the guilt for the child's suffering will go away, just like the people did. This helps the conscience of the ones who could not stay if the child remained incarcerated, but does nothing for the child.

Another way LeGuin's story reflects theology is by the way the child must suffer for others happiness. Collins compares this to the way Jesus suffered and died, only to rise again to a transformed, glorious life. Leaving bright Omelas and walking into the darkness is like going from life into death. If leaving Omelas is like going from life to death, that death leads to a new transformed life in a place beyond the mountains, a life so different from the present life that is unimaginable. It is all right for one person to suffer for the benefit of another, because even the sufferer will end up benefiting – his or her final transformed state will be vastly better than his or her first state. It is the precisely resurrection that gives the suffering – servant its final justification. So when LeGuin makes sense of a utopian gesture (leaving Omelas) in the imagery of renewed life beyond death, she indirectly buttresses the very scapegoat theodicy she hopes to undermine.

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