Reality in of itself is large, full, and sometimes overbearing. There are a multitude of information that are ingrained in us every single day from the day we are born till the day we die. How many of us comes to said information differs wildly from one individual to the next. As a society, we have similar ways of viewing certain things such as, acceptable behavior, acceptable ways of reacting, acceptable ways to discern. Many of us don’t know it but a large part of how we think and act are largely thanks to the society that taught us whether it be from our family, our teachers or even our friends. Many of these teachings ingrained in us are taught to us when we’re young and constantly taught to us until we’re old enough to make our own decisions. This is how a culture is farmed and cultivated over and over and over again. There are many things in our culture that we don’t fully understand or we may even find a bit..disturbing but, many of us learn to deal with it because that’s just what it takes to be part of a society. This is how reality is in a nutshell which is why looking at it from an outsider’s point of view can be pretty difficult and sometimes, outright impossible. This is also a reason why when specific facets of our reality (or a specific society if you want to localize it) is brought up and intently focused on in a story, our opinion of said facet ends up changing. We get the “outsider looking in” point of view and can really understand and contemplate it. For us, The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin is that story.
The story (as I’m sure all of you know well by now) Is a jovial town of jolliness and wonder. There is no sadness, there is no suffering, just a never ending paradise. Or so it may seem at a first glance, however, as we get to know the town more through a narrator (who is never given a name or a gender) we come to learn more and more about the city. Now before i continue I have to give this narrator a name. I really don’t like talking about character or any living story set piece without any sort of name of its own so, I’ll just call it Ukno. Ukno (from what I can tell) seems to be at the very least a resident of Omelas. Throughout the story, he talks about the city and it’s people. As he regains us about the city and it’s people. He’d sometimes talk about the people such as “merry women carrying their babies and chatting as they walked” and the “old people in long stiff robes of mauve and grey.” He’d talk about horses who wore know gear and ran and were ridden all with very little hindrance. The narrator acknowledges the fact that the city is something of a fairy tale, a wondrous place that he himself can’t describe as well as your imagination would be able to if it were up for the task. So, as the story goes on the narrator asks the reader one simple question “Do you believe? Do you accept the festival, the city, the joy? No?” As many of us know, these kinds of places can’t possible exist in reality. The very concept of a place where there is happiness and joy. The very concept of a place where there is no suffering, no sorrow. Is outright impossible. Such a place couldn’t possibly exist because of the very thing it’s supposed to represent. Which is an all compassing paradise. So, the narrator goes on to explain to you why this city is perceived at a glance to be a perfect paradise. In a basement under a beautiful and magnificent public building, there’s a basement. A cold, dark and grotesque basement with no light, no warmth and no hope, there’s a child. The child has no name, it’s age, nearly ten years old. This child has very little to eat, very little social contact and sadly enough, no hope to reach to. The child suffers everyday of malnourished and exercise. It doesn’t even know what love is anymore.. Now you may be asking “what do you mean when you say anymore” Well, the child itself didn’t always live there. As the narrator would explain “the child, who has not always lived in the tool room, and can remember sunlight and its mother’s voice.” It desperately wants to leave, or so, that’s how it did at the beginning when it was first thrown in to the room it would always repeat words like “”Please let me out. I will be good!” but, as time went, all resistance and hope slowly drained away because of the futility of its struggle. Now, it just sits there, in its own feces. It does have some human contact “as I have said before” but, it only gets to meet other kids, and only briefly. The kids that are brought into the room are there to bare witness to why the city is able to be so happy and joyous. It’s able to be so because of the suffering of this one, solitary child. A child who had cruelly been ripped away from its normal life only to be put in a place where all he can do is suffer and accept the unfair conditions that were brought upon him.
Now, let me ask you. Do you know that feeling that’s welling up inside? That feeling of sadness, anger, frustration and animosity you have towards the people of omelass and their downright selfish behavior towards their own happiness. Well, hold on to that feeling while we look at the society of Omelass as a whole. Omelass is a society that can only exist off of the suffering of a minority (when I say minority I don’t mean race, I just mean a person or a group of people who comprise of less than half of a population.) Now, doesn’t that sound somewhat familiar. A City that may be perceived as a land of paradise by those looking in at a glance but, is only like this because someone, somewhere suffers. Some of you might already see the point I’m trying to make but to those who don’t see it right away, this situation is exactly the same as almost every single society that exists today. Sure, some of them don’t have it to such an extreme as Omelass but, the concept is very much the same. In the past, back before the civil war, the prosperity of this country thrived on the slaves in which were forced to suffer horrible amounts of labor all for the sake of the country. Europe, during medieval England, the lower class constantly had to work for very little return. And they all lived this way day in and day out, constantly suffering from famine and disease of their poorly maintained living quarters just so the upper-class aristocrats could live very happy and somewhat carefree lives. This sort of concept still exists even today. Countries such as North Korea who thrives off of the back of its suffering citizens through hidden taxes just so it can use them on frivolous projects such as, museums, weapon development and army funding. Forced child Sweatshops in Somalia, Afghanistan and Yamen that have thousands of children constantly making products such as clothing and electronics for huge worldwide corporations. They work for the financial benefit of their family or even their country. And let’s not get into the extremely disheartening events such as forced prostitution and that unfortunate individuals have to do for the sole gain of their captors. Bottom line is, there are all sorts of suffering that many, many individuals go through all of the benefit of one person or a group of people. Some of these individuals are forced into it while others have no choice but to suffer for the sake of others just to survive. This is a truth that we all know too well, just like the children who are bared witness to the horrid and down-right disgusting nature of their very own city. To the children of Omelass who bear witness to the child with no hope, this is a reality that they themselves eventually encounter. You can say that it’s a part of them growing up and growing more knowledgeable of the world that they dwell in. It’s the same as us. When we were young, we were innocent, we went through days without a single care in the world. But as we get older, we learn more, we learn about the reality that encompasses our very lives. To the children of omelass, the child of no hope is that rude and disturbing reality. And how they deal with that reality differs from one child to another. “Often the young people go home in tears, or in a tearless rage, when they have seen the child and faced this terrible paradox. They may brood over it for weeks or years.” Ukno would explain. But Each child differs when it comes to how they deal with this new information. Some acknowledge the fact that it exists but continue to live on feeling as if they can’t do much about it. This sort of rationalization comforts them. Thinking that you can’t do anything about a horrible situation is a huge relief them and helps them cope with the sad reality. Others however, Leave. They leave to go to a place where Such a sad reality doesn’t exist. Now, in my opinion, the people who leave Omelass don’t exactly leave per se. I think the story itself is telling us that the people who are leaving omelass are leaving the very concept of omelass. Them going to a place that can’t be fathomed by the citizens of omelass is more of a symbolic look at individuals that try to break down and recreate their society into a place where every gets to live somewhat happy lives. A place where no one must be forced to suffer for the sake of others. Individuals like, Martin Luther king who fought for equal treatment of black Americans in a society in which he couldn’t accept, Gandhi, who fought against the wrongful British rule of India using nonviolent civil disobedience. And Nelson Mandela, the man who (with much resistance) fought for the civil rights of the people who were mistreated because of color and in doing so became the first black south African president. And, because of how society usually transforms and changes (usually for the better of everyone living in it) I can no doubt see omelass changing as well. Sure, it won’t be a jovial paradise as it once was but, it can at the very least by a happy place where everyone gets to live equally with one another. No one will have to be forced to suffer for the sake of others. It’s just a matter of time. Sooner or later, the individuals that “leave” the whole concept of what omelass stands for transforms it into a society that that everyone can accept and not have to feel disgusted with.
So, all in all. Fictional stories themselves are extremely important pieces of literature that society can learn from. They can offer the reader the rare perspective of looking at a society from up high outside of it’s metaphorical social dome. And in doing so, are able to immediately see the faults of the characters and their environment. And, when the reader conjures up enough resolve in their beliefs on the society that they read about in a story, that belief is then used to judge the society that they themselves live in. And, who knows, maybe some of the readers will use their new beliefs to change their world for the better. (Well, that’s how I’d like to think of it anyway)
PS: Sorry for the long response. I didn’t even think that the response would be this long until i looked at i finally looked it over after completion.