The narrator is trying to convince the reader to believe that Omelas was an incredible, utopian city. Where the people live a joyous life and they celebrate the ‘Festival of the Summer’ where on the streets, “the music beats faster, a shimmering of gong and tambourine, and the people went dancing”( Ursula Le Guin, 1). The narrator goes on and on about the extraordinary occasion and incredible atmosphere in the city during the festival. Moreover, she is trying hard to describe this city as the most carefree place in the world. Where there is no slaves and no rules, and with people living in pure happiness.
Omelas seemed marvelous and exquisitely beautiful but every utopia has a bit of dystopia, and in Omelas case it was, the child. There is a child living in a basement, with no windows, and with no floors, just dirt beneath its feet. The child is only given half a bowl of cornmeal a day. ‘It’ is approximately ten years old, it is constantly left alone and has become an ‘imbecile through fear, malnutrition and neglect’ (Ursula Le Guin, 5). The child is left in the room with two mops, “It finds them horrible. It shuts its eyes, but it knows the mops are still standing” (Ursula Le Guin, 5), the strange thing is that the child fears these mops because it was never taught not to fear them. A parent reassurances its child of all the things to fear in the world and all the things not to fear. That equation has been taken away from him, he has lived its entire life in a locked room, with nobody coming to visit him, but to bring him the little bit of cornmeal to keep his stomach full enough. The purpose of this child was never to understand the differences of the world and what it should or should not fear, but the purpose of ‘it’ is to bring fear itself to the youth of Omelas.
It’s crazy to think that the happiness of the citizens living in Omelas, all depends on the ‘abominable misery’ of this suffering child ( Ursula Le Guin, 5). The people believe that if it is not left in filth and suffering, then their own lives will be in jeopardy, ‘ the health of 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’ ( Ursula Le Guin, page 5). When the young people visit the child, they see how ‘it’ is treated, they feel guilty and helpless, but they come to realize they are unable to change this cruel reality they live in. Once they discover the truth of their ‘utopia’ they no longer go back home, they are just unable. They walk out of their “joyous” city into the darkness. A darkness that no one knows about, but they seem to know where they are going.
I think this was an extraordinary story and Ursula Le Guin had such an amazing imagination when writing about the city and all the details about the people, celebrations, and community. But it’s upsetting that the child was used as a sacrifice by the Omelasians to keep their peace and happiness. It makes you realize that maybe a utopia is impossible after all.