The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursula Le Guin is a short story that shares a view on an ideal society and the narrators revelation of the secret behind this perfect world. The narrator shows us in this quote the beauty of Omelas and its people, “The rigging of the boats in harbor sparkled with flags. In the streets between houses with red roofs and painted walls, between old moss-grown gardens and under avenues of trees, past great parks and public buildings, processions moved.” (Le Guin, page 1 paragraph 1) and “In other streets the music beat faster, a shimmering of gong and tambourine, and the people went dancing, the procession was a dance. Children dodged in and out, their high calls rising like the swallows’ crossing flights over the music and the singing.” (Le Guin, page 1 paragraph 1). The narrator uses imagery for the reader to understand how beautiful Omelas is to the citizens of the wonderful city, red roofs and painted walls, moss-grown gardens, a shimmering or gong and tambourine. This allows us to see Omelas alive and wanting to visit this place.

However, behind this utopia of society there is a dirty secret to why the city is prosperous. In the text, we have the narrator instructs us where to go to discover the truth behind this ideal society, this perverse utopia that continues without any care for the price. The location for this truth is in a basement under a beautiful public building, (Le Guin, page 4, paragraph 4) one of the many buildings in Omelas or in a cellar of one of many spacious private homes (Le Guin, page 4, paragraph 4). In this space under a building lies the reason for the city of Omelas success, trapped in a room filled with cleaning supplies lies a child of about ten years old. This child isn’t even able to be identified as male or female because it has become imbecile through fear, malnutrition, and neglect (Le Guin, page 4, paragraph 4). We don’t know how he/she has stayed alive all these years, the narrator describes it as so, “It is so thin there are no calves to its legs; its belly protrudes; it lives on a half-bowl of corn meal and grease a day. It is naked. Its buttocks and thighs are a mass of festered sores, as it sits in its own excrement continually.” (Le Guin, page 5, paragraph 1). This child barely given any resources to stay alive, and the worst part about this is that the society, they all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have come to see it, others are content merely to know it is there. (Le Guin, page 5, paragraph 2) and they know, the people of Omelas, that their livelihood depends wholly on this child’s abominable misery (Le Guin, page 5, paragraph 2).

All in all, at least the city of Omelas has some citizens that will not stand to live on their entire lives on the misery of any one human. The narrator shows us the resolve of some of the people of Omelas, “They keep walking, and walk straight out of the city of Omelas, through the beautiful gates. They keep walking across the farmlands of Omelas. Each one goes alone, youth or girl, man or woman.” (Le Guin, page 7, paragraph 1). At the end of the story we have a revelation that some citizens will not stomach this form of utopia anymore and they leave the city of Omelas walking into the darkness and never turn back, even thou in any society there will always be humans that are repressed and treated as trash and inhumane for the sake of a better life for those with power. This will never change, so was the alternative better? Having one person suffering or an entire city, state, country or nation suffering together?

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