What is Happiness?

The story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula Le Guin, starts off joyful. The author introduces us to the people who reside in the city of Omelas and they are happy about this Summer festival that is going on. I looked up what Omelas meant and it came out to utopian society. So how I interpreted the story would be about is that there will be people who would leave a society called “perfect.” They would leave the society because it doesn’t suit them or chooses not to surround themselves with certain individuals. Going about the story, everyone seems happy and everyone is truly free. There are children who run around the city with literally no clothes on and it all seems perfect. People can practice their own religion and what would best describe the amount of freedom the people of Omelas has is when it says, “If an orgy would help, don’t hesitate. Let us not, however, have temples from which issues beautiful nude priests and priestesses already half in ecstasy and ready to copulate with any man or woman, lover stranger, who desires union with the deep godhead of the blood, although that was my first idea. But really it would be better not to have any temples in Omelas–at least, not manned temples. Religion yes, clergy no” (Le Guin, 3). People can practice what they want and how they want and not be told what to do because it wouldn’t be manned temples and by doing so, they can express how they want to practice. But going back to the title of the story, The Ones Who Walk  Away from Omelas, why would anyone want to leave such a place that is called a Utopia. Why would anyone want to leave such a world where they aren’t told what to do, where there are no wars, where they can practice whatever they want, and where people are happy?

The story then takes a dark turn on page four where we are introduce to a young child the age of 9 or 10 and he is treated like a circus act. The child is described as “It is feeble-minded. Perhaps it was born defective, or it has become imbecile through fear, malnutrition, and neglect…” (Le Guin, 4-5). Under this “perfect” society lies a child who is mistreated and people all over comes to visit this child who is clearly suffering and wants to leave but ultimately cannot because he/she is the source of their happiness.  The child is heavily mistreated and often abused by those who visit him/her to get the child to stand. As the child pleads for help, no one cares for his/her cries and is ignored by the vast majority of the public.

Children ages through 8 to 12, already know about this locked up child. Given these circumstances, normally people would be disgusted seeing a child locked up for the city’s happiness. This stated, “they feel disgust, which they had thought themselves superior to. They feel anger, outrage, impotence, despite all the explanations. They would like to do something for the child. But there is nothing they can do. If the child were brought up into the sunlight out of that vile place, if it were cleaned and fed and comforted, that would be a good thing indeed; but if it were done, in that day and hour all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and be destroyed. Those are the terms. To exchange all the goodness and grace of every life in Omelas for that single, small improvement: to throw away the happiness of thousands for the chance of happiness of one: that would be to let guilt within the wall indeed”  (Le Gin , 5-6). If the public were to help this child, that would be sacrificing everyone else’s happiness for the potential happiness of a boy/girl who needs to be properly taken care of. He or she that has not seen the outside world, would not be able to function in society, would have to give up his freedom/happiness for others. But is it fair that this child have to suffer just for others to function as a “perfect” society. The visitors choose to leave the society or stay and many choose to leave this “perfect” society. Their point of view of Omelas, is that it isn’t some place that they would return to. They look for something else that is their utopia and thus goes back to happiness. The weight of losing many people’s happiness versus a already unhappy child, is quite a burden. Sure the child would be free, but it cannot guarantee both of their happiness. Those who experienced happiness, also experienced tragedy.

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