Class Discussion: “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

Just a reminder that you should make your at least one comment (just hit “reply,” either to my original post or to another comment on it) by Sunday (3/2).

Then go back/read through all comments and extend the conversation by making at least two more comments (of course, more are always welcome!) in response by Wednesday (3/5). 

The goal is to have some good virtual discussions here to help you think critically about this short story. You can respond to one of my “discussion-starter”prompts/questions below, or you can discuss any other aspect of the text that isn’t mentioned there.

Your comments need not be very long: for example, you can provide a quote/citation and a few sentences of explanation of how/why it functions in the context of some larger issue/question (or you can raise questions, complicate issues, extend discussions, analyze a character, or setting, etc.).

Here are some thoughts to get you started:

  • Discuss the initial imagery of Omelas (3-4).
  • Discuss the varying ways happiness is described in the text.
  • Who is the narrator?
  • How does the narrator invite the reader (“you”) to imagine the utopian city of Omelas (2-3)? Why does the narrator want the reader to co-create this utopia? What purpose might it serve in the context of what happens later in the text?
  • Why does the narrator keep asking the readers if they believe him/her (middle p. 4; bottom p. 6)? How have things changed in the story (and the readers’ perception of it) by the time the questions are asked the second time around towards the end of the story?
  • Discuss the characterization of the child in the room (and perhaps compare it to the boy flute player at the top of p. 4).
  • Why does everyone in the city have to be aware of the existence of the child? (5)
  • Is it possible to have a happy/good/just society at the expense of someone else?
  • Is ignorance bliss? Would the people in the story be better off not knowing of its existence? What would be gained from this ignorance? What would be lost?
  • Can you think if any analogy of the child in the room in our society? If so, who is the child, and who suffers at its expense?
  • Why do some people walk away from Omelas? Who are these people? Where do they go?
  • Explore how an element of fiction (or multiple ones) plays out in the text.
  • Explore one (or more) of the items on the Utopian/Dystopian Framework within the context of this short story.

HW for next class (Th 2/27)

Just a reminder that we do not have class this Th 2/20, because it is a CUNY Monday. Therefore, the next time we will meet in person is Th 2/27.

Since a number of you missed class last Th (2/13) due to the snowstorm, that means that many of us will not have seen each other in 3 weeks by then! While we will still move forward with the new reading (we are moving from short stories to novels, and you should have already started to read Brave New World … I hope that you’re enjoying it so far!), in the meantime we will continue our conversations online about the three short stories, because they are an important foundation for our future conversations about utopias/dystopias (and also because they will be on the Midterm exam!).

As a result, we have a number of things due for next week (please pay particular attention to due dates, as they vary), which will count for your OpenLab composing and Participation course grades. For our next class, on Th 2/27, you should do all of the following:

1. Read chapters 1-5 of Brave New World and post a reading response.

Don’t forget, as you read, to annotate the text, to take note of the Elements of Fiction (characters, setting, plot, point of view, conflict, theme, imagery, etc.), and to consult the Utopian/Dystopian Framework and answer its questions in the context of the novel. Come to class prepared to discuss all of the items on the framework in relation to the first part of this novel, as we work together to get a handle on what type of world the World State is (and what it values).

As always, your response post should incorporate specific details/scenes/quotes (with correct citations, in MLA format) from the text. Categorize appropriately. And, as always, this reading response is due the night before class (W 2/26).

2. Create a “My Utopia” post.

Perhaps it would be best if you imagined as your own fancy bids, assuming it will rise to the occasion, for certainly I can not suit you all (2).

What else, what else belongs in the joyous city? (3).

In the above excerpts from Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” the narrator speaks directly to the readers, asking us to participate in creating this “perfect” city (and perhaps therefore to be complicit in the child’s suffering as well). Now, it is your turn to imagine your own “utopia,” to describe what your ideal world would be like.

  • Make a post in which you describe your own “utopia” (your ideal world), in as much detail as possible. Your post may take any form you find conducive to conveying your utopian vision (e.g. it could be a description of a place, a story that shows us the values in action, dialogue between characters, etc.). I encourage you to make a multimedia post (add images, videos, music, links, etc.), if you need more than just words to communicate your ideal society.
  • Minimum of 500 words (though it will likely be longer!), categorize appropriately, and post by Su night (2/23).
  • Before class, o back and read/comment on your classmates’ utopian visions. What is your reaction to your classmates’ ideal worlds? Are there elements there that, to you, are not utopian? Perhaps even dystopian? Why? Look at the Utopian/Dystopian Framework, and try to apply it to their utopian visions. What values can identify lurking beneath the surface of the vision?
  • Come to class prepared to discuss these visions (yours and your classmates), and to provide a rationale for your own utopian vision.

3. For those of you who missed class on Th 2/13, contact a classmate who was there to get their notes/find out what we covered.

We spent all of class last Thursday (2/13) writing about and discussing “The Machine Stops” according to its central “conflicts” and the Utopian/Dystopian framework. Therefore, if you missed class, make sure to contact a classmate who was there to get notes/find out what we covered (as stated on the syllabus, you are responsible for that material, even when you are absent).


Hey guys, my name is Chanae St.louis and my major is hospitality management. I’m 21 years old and I am also a fraternal twin. My future goals are to graduate with my bachelors degree as fast as possible to Then start off my career as a manager in a top leading company with multiple locations around the world. This would be a excellent opportunity to travel the world Since I would love to visit multiple countries. I enjoy cosplaying and perfecting my costumes for up coming events such as the sakura festival and New York comic con. My hobbies are watching anime, playing a select few video games and learning more about the Japanese culture. I used to play volley ball back in high school and I would love to play again when I get time off from work and school. I currently work at the Barclay center a few blocks away from the college campus since the first day the arena opened their doors in September 2012 to the public. I’m looking forward to blogging about the stories we read in the class this semester  🙂

Reminder: Le Guin reading response posts due tonight, W 2/5

Hi everyone:

Many of you have joined our OpenLab site and made your Introductory posts already … that’s great! Keep them coming, and don’t forget to read/comment on one another’s posts!

Just a friendly reminder that, as we discussed in class and as is listed on our Schedule (where you should always go to find all reading/writing assignments), all reading responses are blog posts (minimum of 500 words) to the readings for that week, and are due the night before class (so on Wednesdays, by 11:59pm). The content, length, grading, expectations, requirements (etc.) for these blog posts are explained, in detail, in the OpenLab Composing section of our course site.

Blogs should not be summaries of the readings, but rather should be your critical analysis of the texts (you can use the elements of fiction and/or the utopia/dystopia framework to help you ask questions about the text, dig deeper, and start to generate critical responses).

Don’t forget to categorize this week’s reading response post as “Le Guin,” and to print out the PDF of the two short stories and bring them (annotated with your notes, comments, questions) to class.

See you in the morning!

Professor Belli

‘We’ and ‘Brave New World’ available now at City Tech Bookstore

The two texts you need to purchase for this class, Zamyatin’s We and Huxley’s Brave New World, have been available at the City Tech Bookstore since last week. We will be starting to read those novels fairly soon, so please go buy your copies of them now (they have limited copies there, so if you go to buy it and they are out of it, please just “reply” here and post a comment letting me know and I will get them to order more copies).