The Summary of the Ones who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula Le Guinn

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"The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" is the story of a Utopian society whose survival depends on the existence of a child who is locked in a small room and mistreated. The story opens as the celebration of the Festival of Summer is getting underway in the city of Omelas. There is an air of genuine excitement about the festival, with its flag-adorned boats, noisy running children, prancing horses, and "great joyous clanging of the bells." The author, Ursula Le Guinn, uses extensive imagery in describing the beautiful scenery of Omelas in order to emphasize her theme of choice and what people will let go in order to be happy. Although all of the citizens of Omelas are aware of the child's situation, most of them accept that their happiness is dependent on this particular child's "abominable misery." Sometimes, however, a few people, after visiting the child and seeing the horrible conditions under which it lives, leave Omelas forever. In her short story, Le Guinn invites the reader to become the main character and places the choice on them as well.

In the beginning of the story, the author, Ursula Le Guinn, instructs the reader to imagine their own paradise, or create their own utopia in a sense. By reading on, the reader follows her instruction in a way. To deny it is to disembark from the story and ultimately put the book down. Throughout the beginning of the story, the city of joy, your own Omelas, is developing continuously in your head. "Perhaps it would be best if you imagined it as your fancy bids, assuming it will rise to the occasion, for certainly I cannot suit you all (Le Guinn 997)". Le Guinn's theme of choice is demonstrated here, by extending the theme beyond the characters and to the reader as well, the theme is strengthened. She allows you, as the reader to build your own dream city if her description doesn't do it for you.

In the beginning. Le Guinn presents the reader with brilliant horses and jubilant music, bright colors and beautiful scenery, a beautiful and seemingly perfect town. "Omelas sounds in my words like a city in a fairy tale, long ago and far away, once upon a time (Le Guinn 997)". After giving such a magnificent description, in the following paragraphs it is quickly taken away from you. You are told that the smiles and happiness of the city are not genuine. "All smiles have become archaic....Given a description such as this one tends to look next for the king, mounted on a splendid stallion and surrounded by his noble knights....but there is no king (Le Guinn 997)". The perfect description of the town continues and everyone lives happily, carefree, the city is beautiful and so are the inhabitants. But there is a catch, everybody can only be happy and continue therr prosperous lives as long as one boy suffers. The boy is treated terribly, he is kept in a cellar, with no light, his own excretions, and a laughable diet. All he knows is pain, suffering, sickness, and shame. He has never known the things I believe to be most valuable to anyone's life, like friendship, pride, and most importantly, love. This is far from a perfect society. Le Guinn uses this image to emphasize the conflict of the story, man versus himself or the reader versus himself.

Le Guinn goes on to strengthen the conflict by showing how the whole "perfect" town knows of the child and does nothing to help it. As I read the story, this image disturbed me and I wondered how the town lived in such harmony while they knew of this child's situation. Le Guinn then tells the reader that this child's misery insures the happiness and prosperity of the entire city. The conflict of the story is used to demonstrate Le Guinn's theme of choice. The people of Omelas are given a choice.

This choice gives the residents of Omelas a way out of the deceitful town. You are told that there are those who see the child and chose to walk away from Omelas. Those who choose to walk away, walk away from everything good in it. They are not promised happiness or freedom. In fact you are told that you must walk away alone into the darkness and do not know where they are headed. We are told that the ones who do walk away from Omelas know they are doing the right thing and know right where they are going.

Although the actual story ends there, Le Guinn's intended theme goes beyond the story itself. By Le Guinn transforming the reader into one of the main characters of the story, extends her theme of choice beyond the story and into every day life. The choice presented in this story deals with that of happiness. Le Guinn uses the horrible condition under which one child lives to provide happiness for the rest of the town. Each individual resident is then presented with the choice of staying of leaving the town.

This particular story poses many questions for us as the reader since it basically incorporates us into the story, do you stay in the city of joy or do you accept the challenge of human dignity and walk away? Will you throw away the happiness of thousands for the chance of the happiness of one? That is the main intent of this work. Ursula K. Le Guinn is simply throwing her question on to you. The conflict demonstrated by this position is represented by man versus himself when faced with these questions. Choices are presented to us every day that affect our lives; it is what we do with these choices that shape the person we are and the happiness we achieve.

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The Summary of the Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula Le Guinn. (2022, Dec 09). Retrieved February 22, 2024 , from

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