Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

In Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” we find ourselves faced with a moral dilemma. What is it that we as people base our happiness on? The idea of societal and personal happiness is played out through the analogy of Omelas and the abandoned child. In this story, we are drawn into Le Guin’s world by use of her vivid descriptions. Le Guin pulls us into Omelas with her first phrase “with a clamor of bells that set the swallows soaring. ” From here she intricately weaves a pattern of plot and theme which she draws upon throughout the entire story.

We are initially given to a blissful, almost jubilant, Omelas. We picture the “houses with red roofs and painted walls, between old moss-grown gardens and under avenues of trees. ” We aren’t given names or descriptions of these people, so that we may relate to them as the “every person. ” Yet it comes to an end. Theme and plot collide into one sentence. The crux of Omelas. Le Guin asks if one can truly believe in Omelas. The reader finds himself/herself asking if the first part of the text is truly conceivable.

The theme then takes over asking if one could accept the conditions that Omelas “happily” lives under. The plot then allows enough room for the reader to imagine the living conditions under which the child lives in with “a little light seeping in dustily between cracks in the boards. ” The characters, though not drawn out in much detail, have such personalities as to make them recognizable in our own lives. Le Guin utilizes broad terms such as “the youths and girls, the merry women, old people and master workmen.

By using general identities for these characters, we fill in the gaps with our own imagination molding them to fit people known in our lives. Even the child in the basement was only a “child” and the “boys and girls” ran around naked with “mudstained feet and ankles. ” As much as she may shift to one character, Le Guin never gave more than a few vague details about that character’s description. This was played and replayed throughout the story with great consistency. Though it inhabitants may have been obscure and lightly characterized, Omelas itself held more detail than its people did.

Omelas is depicted as a jubilant place of harmony and laughter. A fairy tale. Le Guin uses imaginative terms to allow the reader a gateway through which we gaze into the daily life of an Omelasn, a worry free life where “the people went dancing” and one can hear “the great joyous clanging of the bells. ” Omelas is played out in a realistic way. The reader is meant to connect with the inhabitants of Omelas who are mature, passionate and intelligent. Le Guin dispels certain things in our modern era that give strain to some people’s lives and woe to others.

She refers to “secret police, slavery and the bomb” as negative thoughts outside of Omelas that do not exist in it. Le Guin’s descriptiveness and imagery allow this story to have a great effect on the reader. By wanting to live in Omelas and relating to its characters, the reader is forced to ask moral questions of herself/himself. Could one philosophically and humanly live with the strict conditions of happiness in Omelas? The reader is left to draw his/her own conclusion by referring to his/her own life experiences. Closing the book doesn’t end the story. Some believe Omelas is here today.

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