The short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” by Ursula Le Guin begins by introducing the town of Omelas: a place of ultimate joy and happiness. This utopian fantasy land seems unimaginable; however, the author urges the reader to open up their imagination and visualize a place so perfect that there is no need for kings, laws or soldiers. Every last man, woman and child is happy, healthy and full of life—except for one. In order for this town to continue to live in perfect bliss, one child of the town must suffer.
This child must stay locked in a broom closet, naked and covered in sores. It survives on half a bowl of corn meal and grease a day, and its only interaction with people is getting kicked and stared at with disgust. The people of Omelas must accept that their happiness comes with the price of this poor child’s pain and misery. The ones, whose conscience will not allow them to live in happiness while another is sacrificed, leave Omelas to live an honest life where they must feel pain as well as joy. I believe that this story was designed to make the reader think.
Could you live a joyous life in a society whose happiness is directly dependent on the utter misery of a small innocent child? Most of the residents of Omelas can accept that this child’s suffering for the “greater good. ” Le Guin writes, They all know that it has to be there. Some understand why, and some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on this child’s abominate misery. 10) This short narrative can open your mind to many truths in our own day to day life. I believe way too many people and animals suffer quietly on a regular basis for the happiness of others. Animals are slaughtered for food, fur, leather, etc. Children and adults suffer in sweatshops to make our goods. We choose to spend our money on fancy new smartphones, fast food and vacations in Hawaii, but we can’t afford to donate a few dollars a month to the children that are dying of starvation in third world countries.
We would rather sleep in on our day off and watch TV all day instead of volunteering somewhere or helping someone. We need to let go of our selfish wants and look around us. I believe we have a similar perspective as the Omelas residents: Out of sight, out of mind. This narrative was titled, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” and our lives and choices should mirror those of the ones who were strong, kind and caring enough to take a stand and do the right thing.