The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas Analysis

2 February 2017

Shining a Light on Omelas Light. Light is undoubtedly the most important entity in the entire universe. Though, it is taken for granted more than anything else despite its significance. It is always there, dependable day by day with the rotation of the earth or by the switching on of a light switch. Without light, life ceases to exist. There would be no plants, for they would not be able to create their own food. Without plants, there would be no primary energy source for the other animals on the Earth. This, in turn, would mean humans would never have existed and this discussion would never be taking place.

Light is the core of hope and love, the central idea for never giving up. Pure light grants warmth and affection, encompassing one with a sense of safety and protection. It is the difference between knowing something is there and being totally unaware of its presence.

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Light brings out the color in every single thing that has substance. If there is no color, there is no expression. There would be no yellows, which inspire happiness; no greens, which symbolize life and being; no red, that arouses anger and confrontation; and there would be no pink, which conveys love and compassion.

It brings out the true nature of every single thing in existence, be it alive or not. In the absence of light, unfortunately, there is darkness. Darkness is the epitome of fear and terror. It is the foundation of uncertainty, hatred, and abhorrence. Darkness promotes distrust and is an easy cover for evil and vile doings. Being imprisoned in the dark gives one the feeling of loneliness and isolation, having no hope of ever escaping its clutches. It makes its victims feel like the only getaway is death, for in death there is hope that there may be something better.

Maybe there will be light. Light, the only opponent of darkness. This is the battle between light and dark, good versus evil, God versus Satan. Light is the end of a long, forsaken tunnel that has taken almost an eternity to journey through, while darkness is a little child trapped in a closet with no desire or want to live or exist. Utilizing the struggle of light and dark with skill can prove to be one of the finest ways to sway an audience and is used abundantly in literature throughout the ages.

In Ursula Le Guin’s short story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, she uses the various forms of light with white light, darkness, and the visible light spectrum to establish mood in the story. Light is an extremely useful tool in establishing a mood in a story. As a whole, it produces a sense of hope, happiness, and joy in a reader. Its use is apparent especially in this case where, “There is a room. It has one locked door, and no window. A little light seeps in dustily between cracks in the boards… ” (Le Guin 3). In this part of the story, the little bit of light signifies that there is a false sense of hope within this room.

Since there is not complete, pure darkness, it would give whoever or whatever is trapped in that room an identity and a face. Though, the little light that is entering has a dusty nature to it. Here, it indicates that the hope that may be there is fleeting and deceiving. The boards are holding back the potential of happiness and the locked door annihilates the possibility of joy. Ultimately trapping whatever is in there and damning its pitiful existence to solitude. With the little bit of light giving negative vibes, an abundance of light proves to accomplish the opposite.

One such case is, “The child, who has not always lived in the tool room, and can remember sunlight and its mother’s voice, sometimes speaks” (Le Guin 4). Sunlight, in this case, is being compared to the comforting voice of a mother. The light instills optimism and certain aspiration to see it again and to be in its glow and warmth, just like being within the grasping, loving arms of a mother. Sadly, sunlight is a nearly forgotten, distant dream to this child and the little remembrance that it has of the light gives it courage to occasionally speak.

With the physical properties of light and how it implements certain sensations, it can also be used as an emotion giving a literal sense of lightness. This is made apparent on the second page when, “Drooz which first brings great lightness and brilliance to the mind and limbs, and then after some hours a dreamy languor, and wonderful visions at least of the very arcane and inmost secrets of the universe…” (Le Guin 2). Lightness and brilliance essentially go hand in hand in this case. The lightness is basically the sense of being fresh and alive. The brilliance is the shining that entails after the initial drooz.

This creates happiness in the reader and tries to put them into the character’s point of view, placing them in the story and situation. All in all, LeGuin uses the idea of light to her advantage in the story. However much light is used during a certain point is exactly how she wants the reader to feel. Along with light, though, there is a multitude of darkness prevalent in the story. With light, darkness is an important literary tool in establishing mood in a story. Darkness, in its usual sense, is a dire and hopeless phenomenon that causes heightened despair, terror, and an ominous feeling in its presence.

In one instance of the story, it is stated that, “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” (Le Guin 4). Here, the darkness is being referred to as vile. It is opposed to the sunlight as being a worse place to bring up a child in. The darkness is the child’s own hell, a dungeon with no escaping and no hope of living a normal child’s life. Sunlight, in this case, is synonymous with being cleaned, fed, and comforted rather than the vile that is dirty, malnourished, and distressful.

Darkness in this story does not always have to mean terror and despair though. A reason being, “They do not speak to him, for he never ceases playing and never sees them, his dark eyes wholly rapt in the sweet, thing magic of the tune” (Le Guin 3). The dark eyes signify a certain ominous feeling with an unknowing sense to it. The people kept away not because of the evil that usually surrounds darkness, but rather the gloomy air to the boy. This is what subtle darkness conveys to the human psyche, a feeling of mystery and unfamiliarity with the current situation.

Also, the dark eyes wholly charmed into the music rather than everything else could refer to a rather demonic trance. The significance of the music may not be a pleasant one and it could ultimately mean that of evil. With darkness being the overall essence of a being, it is also used literally in the story. It is made apparent in the last paragraph, “Night falls; the traveler must pass down village streets… and on out into the darkness of the fields. Each alone, they go west or north, towards the mountains. They go on. They leave Omelas, they walk ahead into the darkness, and they do not come back” (Le Guin 5).

Night, the shroud of the thieves, the cover for mysterious messengers, the easy getaway for an inconspicuous stranger. Evil things happen in the night, in this case, the ignoring of the terrible wrong done to the child in the closet. The travelers, isolated by the dark, do not have a face, and are a generalization of what every person would do if they were in that situation. Putting the readers in the situation creates a sense of wonder and pondering. The escaping into the north and west could mean that they want to continue to be in the darkness and solitude.

The reason being, the north and the west are usually considered the frontier, dark, and unknown places thus being perfectly suited as hideaways. As a whole, darkness, or the absence of light, in this story is a prevalent topic and Ursula utilizes it to establish mood favorably. Along with the darkness, Le Guin uses the actual color spectrum to institute the mood. Color, like light and darkness, when used correctly in a story can create a certain disposition in an audience. One color can construct sensations, such as hatred or love, felt throughout the entire body.

With the perceiving of a color, it reveals the true being of an object or emotion. One such instance in the story is, “The air of morning was so clear that the snow still crowning the Eighteen Peaks burned with white-gold fire across the miles of sunlit air, under the dark blue of the sky” (Le Guin 1). Color in this passage is evident and immensely important to the setting and mood of the story. The white-gold fire creates a certain awe about the snowy mountains. If it were used that they were dirty or dull, one would not feel admiration and would certainly not feel like they would want to be there.

With the dark blue sky, a sensation of oldness and majesty arises. Without a cloud in the sky one would believe that the place is in its prime and an overall joyful nature would surface. Admiration is a prevailing subject when it comes to colors in this story. Another example would be in regard to the horses, “Their manes were braided with streamers of silver, gold, and green” (Le Guin 1). The silver and the gold in the mane create the feeling of richness and wealth. The green instills life and energy into the reader, livening up the experience of the story and setting a joyful mood.

The combination of all three of the colors fills one with delight for life is rich and teaming with excitement whenever you allow it to be. Color and the allusion to life is apparent in other parts of the story, too. The Green Fields is the foremost place for life made apparent by, “Where on the great water-meadow called the Green Fields boys and girls, naked in the bright air, with mud stained feet and ankles and long, lithe arms, exercised their restive horses before the race” (Le Guin 1). Green, again, is the color most recognized with life and existence.

A new awakening is thought of with regards to this color. The naked children and their bare feet exemplify this claim referring to a clean, new life. One feels refreshed when thinking of the Green Fields, and this is exactly as Le Guin intended it to be. Altogether, the visible light spectrum helps to establish mood in the reader and creates a certain feeling with regards to the particular situation. Overall, the basic forms of light including pure, white light, darkness, and the visible light spectrum help establish the mood in Ursula Le Guin’s “The One Who Walk Away From Omelas. The overall happiness, hope, and joy that pure light creates are enough to bring one to tears. In contrast, darkness institutes depression, despair, and misery destroying ones hopes to continue on happily. The visible light spectrum, or colors, can essentially create any mood that is needed due to the various array of possibilities given from the almost infinite amount of colors. Again, the battle between darkness and light is the central point and focus of many stories and utilizing its struggle could prove immensely advantageous in presenting a point.

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