The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas
There is a huge difference between utopia and dystopia. Utopia literally means a place that does not exist. It describes an imaginary world; it is paradise; a place of pure bliss where nothing goes wrong.
Dystopia is literally the opposite. It is a world that was once functioning but ends up horrible. Instead of the skies being clear and blue like in a utopian world, they are dark and dull. The cities are in ruins and the people are annoying and unfriendly.
At first, it seems that utopia exists in Omelas. Ursula Le Guin starts the short story off with a beautiful description of the city, filling your mind with happiness and joy. She explains that in the city everything is perfect and everyone is happy. They had no slaves, no war, and no problems. They had “religion but no clergy” (3). They didn’t need it; just like they didn’t need soldiers because she explains that “the joy built upon successful slaughter is not the right kind of joy… it is fearful and it is trivial”
(3). They could surely celebrate courage without soldiers. There is music and dancing and laughter. There is no guilt in Omelas. Although, they weren’t actually aloud to feel guilt in Omelas.
In order to be happy and for them to not feel guilt, someone must suffer; there were terms to follow in order to have happiness. It actually turns into somewhat of a dystopian world in the end. There were times when a boy, girl, man or woman would go see the suffering child in the cellar and go home in silence: if they even went home at all. If they went home, they left soon to “walk down the street, alone, and out of the city of Omelas”
(7). They walk into a dark path and do not come home. 2.The narrator has compassion for the people in Omelas. Le Guin explains that “all the people of Omelas know it [the suffering child] is there. Some understand why, and some do not” (5). They understand though, that their happiness; the cities beauty; the friendships; and everything good depend on the child’s suffering.
They know that there is “no vapid, irresponsible happiness” that “like the child, [they] are not free [either]”. The compassion they have is because of the existence of the child. It is because of that child that they have knowledge of that existence and the reason why “they are so gentle with other children… that if the wretched one were not there sniveling in the dark”, there would be no happiness anywhere else.
Le Guin reasons, “to throw away the happiness of thousands for the chance of the happiness of one: that would be to let guilt within the walls indeed” (6). Le Guin seems to find dilemma in Omelas. She says the few that leave, they go out into the street alone; “they keep walking, and walk straight out of the city of Omelas… the place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us” (7). She explains that she “cannot describe it all… but they seem to know where they are going” (7). Her opinion is that it is too much to ask for everyone to just be okay with ones suffering for everyone else to be happy.
The child locked in the dark cellar is what the people of Omelas claims to be the reason for their happiness and guilt free life. The child sits in his or her own feces in a small, dark, foul-smelling room. He or she is feeble-minded, unhealthy and “there may not even be a kind word spoken to the child” (5). The fact about this child is explained to children when they are young but able to comprehend.
Most those who go to see the child are young people; sometimes adults, but “no matter how well the matter has been explained to them, these young spectators are always shocked and sickened at the sight” (5). It may take months or years, but they will come to accept the torture of one for the benefit of the many; that if they did anything to save the child, “all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and be destroyed” (6). The child symbolizes the evil within everyone and everything.
Some people cannot handle the knowledge of the child in the dark cellar and they walk away forever, unwilling to bear the guilt, and others come to terms with the fact that the child “is too degraded and imbecile to know any real joy” (6), and so they think it’s justified. 4.There is an implied criticism of those who do not accept moral responsibility. We have a bad habit of “considering happiness as something rather stupid”. We are taught that only “pain is intellectual, [and] only evil is interesting” (2). We are brainwashed into thinking that someone must suffer in order for other people to be happy. In a utopia everything is filled with perfection and beauty.
In a real utopia nothing needs to be rescued; it is in fact a real fairy tale. No princesses need to be rescued and no dragons need to be slaughtered. It is not necessary to let others hurt just to feel happiness. No technological wonders can provide happiness when our thinking is collectively flawed. You can be happy and peaceful without being passionless and naïve which is what society has lost touch