Ursula Leguin's 'The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas'

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Pooja Dave Dr. Britton Eng 106, Section C1 4 February 2015 The Interesting Evil In “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, Ursula LeGuin challenges the reader’s ethical stance with the question: Is the happiness of thousands worth the suffering of one? Sacrifice, LeGuin suggests, is a necessity for happiness. LeGuin describes a place of perfection, a place so untouched by the horrors and greed of the world that it is improbable to think it is flawed. Then she introduces the readers to the dark underbelly of happiness. Underneath one of the beautiful mansions of Omelas, there lies a child that, having been placed in a box of misery, lives out its life never to see the light of day. Those who can handle the truth and weigh the morality of the…show more content…
LeGuin, however, states: “The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pendants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain (LeGuin 278).” These sentences state explicitly LeGuin’s philosophy. The story is centered on challenging the preconceived notion of happiness and how it is attained. The existence of the child may prove to the reader that the “bad habit … of considering happiness as something rather stupid” is not a bad habit at all. She outright challenges the reader by revealing the hypocrisy of it all. We cannot act in shock upon learning the dark secret of Omelas because it is the enslavement of the child that entices us. She proceeds to say that because it is “the evil” that interests us, it is the child that makes Omelas real. We can believe such a perfect society can exist because there is something horrible lurking in the shadows. In revealing so openly our hypocrisy, LeGuin tests the idea of happiness in opposition to pain and…show more content…
Is the sacrifice of one or few ever worth it if it ensures protection of the many? Humans have played those odds since the beginning of time with varying results and varying degrees of guilt. In “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, LeGuin plays with the notion that a simple life is a road to happiness. She lets the reader judge, forcing us to ask the question would we walk away? If the injustice becomes too great and the nonsense gets too thick, should our humanity become too thin, will we remain or turn and leave it all behind? LeGuin reveals to the reader the banality in walking away. The refusal to stay is a refusal to do anything. The people who stay learn to accept their lowly position in the vastness of Omelas, but as LeGuin implies those who leave accomplish nothing either to further the society or to help the child. However, there is a gap in this judgment that is the main core of the story. Is walking away a more morally right action than staying? This is the question the readers are tasked with and the one which the answer varies the greatest. As LeGuin proves, there is no simple solution in the lives we

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