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Omelas 7

   

Read: American writer Ursula LeGuin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

Write an essay in which you analyze the theme of the individual and society in that story. Below you will find a few points to consider about the story that will help you think about the theme and how LeGuin applies it. Your essay should be well-developed and well-supported with the text and between 500-600 words long

Helpful notes:

LeGuin is known mostly as a science fiction writer, but in her works science fiction is used more as a vehicle to explore universal issues about humanity. In “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” LeGuin introduces us to a utopian community—at least on the surface. Make special note of the beauty and harmony of Omelas. LeGuin emphasizes a pristine natural setting in describing Omelas as “bright-towered by the sea,” with its great water-meadow of the Green Fields. Its people, both young and old, mingle harmoniously. The children run naked in “the bright air;” the horses, with their braided manes and streamers of silver, gold and green, wear no gear at all” (512). The emphasis is on the natural and the beautiful.

As you continue to read, note other qualities of Omelas: what is the government like? What about war? Crime? Religion?

What about this statement: “…and (a not unimportant point) let the offspring of these delightful rituals be beloved and looked after by all” (514). What is significant about it, particularly when you discover what is hidden in the basement?

What is drooze? Why is it necessary?

In all, how does LeGuin characterize Omelas? Does that characterization change when you discover the child in the basement?

Why is the child there? Why must it be there? We learn that the beauty and perfection of the society is dependent upon the pain and misery of the one child, who must never be shown any kindness or be removed from the room—for the society of Omelas would then come to an end. The child is made the scapegoat for the society, the one person who absorbs misery so that Omelas may enjoy happiness.

However, the story also forces the question: can happiness in a society be achieved at the expense of the individual? 

As you consider a thesis for your essay, also think about the story’s ending. Who are the ones who walk away? Is their gesture enough? Too little? Readers generally have very strong reactions to this story. Many are convinced that they would rescue the child, even at the expense of destroying an entire society. How do you react?