Happiness Gained From Suffering In The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas
Would you be able to live with yourself if you knew your happiness was dependent on the suffering of a child? In the short story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, written by Ursula K. Le Guin in 1973 this exact question is asked of the reader. When a utopian society is built with a beautiful seaside view from any house, something is bound to go wrong, we have learned throughout history there is no such thing as a utopian society, even though many have tried to create their own selfish version of their utopia it seems to always fail. Behind any utopian society there is always some type of great sacrifice that is made to keep the utopian society running smoothly without any hiccups. In this tragic story, in what seems to be a perfect place to be they hide a young child that has been locked in a cage for years with miniscule food and water, and left to live in his or her own filth, the gender is never uncovered as the refer to the child as it.
The little child’s suffering is made to represent how cruel justice can be and how precious happiness in life really is. The author also explains how this is no ordinary utopia, there are many lavish parties and festivals, fueled by loads of alcohol, where they held mass orgies and many religious activities out of temples. This short story makes yourself stop and ask yourself some very moral and basic questions including, would you allow yourself to have happiness not only for yourself but as your town as a whole, due to a singular child’s suffering? Could this truly bring you actual genuine happiness knowing that your happiness is only caused because of another person? Looking from a further standpoint, the main broader theme to this story comes down to the individual vs society, In Omelas, the happiness of the society as a whole is valued above that of the child locked up under the city. No other character is treated as an individual. The other characters can be divided into two categories: those who walk away from Omelas and those who don’t. This has a homogenizing effect on the population.
Would you be able to join a society that was completely based on the suffering of a child, would you be able to distinguish the fine line between your happiness and another’s suffering? It is very clear from the start of the story that it is fictitious, but the author shockingly brings the utopia to life as you read. The story abruptly transitions from the description of the beautiful utopian society, to the suffering of the poor child. The narrator eerily describes “Do you believe? Do you accept the festival, the city, the joy? No? Then let me describe one more thing. ” This quote is extremely important because it explains how the scapegoating of this poor child is what makes the utopia possible, this is also a great example of how happiness is gained without some type of suffering.
The fact the child and the utopia are so close together but so much different at the same time is very ironic, and a powerful metaphor to explore how deeply the pain and suffering we feel as humans is embedded in our DNA. From a farther broader perspective of this story you can almost feel how closely our own human condition has gotten us to this “imagined” society. In many historically great civilizations they were and rooted on the basis of profound suffering. The best or should i say worst example of this was Hitlers genocide in the mid 19th century, he gained tremendous power over these times and almost at one point ruled the world, Germany was set to prosper higher then they had ever imiganed and were one of if not the most powerful countries at the time, and all this was complelty based on the sufferings of the jewish people, happiness is only gained through another persons suffering. We are ultimately left with a final moral outstanding question of this story is can our collective happiness and well-being be considered morally correct if these are only obtained through obvious suffering of another person.
Each individual of this so called utopian society musty wrestle with themselves about the fact that their own happiness is only because of an innocent abused child, and whether or not it is it worth it to have something like that weigh on your conscious for your own materialistic greediness. This story also shows how if you break another persons will enough they will eventually give up, the child is not allowed any type of human interaction, he is not even allowed to be spoken too, when he first arrived as the author says, he cried and yelled out for help for days on end, once the child comes to understand the he will never be rescued, he begins to only groan and mumble to himself to try to pass the time till he can eventually escape this nightmare.
This child does not deserve the false blame, abuse, and general dehumanization they experienced at the hands of the society, the child was simply scapegoated. In order to sustain a false unity and corrupt sense of loyalty among the other members. This is precisely what the child in the story symbolizes: a scapegoat whose reduced dignity and dehumanization is used to sustain the unity, power, and structure of Omelas as a society.
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