Critical Essay on "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1534 Words
Date:  2022-04-11


In her short story, Ursula K. Le Guin shows the two sides of a coin - happiness and suffering. The story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" depicts the summer festival celebration in a utopian society, where happiness took its best course during the colorful festivities. However, the narrator brings into the picture a child locked away in the dungeon to signify the cruelty of justice. The horrifying revelation about the child leads to some people departing from Omelas without return. This paper will make a critical analysis of the short story to show Le Guin's perspective when making this real contribution as well as drawing literary criticism on the same. Possible contrasts and comparisons existing between this piece of work and other literal contributions of Ursula Le Guin will show similarities, patterns or parallels.

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

The onset of this story shows simplicity and happiness enjoyed by the utopian people especially on this particular day they celebrated the summer festival. The joy of the people of Omelas showed kindness, naivety, and absence of suffering attributed to the complexity of livelihood (Le Guin, 1963). However, the author contradicts this in the text showing that the people led complex lives. Amidst the guaranteed happiness in the city, a child is locked up in a closet under the city. This innocent soul depicts untold suffering from the misery of fright, starvation, and withdrawal. The town of Omelas' sustainability to retain its healthy happiness, splendors, and art depended on the child's misery, rescuing this child from its prison would falter the pivotal stamina of the city. Through the child's pathetic misery the people of Omelas learn the reality of justice, some devastated of the site of this child leaves the gates of Omelas headed to the mountains never to return.

In "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," Le Guin capitalizes on the philosophical concept of scapegoatism to show how an assigned person bears the suffering in lieu the pain of others. This traditional practice, Le Guin states that it pardons the people of Omelas off their sins laid upon one designated person, in this case, it was the child locked away in the closet. Therefore, the happiness and fulfillment enjoyed at the opening of the story showed a hypocritical representation of compulsory joy. The child is a vital element in the Omelas society as a catalyst for making the life bearable. The torture, isolation, and suffering endured by the single soul - the child - is the selfish bargain that gives the utopian community permanent happiness. The metaphorical position assumed by the child in the story makes a contrast representation of the two sides of life in any capitalist society - either the wealthy and the poor, the just and the unjust, the happy and the sad, as well as capabilities and inabilities (Bloom, 1986). The political and economic contrasts in life make an apparent gap between the haves and the have-nots. In this sense, Le Guin is elaborate in showing the distinct separation of the benefits of the vibrant, luxurious life enjoyed by some people at the expense of other people's misery.

Le Guin presents her case without making any evident judgments on the way of life by the people Omelas, but her sympathy towards the innocent soul that bears the pain of others does not escape intriguing the reader to critic this type of life. The use of vagueness in the short story gives the reader the liberty to draw their conclusions on the eventualities in the city. Consequently, the author does not show descriptive details of the amenities in Omelas to catch the reader's attention with the vagueness of more information. The reader's imagination engages with the untold parts of the story to actively interact with the situations of the people of Omelas. When Le Guin states that adolescents and some adults view the child and depart from the city, she provokes the reader's imagination concluding the reasons and intentions that would probe people to leave guaranteed happiness to unknown life without returns. Personally, when I read the story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" I sympathized with the fate of the people ones the child would unbind him or herself from captivity the mayhem that would befall Omelas instills fear in the run-aways. The literal application of ambiguity in the story has seen Le Guin's success in capturing the attention of the target readers. Further, the author shows misery and suffering endured by the child but does not make any judgmental condemnations on the people in the city, again she leaves it to her readers to interact with the feeling drawn from the situations of the people. The first half of the story revolves around reputable joy, brightness, and sweetness of life in its purest forms while, the other half contrasts the former life with evoked misery, defective and horrible isolation suffered by one minor instead of the rest. The witty presentation of these two sides of the same coin in the lives of the utopians population successfully engages the reader's fancy and provokes likely possibilities on the events vaguely presented by the writer.

In bide of building the Omelas society, Le Guin cascades the straightforwardness of the situations to show the social, economic and political representation of the people. Incidentally, the presentation of the suffering child with unknown gender represents the misery suffered by the people in healthy society within the working and lower classes who bear the burden of sustain the elite class happiness and success in life. The symbolic representation of the contrast of experience in the capitalism error saw the success of Le Guin's work in addressing the silent struggles of the poor and the extravagant luxury mandated to the wealthy who pay little attention to their contribution to the misery of others (Cadden, 2005).

The stylish presentation of the author's skills in the text does not show the reliability of her arguments as a point of reference. She makes some presumption in the narration when she says "I think there ought to be..." or "Perhaps it would be best..." making questionable doubts on the credibility or reliability of the information presented in the narration. The adoption of this technique of language use denies Le Guin the straightforwardness authorial intrusion offering her opinions and stand in the way of life of the people of Omelas. These techniques help the author to vest her powers to her readers in making judgmental positions of the happenings. The concepts adopted by the author in creating effective representation of social, political and economic conflict in the lives of the people of Omelas shows how good and evil interacts in life to make a symbolic representation of the theological perspective and nature of human beings. The people consciously subject an innocent child to suffering in favor of their success and happiness. The theological view of this incarceration shows how many evil-minded people enjoy their comfort at the expense of other people's sufferings. The few people who acknowledge the injustice done to the child defect from finding a lasting solution to the social injustice and dehumanization brought upon the innocence of the child by running away from the city. The author portrayed hypocrisy and cowardice of the righteous and the evil of the majority. From this expertise presentation of human life conflict of the spiritual and social life made considerable efforts showing the unjust of all the righteous and the evil members of the society (Bellot, 2017).


The story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" is one among the many successes of Le Guin in science fiction. She has made similar contributions when presenting her former and latter narrations in works like; "New Dimensions 3", "The Dispossessed", "The Left Hand of Darkness", "The Wind's Twelve Quarters", "The Tombs of Atuan", and "Rocannon's World" among others. She uses similar themes of scapegoatism, indirect accusations and socio-political interruptions of human life order in the capitalism error of America. Le Guin unfolds the dilemma of social class injustices and the critical oppression of the middle and lower class levels in favor of the upper-class elites. The unique writing style in most of her works, Le Guin engages the reader with the scenarios to enhance clear understanding of the indirect representation of unjust treads in her narration. The abstract representation of pain, misery, happiness, and nourishment gives her works particular attachment between her, her characters, and her readers. According to Sustana (2018, 5), the parallel manifestation of the Le Guin presents the fictive metaphor in the story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" and the literal dilemma in the narration of "The Wind's Twelve Quarters" shows her inspirations when making these real contributions through ideal formulations.

Works Cited

Bellot, Gabrielle. Ursula Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" Defies Genre Genre in the mainstream, 2017.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Views: Ursula K. Le Guin. New York: Chelsea House, 1986.

Cadden, Michael. Ursula K. Le Guin Beyond Genre: Fiction for Children and Adults. New York: Routledge, 2005.

Le Guin Ursula K. The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, Creative Education, Inc, 1963.

Sustana, Catherine. "Analysis of 'The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas' by Le Guin": Social Injustice as a Fee for Happiness, 2018.

Cite this page

Critical Essay on "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin. (2022, Apr 11). Retrieved from

Free essays can be submitted by anyone,

so we do not vouch for their quality

Want a quality guarantee?
Order from one of our vetted writers instead

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the ProEssays website, please click below to request its removal:

didn't find image

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism