The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
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The reader cannot doubt that the author of The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelashas employed symbolism in her work in a very impressive manner. Ursula K. Le Guin clearly uses symbols in her short story to express her ideas and convey her message. The use of symbols here has played a major role in the crafting of the text. Her story is very captivating and in the same regard very unique. Her story attracts the reader to very rare situation in society but at the same time, the scenario can be practical.
The story starts of at a preparation of a summer festival in the city of Omelas. The city has a joyous mood since every person has joyous mood. The story is set in a utopian city of delight. Every person is happy with everything a part from secrete of the city. The cities prosperity and happiness depend on locking an unfortunate child in filth, misery and darkness. This condition must be told to every one inn the city that comes of age.
These fact shocks most of the people of the city when they hear of them for the first time. They feel disgusted and find it hard to come to terms with the reality. The resolve to live in a manner that makes the suffering of the child worth it, while other walk away silently since they can not withstand it. No one knows where those walking away are going. However, as the story comes to a closure, it presents that reality that the place they are going to is unimaginable to the readers. Despite being indescribable the place does exist and those who walk away from Omelas seem to know where they are going.
There are numerous symbols in this book. No reader can deny that the author has run short in the use of this literary style. She uses symbols such as the society, the child as well as the walking away. The readers must decode and then interpret them in order to get the meaning of the text (Evans). In this regard, Ursula K. Le Guin shows her prowess and her maturity in the use of symbols as they play a vital part in writing and conveying of the message in her short story. The way she describes events using these symbols in a systematic and comprehensible way makes the story alive and gives it an aspect of congruity (Thripp).
The symbols will be discussed herewith to deeply engage the readers into understanding her message and get to learn the proper way of using symbols to transmit coded information. The first symbol Ursula K. Le Guin has endeavored to use is the mention of the King. The Omelas society has no king who is a symbol of authority. Furthermore, the community does not have noble knights. This means that the society doesn’t engage in criminal activities and people observe all the regulations. It does not have a reason to have security or even soldiers. The community consists of people of good behavior and does nothing that would warrant the presence of the police or even the military (Flanders).
The absence of the King can also mean that the people of the Omelas society are equal (Le Guin, 1508). The society lucks stratification and social classes due to equality that exists in it. All the people live together with no hierarchy to follow (Flanders). They are modest people who are very happy with the status quo and do not wish for anything more than their peace.
Another symbol Le Guin employs in her story is the word ‘stock exchange’. The people encounter the word while trading at the stock market. As a result the people of Omelas do not trade in the stock market. They never do business (Thripp). It seems to me that the people in this society have no use for money. Perhaps they have it in plenty such that they do not need to increase it. Or better still, they do not have monetary system in their society.
One of the major symbols the author has used in her play is portrayal of the child. A child brings out life , health, joy, innocence and all those good feelings and emotions but this is not the case with the picture of the child who is locked up in the basement of one of the public buildings in Omelas (Le Guin, 1508). According to Thripp the picture of the child who is held captive goes against all the societal norms and beliefs. This act is not in conformity of what humanity stand for. The reader will find the way the people of Omelas are able to live ‘happily’ with this kind of situation amazing. The deprivation of a child of its freedoms and rights makes the reader wonder how these people can live with themselves as if nothing in the society is amiss. The enslavement of the child signifies the extent a society can go in order to achieve happiness. The child who is bound is a symbol of the ‘sacrifice’ a people can do in order to achieve happiness.
The reader can see that the values of these people are misplaced. They consider happiness as “a just discrimination of what is necessary”. This indicated that what they regard necessary can be a human being. They discriminate the child ‘necessarily’ so as to realize their happiness. This is the furthest evil doing the human beings can go to get happiness.
According Evans the same symbolism can be applied to a situation where people rejoice when a certain people undergo pain and suffering. A practical example is when there is war in a country and then another country rejoices in the problems of this warring country. Such happiness derived from the sufferings of other people should be condemned and the countries who rejoice in the tribulations of others should be held in contempt (Le Guin, 1509).
Symbolism in this story continues when the author describes the children who come to look at its counterpart held in captive. These are two types of these children. The first child belongs to the group those who get angry and feel disgust on seeing the captive child. They go home in tears and wish that they could to do something for the child. Their hearts are touched and they wish they could save it. This symbolizes the group of people in a society that have humane feelings towards each other and never wish anything bad to happen to others. They are concerned about the welfare of others especially the less fortunate in the society. They can do anything within their powers to make things right. Even in Omelas where everything seems fine, there are those who are in favor of what the society has done to this child (Thripp).
The other group of children consists of children that which understand why the child should be there. This group symbolizes the passive people in the society who do not want to take part in the affairs of the society and would best be left alone in their contentment. The reade can clearly see that this group of people is selfish. As long as their happiness is not infringed, they have no business poking their nose in matters that do not concern them. This group usually is contented with the knowledge that the child is there (Evans). Certainly, some of them do not wish to see the child and those that do go to see the child only want to confirm that it is there.
The room in which the child is locked is also symbolic. The child is held in a room in a cellar of one of its spacious private homes. The smallness of this room symbolizes the meanness of the people of Omelas. They enjoy a lot of prosperity and happiness courtesy of this locked-up-child and yet they keep it in the smallest room they can find. This enclosure symbolizes how they minds of the Omelas people are blocked (Evans). They cannot see how rotten their society is on pegging their happiness on the suffering of the child. They cannot see a way out of this situation and hence try to rationalize it saying that the child cannot be human again.
Symbolism is overwhelmingly employed in this literary work and this style it gives the story its aesthetic value. The ones who walk away from Omelas are also symbolic to the fact that they cannot take it anymore. They cannot accept the situation and continue enjoying happiness while the child is suffering and so they walk away in search of true and genuine happiness.
- Blazing Saddles
- Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars
- The Cask of Amontillado
- Critique of Alien Relative by Amy Tan