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The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas (1973)

av Ursula K. Le Guin

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6823034,476 (4.32)40
'The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas' is a short story originally published in the collection The Wind's Twelve Quarters.
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'The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas' is a famous short story from 1973 by Ursula LeGuin. It is, apparently, a fable often used in schools 'to upset students'. So say the panel who discussed it in a recent episode of Free Thinking at the BBC...

The panel, chaired by Matthew Sweet, included authors Una McCormack, Naomi Alderman, Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson and Kevan Manwaring, and political philosopher Sophie Scott-Brown.

I discovered LeGuin's brilliant Earthsea series at Teachers College when we did Children's Literature, and I subsequently read a collection of short stories called Searoad (1991) but I'd never come across this story, and I was fascinated by the panel's discussion about its philosophical and political underpinnings.

It was easy to find a copy to read online here.

The fable asks the question, can there be a Utopia without somebody suffering? The story is framed to lure the reader into an melodramatic sunlit setting where everyone enjoys a good life. There is anticipation about the Festival of Summer and the joy that pervades this society, which could be anywhere, probably on earth — but maybe not. The place is not a sterile monoculture like the planet Camazotz in Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time (1962) where people act like robots because they are denied all choice by a despot. On Omelas, people have choice and agency.

And yet there is a sense of unease because the narrator's tone suggests it.
They were not simple folk, you see, though they were happy. But we do not say the words of cheer much any more. All smiles have become archaic. Given a description such as this one tends to make certain assumptions. Given a description such as this one tends to look next for the King, mounted on a splendid stallion and surrounded by his noble knights, or perhaps in a golden litter borne by great-muscled slaves. But there was no king. They did not use swords, or keep slaves. They were not barbarians, I do not know the rules and laws of their society, but I suspect that they were singularly few. As they did without monarchy and slavery, so they also got on without the stock exchange, the advertisement, the secret police, and the bomb. Yet I repeat that these were not simple folk, not dulcet shepherds, noble savages, bland utopians. There were not less complex than us.

Having subtly created suspicion, the narrator then asks
Do you believe? Do you accept the festival, the city, the joy? No? Then let me describe one more thing.


To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2023/11/30/the-ones-who-walk-away-from-omelas-1973-in-t... ( )
  anzlitlovers | Nov 29, 2023 |
I first read this short story years ago and have re-read it a couple of times since. The re-reads don't carry the same impact of the revelation of what lies behind the perfect happiness of the citizens of Omelas and their ideal existence, but it still remains a haunting tale nonetheless. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
This is one of the stories given us to read in Goodreads’ Short Story Club. Several of these stories are horrific and this is one of those stories.

Omelas is a city containing happy people. “They were not barbarians.”

It is the Festival of Summer.

In the basement of one of the beautiful public buildings of Omelas or one of its private homes there is a room with one locked door and no window.

In the room a feeble-minded child is sitting. It may have been born defective or has become so through fear, malnutrition and neglect. It looks about six but is in fact nearly ten.

The door is locked and nobody will come. But sometimes the door opens, someone comes in and kicks the child, and the food bowl and the water jug are hastily filled.

The people never say anything but the child sometimes says “Please let me out. I will be good.” They never answer.

The child is naked. Its buttocks and thighs are a mess of festered sores as it sits in its own excrement continually.”

The people of Omelas all know it is there. They all know that it has to be there. They all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the health of their children, everything good about their city “depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery.”

They all believe that if the child were taken into the sunlight, if it were cleaned and fed and comforted, then ”all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and be destroyed”.

No kind word could ever be spoken to the child.

The reason for the necessity of the child being kept in misery and suffering is not explained.

It seems to be a fact of life. It’s just the way it is. The child has to suffer for all the others to be happy.

We’re told that some of the adolescent girls and boys who go to see the child leave home. Sometimes it is older men or women who leave. They walk out of the city of Omelas. They go alone. They do not come back,

Again no explanation is given for where those people are going, or why. It is up to the reader to understand. Perhaps they just can’t bear to live in a city like this where everyone’s well-being depends on the abject suffering of a pitiful child.

Instead of perhaps discussing with each other and with the authorities whether the child’s suffering is really necessary and whether it should not be rescued, these people choose just to leave.

Perhaps the meaning of the story relates to how we humans tackle other such wrongdoings; instead of trying to do something about those things, we shut our eyes to them by departing from the situations in question.

We feel we cannot do anything and ignore these evil things. ( )
  IonaS | Apr 27, 2023 |
Quienes se marchan de Omelas es uno de los mejores textos de ciencia ficción de todos los tiempos, un relato de gran impacto literario y moral.
Con descripciones deliberadamente vagas y vívidas, el narrador describe un festival de mediados de verano en la ciudad utópica de Omelas, cuya prosperidad depende de la miseria perpetua de un chico. Quienes se marchan de Omelas fue nominado al Premio Locus al mejor relato corto en 1974 y ganó el Premio Hugo al mejor relato corto en el mismo año. Esta pequeña obra maestra ha sido ilustrada por Eva Vázquez, y, como veréis, el resultado es grandioso.
  bibliotecayamaguchi | Oct 20, 2022 |
What starts out to be a description of a Utopian society morphs into a question on morality and the appropriateness of the suffering of one to insure the pleasure of the many. What a complicated story this turns out to be! I could not help thinking of, and comparing, this tale to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.

Does every society need a scapegoat? Can we know pleasure without experiencing pain, satiety without hunger, happiness without sorrow? Why do we select from amongst us martyrs or even classes of people to carry the burden of our guilt? And, who are the people who walk away? The ones who cannot enjoy their good fortune at the expense of even one suffering soul? And why are there so few of them, and their convictions so puzzling to the masses?

This short story will require very little of your time to read, but it might occupy your thoughts for quite a while after you have finished.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
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Ursula K. Le Guinprimär författarealla utgåvorberäknat
Klett, ElizabethBerättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat

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With a clamor of bells that set the swallows soaring, the Festival of Summer came to the city
Omelas, bright-towered by the sea.
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Short story first published in 1973 in:

New Dimensions, volume 3.

In 1993 it was published as a 31-page hardcover book for young adults.
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'The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas' is a short story originally published in the collection The Wind's Twelve Quarters.

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