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The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  31,391 ratings  ·  3,171 reviews
The recipient of numerous literary prizes, including the National Book Award, the Kafka Award, and the Pushcart Prize, Ursula K. Le Guin is renowned for her spare, elegant prose, rich characterization, and diverse worlds. "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" is a short story originally published in the collection The Wind's Twelve Quarters. ...more
Kindle Edition, 32 pages
Published February 14th 2017 by Harper Perennial (first published October 1973)
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Rachel What I love about BTS's MVs is that they're up for interpretation. The songs and the music videos that go with them can mean different things to diffe…moreWhat I love about BTS's MVs is that they're up for interpretation. The songs and the music videos that go with them can mean different things to different people. Trying to uncover a definitive and objective meaning is beside the point of art. We're supposed to interpret it. Le Guin said in the Afterword of this story that, "[i]n talking about the "meaning" of a story, we need to be careful not to diminish it, impoverish it. A story can say different things to different people. It may have no definitive reading." One might even interpret it differently than they meant it, but that makes their interpretation no less true than anyone else's. I take this to heart with BTS's music videos.
I think "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" asks if we can accept suffering as the price of our happiness, but more essentially, I think it asks if happiness can even exist without suffering. For me, what BTS is saying is that suffering and happiness exist side by side in life, which I agree with. It's possible to be happy and sad at the same time, and this happens to be exactly how Spring Day makes me feel. What the MV says to me is simply that suffering does not last forever, it has an end. Pretty much what they say in the song.
"The morning will come again
Because no darkness,
No season
Can last forever"
I don't know that their MV is directly based off of this short story. I think that it is loosely inspired and that they referenced it for this reason. And even though I read this because of BTS, I was genuinely intrigued with the story once I learned what it was about and greatly enjoyed it. Thank you, BTS, for excellent music and for making me add yet more books to my already ridiculously long TBR, lol. :p <3 <3 <3(less)
Nemo This is a question of humanity and morality. It is to throw away the privilege you have because you know there's someone who suffers. And to have the …moreThis is a question of humanity and morality. It is to throw away the privilege you have because you know there's someone who suffers. And to have the courage to sacrifice the bliss for others simply because you feel the happiness is false if it only exists when someone bears the sadness.(less)

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Is the happiness of thousands worth the suffering of a single innocent person? Of one innocent child? Think about that. And hold your loud and resounding and outraged NO! for a minute.

A background - this is what the brilliant Ursula K. Le Guin brings up in her very short 1973 story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. It just a few pages she asks us to conceive of a utopia, a place where everyone enjoys happiness, the lovely place. But for reasons unspecified, the happiness of all others depe
The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin

Hugo Award-winning this short story gave interesting insights about life. In this story, the question for the reader author established is would you live in a place where happiness depends on the suffering of another one and obey the rules, or would you be unable to accept the rules. The writing style is interesting. A great short story for everyone to read and I'm certain that this short-story can compel anyone to think about the truth of t
"we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist"

I read these half-dozen pages a couple of days ago, and it haunts me still.

A strange, disturbing and very thought-provoking short story.

There's something indefinably odd and slightly, chillingly, distant about the language from the start. That creates a suitably disconcerting contrast with the hap
ursula doing more in 30 pages than some are doing in 336
Nov 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: society, sci-fi
Happiness is based on a just discrimination of what is necessary, what is neither necessary nor destructive, and what is destructive

Would you accept happiness knowing fully well that it came at the cost of extreme suffering of another? What about 10 people being happy at the suffering of one other? How about an entire town? The late, great-to-which-nobody-else-can-equate Ursula K. Le Guin poses this question in her classic short story The One’s Who Walk Away from Omelas which follows an overvi
I wanted to read this short story in memory of the author who died last week. I did not enjoy The Left Hand of Darkness as much as I wanted so I decided to try one of her most famous stories instead. It managed to reach me better than her larger prose.

I do not want to say anything about the story, it is so short that you should ready it yourself. it raises some interesting questions. What would you allow to be sacrifice for you happiness. Is greater good more important than the life of an indiv
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It takes nerves of steel to walk away from Omelas. Not only that, but the Armies of Darkness will pursue you bitterly to the end. But once you finally cross over that border to safety, you’ll find a Peace that Passes All Understanding. You’ll be home...

When I was growing up in the Sixties, my grandmother bought a weighty George Brazillier book (remember them?) entitled Alienation.

It was a compilation of excerpts from books which exhibited the full-blown characteristics of that ghastly phenomeno
Jim Fonseca
The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin and The Ones Who Stay and Fight by N. K. Jemisin

I don’t usually read science fiction but I read two related short stories for a Zoom book club. Both stories are available on-line. (Links below). They are shorts so I’ll be careful not to give away too much plot.


The story by Le Guin is set in an almost-utopian village. It essentially asks the question “If we want the greatest good for the greatest number of people, what are you willing to put
Sean Barrs
Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
As ever, in strikingly basic prose, Ursula K. Le Guin profoundly questions the meaning of human existence and the costs that come with it.

At its core, this short story is a powerful moral allegory about modern life and the foundations from which it has been built. It is a story that extends drastically beyond the limitations of it’s basic setting to create an image that is potent and haunting. And all the way through the narrator is entirely aware of the restrictions of writing, but that does n
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have come to see it, others are content merely to know it is there. They all know that it has to be there.

This 1973 Hugo Award-winning fantasy short story is extremely short, and online, and this review will contain some spoilers, so if you haven't read this already, I strongly recommend that you take 5 or 10 minutes right now and do so here. I will wait.


**Random trivia while we're waiting: Le Guin said that the name Omelas came
In this timeless moral fable, Ursula Le Guin tells the story of OMELAS ("Oh My Electronic Liberal Association of Socialists"), a group of internet activists who consider themselves the conscience of the United States. Posing as "the Resistance", they fight for apparently worthy causes like stopping refugee babies from being taken from their mothers, combating gun violence in schools, defending the Earth's fragile ecosystem from heartless multinationals, and preventing the US from becoming a Russ ...more
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
At different times in our lives, we are met with choices, important ones. Some idealistic or moralistic, others of practical nature. Still, the question du jour is: Will you walk away from Omelas when it's time to make that decision? Or are you going to have your orgies while the world goes to hell in a handbasket?
Generally, I am not a fan of Ursula Le Guin but for this story I make an exception. There is some ephemeral quality about it, leading us to ponder whether mass exultation at the pr
mark monday
Jun 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pendants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.”

In case you need reminding that Le Guin is one of the very best of writers, a person of compassion and anger and intellectual rigor and elegant grace, a person of vision... read this story. It is barely 8
Bionic Jean
The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is an unforgettable short story.

This does not necessarily mean it is enjoyable, or even good, (although it is!) In this case it is a story which stays with the reader because it poses an ethical quandary - even a conundrum. It is the sort of moral problem to which you have a gut feeling, “Of course this is wrong; it is totally unacceptable in any civilised culture”. And then the doubts creep in. The Utilitarian doubts, where we consider our aim should be the gr
Richard Derus
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Re-reading this story for, good goddesses I don't even know how many times it's been, as a *cough*ty-year-old about to add a "1" onto my new decade is a revelation. The "terrible boredom of pain" line leapt out at me this reading. It certainly would given my circumstances. Pain steals so much from us...happiness, pleasure, relationships unformed or misshapen...and gives fuck-all in return. Thank you, UKL, for leaving that gem for me, among the many others in the read.

I know I once focused on the
Ruby Granger
A wonderful but terrifying exploration of uptopia. A friend (Jade!) told me about this short story and, upon hearing the premise, I decided to read it myself.

Omelas is a beautiful city where everyone is happy and everything is perfect. The narrator takes care to remind us that this is a modern city, not Arcadian: the point is not how they are happy, and thus how we can be happy like the people of Omelas, but rather that they are happy despite living in a city which is remarkably like ours. The
6.0 stars. On my list of "All Time Favorite" short stories and is in the running to be number one. Not so much a story as a narrative description of a fictional town in which everyone lives in complete and total happiness at the expense of one child's abject misery and suffering. As powerful and as emotional a piece of writing as I have ever read in any genre. Find it and read it and I am sure you will agree. This one is amazing. Highest Possible Recommendation. ...more
To me, this short story offers one of those "open question" scenarios. Apparently it was written in response to Le Guin's reading of the following passage from The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life by William James:

Or if the hypothesis were offered us of a world in which Messrs. Fourier's and Bellamy's and Morris's utopias should all be outdone, and millions kept permanently happy on the one simple condition that a certain lost soul on the far-off edge of things should lead a life of lonely t
Jonathan O'Neill
Feb 06, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, favorites
5 ⭐

How can such a short piece have so much to say?! I listened to this half a dozen times and then read it before even considering trying to write a review. It has the eerie quality of staying with you long after you’ve closed the final page, of which there are only several. What I mean is that when you think you’re done with it, you’re not. Its piercing questions and moral implications reverberate through your unconscious mind, waiting for a quiet moment to slip into your consciousness and beck
Elle (ellexamines)
Nov 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I stand by my opinion that this is the most brilliant short story ever written. This is a powerful story of doing what's right, even for one person. Of the human need for better. Of the human need to BE better.

I know everyone's obsessing over The Egg right now, but this short story is the same length (four pages) and deserves some love as well. Go read it here.
Jun 17, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even if we cannot physically walk away from injustice and exploitation – now that we have all seen that it exists –, we at least have to turn away from it ideologically; no longer accepting that it's "necessary" to keep things running comfortably (for us) as they are. Our ideology of our current way of life has to change. And it has to start with us.

"The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" is one of the most thought-provoking short stories I've ever read. (Recommended to me on YouTube after I'd exp
Apr 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
/Updated and extended after reread in 2020

Synopsis: The seaside city Omelas is a blissful and heavenly utopia: people are happy, there is no violence, or terror, things are good, The Festival of Summer is running. But the easy living comes with a price: one single child is put away in a cellar, getting no attention at all, and lives a miserable life. Everyone in Omelas knows about this sacrifice, but if anybody would care for the child, the utopia would be destroyed by some unknown force. Most p
Alex ☣ Deranged KittyCat ☣
You can read this short story here or listen to it on YouTube.

I want to believe I would walk away from Omelas. And you know what? I'm a hypocrite. I would not feel so outraged should it all happen to an adult. But to a child? "I will be good," it says. "Please let me out. I will be good!" Why a child? Child abuse always gets to me.

And why this sacrifice? Who made this rule? Symbolism be damned, I want this child freed because i know about him/her. I despise the people of Omelas for accepting wha
Sidharth Vardhan
"We may be the playthings of Fate. We cannot breathe without taking life. As we talk here, we are ourselves the cause of the deaths of countless little lives."
- Ramayana (Wiliam Buck rendering)

After building a utopia like place in some detail, narrator suddenly turns it into a morality problem, by bringing in a single suffering child. In real world the luxury of a few has always come at price of suffering of others (humans as well as animals). My last read happened to be 'A Modest Proposal' by
My first 5 stars of 2018. Ursula never disappoints. One of the best short stories I read in general.

This classic short story popped up in my feed this evening, and I decided to hunt it down and read it for myself. Gorgeous gut puncher is all I can say. I love a story that can sneak up on you like that and demand from you everything in you to give. It's one of those stories that insinuates itself into your soul, that lingers in the mind.

LeGuin poses the age-old question, does the end ever justify the means? Is the sacrifice of one or few ever worth it if it means protection of the many? Humans
Imme van Gorp
|| 4.5 stars ||

I am having some difficulties finding the right words to express my exact feelings towards this story. It is truly a fascinating story with a though-provoking concept, especially on modern society and certain values we have. It fascinates me and I will no doubt be thinking about this story more often than just today.

I will also continue to question myself on "what would I do?" until I have my answer.
One thing is quite clear when it comes to my answer, which is that releasing the
Whether you think I'm reading this just in time for the holidays or because you might think that this story might be one custom-designed for our modern world, I'll leave it up to you.

Let us just say that this is the ultimate test of our ethics, distilled down to the bare necessities and presented in such a way that there is no value judgment.

If you could have a near-perfect society where everyone is cared for and is happy, for the cost of the abuse of one child, would you maintain it or walk a
Althea Ann
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A re-read. This is a powerful and thoughtful story; one that should be read by every student of ethics.

LeGuin asks the question: does the good of the many REALLY outweigh the good of the few... or the one? Even if you believe you have answered that question for yourself, to your moral satisfaction, this piece will cause you to question your convictions.

The city of Omelas is a utopia - but it also contains a small, but awful, misery. Is it acceptable? Justified? Opinions will differ.

Every time
Jun 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics

Omelas is a place where everyone is happy because they have accepted their happiness. But that happened only because they realized that that happiness is not given. It is in contrast with what real misery is, what real cruelty is. The story is very thought provocative, short and easy to read. The writer is like she's talking to her audiance, being one of them and not one of the Omelas people. She understand the doubts of her audiance and she talks like one of them, an outsider trying to understa
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Ursula K. Le Guin published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. She lived in Portland, Orego ...more

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“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist; a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.” 1197 likes
“Happiness is based on a just discrimination of what is necessary, what is neither necessary nor destructive, and what is destructive” 77 likes
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