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The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  11,920 ratings  ·  973 reviews

Some inhabitants of a peaceful kingdom cannot tolerate the act of cruelty that underlies its happiness.
The story "Omelas" was first published in New Dimensions 3, a hard-cover science fiction anthology edited by Robert Silverberg, in October 1973, and the following year it won Le Guin the prestigious Hugo Award for best short story.
It was subsequently printed in her short
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Hardcover, 32 pages
Published April 1997 by Creative Education, Inc. (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…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)

Community Reviews

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4.37  · 
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 ·  11,920 ratings  ·  973 reviews


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Nataliya
Jul 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Nataliya by: Traveller
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 depend
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Adina
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
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Cecily
"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
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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.

description

**Random trivia while we're waiting: Le Guin said that the name Omelas came f
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☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡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 exclusion. There is some ephemeral quality about it, leading us to ponder whether mass exultation at the pric
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Manuel Antão
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

“There's a point, around the age of twenty, when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities.”

In “The Dispossessed” by Ursula K. Le Guin.



Thank you, Ursula k. Le Guin, for encouraging me to celebrate my peculiarities. The short story about 'Omelas' is as insightful a demolition of utilitarianism I've ever read. Well, I didn't mean refutation, I meant demolish the
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mark monday
Jun 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
“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
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Manny
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
Traveller
Jun 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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Stephen
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.
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
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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
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Bionic Jean
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Bionic Jean by: Chris Naylor
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
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Ivan
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My first 5 stars of 2018. Ursula never disappoints. One of the best short stories I read in general.
Trudi

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
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Althea Ann
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
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Jude
Jul 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jude by: kimi reminded me
It's curious that so many (amazon) reviewers identify so uncritically with those who walk away. I think that is the base-note of the story - and the element that haunts those of us who often witness injustice from a heartsick and ineffectual distance: having enough wit to see wrong but not enough imagination/courage/energy to engage with it, change it.

A friend of mine teaches this story in college. There is a goose-bump moment when one student comprehends why the story is named what it is and w
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Fergus
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 phenomenon that was challenging Middle America on the streets of the ghettoes and on police lines outside of recruiting centres for the Vietnam War effort.

I’ll never forget one of these writers who called himself “the Kafka-Reading spoilsport at America’s thousa
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Phoenix2
Jun 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: classics, philosophy, allegory
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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Andreas
Apr 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
This story is no story, it has no plot, no main character. It describes in vivid descriptions a philosophical concept which is an extension of William James's essay The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life: an utopia which relies on the suffering of a single person can only be wrong. The title concentrates on the logical consequence that morale persons would take. It can be understood as an argument against utilitarianism, or a parable of first world exploitation of poorer countries: Think about ...more
Sue
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This excellent short story has become famous as one of choice and morality. What would you (or a society) accept as a trade off for a carefree life, a society without war or disharmony, where all enjoy freedom, gaiety, love, laughter, celebration, learning,....except... There is a price. And some walk away because of this price--hence the title.

The narrator's voice is well done in presenting this utopian world by describing what is absent, all of the negative elements of existence. It is somewh
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Scribble Orca
This book is an analogy for how we justify enjoying our good fortune obtained though the enforced suffering of others. Whether it is within the circle of your own family, your neighbourhood, your state or your country, there is a chain of events, circumstance, belief and acquiescence which continues to sustain an amoral inequality in our local and global societies. We wouldn't need this book or others like it if reality was different.
Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈ by: Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Thanks to Queen Tadiana whose beautiful review of this short story appeared on my feed a few months ago, I clicked on her link and read this story for myself.

This is the second work by Ursula K. Le Guin which I have read, the first being The Left Hand of Darkness that I read in a college lit class a million years ago. And that novel really really deserves a re-read since I remember nothing about it except the general premise and the fact that the author, who has won numerous awards for her achie
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Duane
Alert, this review is full of spoilers.

The city of Omelas is a place of joy and happiness, but if it doesn't suit you, change it to what makes you happy. Isn't that what we all do now with our lives, our place of joy and happiness. Le Guin even imagines "beautiful nudes that wander about, offering themselves like divine souffles to the hunger of the needy and the rapture of the flesh". And why not drugs, the ones that create "wonderful visions and excite the pleasure of sex beyond belief". I'm b
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Mangrii
Releido en audio por Noviembre Nocturno y otra vez me ha dejado pensando un buen rato. Aquí tenéis el link: https://www.ivoox.com/los-se-alejan-o...

Los que se van de Omelas (The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas) es un cuento corto y descriptivo sin trama alguna publicado en 1973 que se alzo con el premio Hugo y Locus en 1974. Ursula K. Le Guin nos transporta a la ciudad de Omelas, una especie de paraíso que parece tenerlo todo pero en la que nada es gratuito.

Plantea Le Guin con el cuento una parad
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Deepthi Shashidhar
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, stories
*Read after (-----) for second review*

This book is..... well, unique.
And this is definitely one of the BEST books I've every read. Definitely 10 stars out of 5.

Sometimes, you get the gravity of the situation only when you've seen the whole thing... not when you assume something...

This city, Omelas, had everything - the good AND the ugly... The only thing was that only the happy things of the city can be viewed; the poor child who's suffering is suffering in a dark cellar UNDER the city. When t
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Sara
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 clas
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SeanT_C2
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Those are the terms. To exchange all the goodness and grace of every life in Omelas for that single, small improvement: to throw away the happiness of thousands for the chance of happiness of one: that would be to let guilt within the walls instead." The story tells of Omelas, a utopian city with inhabitants full of joy, living a content and prosperous life. It is almost like a "city in a fairy tale" when described by the author, always full of superficial delight. But all of this prosperity an ...more
Zanna
Jun 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I wrote this last year when I read the story with a book group. It's one of the first reviews I wrote, and rather than edit it to improve, I present it here in its flawed state as an early attempt!

Le Guin signals that this is a fable or fairytale by opening with a utopian scene. She unfurls it with the flourish of a carnival, a Festival of Summer that brings out merry mothers, elders in stiff robes, and children whose high calls do no harm. There are horses, colours, ceremonial nakedness, number
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Carmine
Oct 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Nascosta l'ombra nella luce

La ricerca del bene comune e di tutto ciò che è virtuoso, molto spesso, può essere considerato come un compromesso.
Il compromesso, alle volte, coincide con la volontà di dimenticare o di non voler vedere.
Possiamo ancora parlare di bene comune, se il nostro discrimine va ad etichettare ciò è giusto, forse necessario, da ciò che è superfluo o trascurabile?
Vivere nella luce, addirittura fingere di abitarci, è tanto nobile quanto il discrimine che si attua (a livello col
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14,776 followers
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
“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.” 746 likes
“Happiness is based on a just discrimination of what is necessary, what is neither necessary nor destructive, and what is destructive” 39 likes
More quotes…