I Read Therefore I Am discussion

Short Stories > 8. The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas- Ursula le Guin

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Lee (new)

Lee http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/dun...

This amazing story was suggested by Laurel - It 's going to linger in my mind for a long time.

message 2: by Hilary (new)

Hilary | 2082 comments That's quite something! I'm rather lost for words and quite disturbed by it. I've read quite a few of her novels, in fact the series Clan of the Cave Bear I re-read very few years but this is very different from anything else of hers that I've read.

@Laurel here did you come across this? Has she written other short stories?

message 3: by Laurel (new)

Laurel | 1486 comments Mod
I have it in an anthology of short stories - it just really stuck with me. I've never read anything else by her although I have got the Earthsea books somewhere waiting to be read.
It definitely makes you think doesn't it? Very powerful and ambiguous - are the ones who walk away from Omelas brave or cowardly? Are those who stay condoning the horrific treatment of this child or do they feel bad but put the good of their society as whole before an individual's needs? When I first read this I thought that no amount of happiness for everyone else could justify the way that 1 individual is treated but the more I think about it, in real life many people suffer horribly and nothing is gained by it so if you could have a perfect society where only one person suffers is that better? I don't know, there isn't an easy answer which is why this is such an effective piece of writing.

message 4: by Lee (new)

Lee I love the way the atmosphere switches so suddenly from the charm and humour of the 1st half (I love the beautiful nudes offering themselves like divine souffles) to the very dark, serious tone of the 2nd.

I think that in our world, perhaps, the ones who walk from omelas are the aid workers, doctors etc, who work in the most dangerous, unpleasant and miserable places helping desperate people.

message 5: by Laurel (new)

Laurel | 1486 comments Mod
I thought they were right to walk away but when I read it the second time what really struck me was - they walk away but do NOTHING to help the child. It's situation is the same whether they are there or not so are they cowards to take the easy way out or are they brave to walk away from happiness and comfort and take their chance in the outside world where they might have to suffer? A bit of both I think, it really gall's me that no-one helps the child but at the same time then the whole society would change and maybe the one's who walk away don't feel they can make that decision for everyone else?

message 6: by Hilary (new)

Hilary | 2082 comments It's a really complex idea isn't it. It always feels as though the good of all should outweigh the harm of one, after all its why heroic people put themselves in danger to save others but its always to me, the top of a very slippery slope. After all who decides what is good? And how much harm will be tolerated? I think the story works so well because she describes two extremes - perfection compared with such neglect and cruelty to a child (would it arouse the same emotion if it were an adult, and what if that adult had chosen to suffer for the good of all?). In real life the choices are not so extreme but the choice is still there and actually pervades our society. Eugenics, where money is spent in the NHS, charity giving and foreign aid all depend on the same principle - depriving the few, in some way, for the betterment of the many. Difficult choices!!

As far as the people who walk away from Omelas are concerned I wouldn't expect them to help the child, for all the reasons you give Laurel, I think they simply can't live with themselves, benefiting from the suffering of another. Brave certainly but also pointless as their leaving changes nothing.

A brilliant piece of writing which will certainly stay with me. Thanks Laurel and Lee for the opportunity to read it.

message 7: by Lee (new)

Lee I do think that those who walk away are admirable - but you're right - they do nothing to help -except perhaps in the negative sense that they're doing nothing to perpetuate the situation ( ie not having offspring or contributing to society)

I believe in the principal that the end never justifies the means - but principals are very difficult to apply in the real world.

message 8: by Laurel (new)

Laurel | 1486 comments Mod
That's why I liked this - there's no easy answer or happy ending and it is so ambiguous - just like real life!

back to top