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Omelas: A Dystopia You Do Not Want To Live

It may give you eternal happiness, but what if one has to suffer alone in your stead?

Have you ever wondered, the strangest yet cruel occurrences of the world, can happen without us knowing. Although you can access anything with your Windows VPS Hosting for easier obtainability with a wide array of servers, you may be left out with one or two. 

It is just such a city – Omelas – described by Ursula K. Le Guin as “a city in a fairy tale” which is illustrated as a utopia, an isolated land that strives for perfection where having flaw is not a trait for a well-developed society. Everything in Omelas is perfect, from laws to politics and social to morals, or so the story goes. Ursula K. Le Guin’s short story The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas presents the people of Omelas facing moral conflicts as they witnessed the unfortunate child being dehumanized – yet none dare to make an approach to stop its agony. 

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The society is aware of the child’s existence but it is for the best to act like bystanders so that their happiness is not jeopardized. The people have their long-lasting grandeur life as long as they abuse the child or abandon it to its own despair. When the society of Omelas comply with the condition, they gain the satisfaction and bliss in living but lose their sense of humanity. In other words, the price paid for using the unfortunate for personal gain is a permanent sense of happiness, unless the evil deed is stopped.

Le Guin’s description of Omelas presents a setting that is paradisiacal which displays festiveness, of brilliance in its people’s lifestyle and a joyous city. Omelas is known as a utopian city with supposedly no flaws, controlled by little to no rules and inhabited by a society “whose lives were not wretched”. The city persists its status as happy and joyous in any way and pessimism is widely rejected. Had the people in Omelas felt dissatisfaction, saddened or any emotion or thoughts that are the contrast of ‘joy’, they will be considered ungrateful for all the comfort and privileges given to them. However, Le Guin surprised the readers by unveiling the hypocrisy and reveal the true face of Omelas; an inhumane exploitation where happiness, wealth and luxury the whole society has savored is more valuable than the suffering of the child locked under the city. Under the joy of the marvelous city lies a tragic place that held a secret which the society’s happiness heavily depends on it.

Built under the beautiful buildings is a windowless, dimly lit space where the size of the room is as small as a broom closet – occupied by a malnourished child, defective from excessive fear and neglect. The only purpose of the child for the benefits of society is to simply live, as long as its lifestyle is direful for its pure mind to bear. The dark depressing mood of the basement is a complete contrast to the colorful Omelas, thus the acclaimed refusal to acknowledge apathy among the people is but a deception. The child was used as a scapegoat to make the utopia possible, suggesting that happiness would be possible to exist without agony. Not only do they hurt the child physically as a way to make it feel another kind of despair, they also affect its state of mind by mentally torturing it with injustice. 

The setting in the story is crucial to the reader’s understanding of the minority’s decision to leave Omelas. Even though they know that their departure from the city will take away their privileges, they instinctively insist upon rejecting what the utopian city represents in the story. When they walk ahead into “a place even less imaginable to most of them than the city of happiness”, they leave behind not only their prosperous lives but the inhumane exploitations on a child. It may be a utopia for the people of Omelas, but it is in fact, a dystopia for the unfortunate child locked in the basement under the lively city. 

Those who left are no longer involved with the cold-blooded act anymore and are able to leave with no regrets, whereas those who stay have no conscience for the wrongs they do and let ignorance control their affluent lives. Le Guin’s emphasis on the people of Omelas’s traits of selfishness, neglect and materialism make it apparent that they brought upon themselves the moral dilemma they so wanted to feign ignorance of. To sum up everything that has been stated, the short story sides with the ones who left behind a home they once called heaven hiding the evil within. It is their sense of humanity and morality that made it possible for them to turn into the human being that they need to be. Their righteousness guides their decision to turn their back on the dystopian city and never return, “but they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas”.