Alisen Reed Ms. Lighthiser English- E 29 April 2013 Why the Child? In “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, symbolism is used throughout the entire story. The author, Ursula K. Le Guin, creates some complex symbols in the city of Omelas itself, the ones who walk away, the child in the basement, the child who never stops playing the flute, and the ones who stay in Omelas. By depicting a seemingly utopian society, LeGuin is commenting on the fact that no society is perfect, and in fact, someone always must suffer for the happiness of others.
The city of Omelas is the setting of the story, and has great significance to the people and ideas around it. The city itself represents how people in modern society want to live in this utopia where everyone is happy, joyous, and carefree. The people of Omelas have these qualities: “How can I tell you about the people of Omelas? They were not naive and happy children- though their children were happy. They were mature, intelligent, passionate adults whose lives were not wretched. O miracle! but I wish I could describe it better” (209). The people that live in Omelas felt that it was good to be happy in a city where anything is possible.
The point of a utopia is that everyone that lives in it has a perfect life and is capable to fulfill it. Even though it is a utopian society there will always be one person who is not as happy as everyone else there. The child in the basement is this person. In Omelas, they sacrifice the happiness of one child to suffering so that the rest of the city can obtain happiness. The child is a representation of being poor and shows misery. The people of Omelas lock the child in a basement, representing a prison for the child and the idea of him being homeless with no one to turn to.
The happiness of the city depends on the child’s grief: “Some of them understand why, and some don’t, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery” (211). Le Guin is trying to say that in society today not everyone can be happy and live a wonderful life. People all around the world are in misery and neglect, but cannot always be saved from what is happening to them.
She wants the reader to realize that things happen for a reason and it was the best thing to do for the citizens and the city to imprison the child. The reactions of the people to learning of the child is also a very important symbol. The ones who walked away from Omelas represent morality in the story. By choosing to leave the city, they are making a statement that no one person should suffer for the good of the people: “They go on. They leave Omelas, they walk ahead into the darkness, and they do not come back. The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness.
I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas” (212). It seems like Le Guin wants the reader to understand that there is no such thing as a “perfect society”. When the ones who walk away from Omelas leave, it is as if they are going to a more down to society where everything is not as perfect or full of bliss. It may not be a utopia, but it is a place that is more realistic to live in. On the other hand, there are also the ones who stay. They symbolize selfishness.
They do not seem to really care about the one person who is suffering so that they can all be happy. They should want everyone to be living a happy life in the utopia they live in. The freedom of the child is important to the people, but if he is freed then the utopia would be gone. “They would like to do something for the child. But there is nothing they can do. If the child were brought up into the sunlight out of that vile place, if it were cleaned and fed and comforted, that would be a good thing indeed; but if it were done, in that day and hour all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and be destroyed (211). This is significant because in realism perspective, there is going be someone who is selfish, yet has a little sympathy for someone who has been treated with disrespect. Le Guin is trying to get the reader to understand that all people are different and have certain ways of how they treat other people. The symbolism throughout this story has a strong view of the society we live in today. Not every society is said to be a utopia, there will always be a downfall with how things work between the citizens and how they think the society should be.