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What is the origin of the term "scapegoat" ?"The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by...

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coldia | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 23, 2009 at 10:52 AM via web

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What is the origin of the term "scapegoat" ?

"The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula McGuin

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 23, 2009 at 11:01 AM (Answer #1)

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A "scapegoat" was originally a goat driven off into the wilderness as part of the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement in Judaism.  The idea was that the goat, having the sins of the people placed upon its back, would be sent out to perish, thus saving the people by its death.  In Leviticus 16:6 the goat is described:

And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house.

In her short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," Ursula LeGuin takes this ancient rite and uses it to counter the pragmatism of Henry James that was popular at the time of her publishing the story. The miserable child is heaped with all the evil of the community and becomes the "scapegoat."  And, while many members of the community accept this evil as necessary for the good of all the others, some choose to walk away from this community.  Still, their walking away from Omelas is morally ambiguous as the child yet remains.

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kc4u | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted September 23, 2009 at 11:13 PM (Answer #2)

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The word '(e)scapegoat' is due to the mistranslation of the Hebrew 'Azazel' by William Tyndale in his Bible in 1530. Tyndale interpreted 'Azazel' as ' ez ozel ' meaning 'the goat that departs', hence the 'escapegoat'. 'Azazel' was a contraction 'az' [harsh] and 'eil' [strong], refering to the most rugged of mountains. The word 'scapegoat' is a curious example of the influence of the Bible and Bible translations on the English language. The word refers to one who is compelled to bear the burden of someone else's guilt just as the goat used to be driven away into the wilderness to perish in the ceremonies on the Day of Atonement in Judaism, as if symbolically bearing the burden of human sin/guilt.

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onlytoofar | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 26, 2009 at 11:18 AM (Answer #3)

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Wow ...JACKPOT QUESTION!!!!!! I was given a final exam at fordhan which required that we compare the short work by Ms Mcguin with a bevy of modern books regarding political terrorism.The Family Arsenal by mr thorax(just joking),Coetzee's waiting for the barbarians,margret atwood and breyden breightenbach to name a few.Imagine this! we also had to include our thoughts on web dubois' Jacob and Esseau!!!.That was in 1984 and Those who left Omelas" has turned out being a Taoist primer in acknowledging our natural morality and acting on it, regardless of others.Furthermore it is my experience that the symbolic child being beaten is far mor epidemic in all and everything we do as Americans.This story demands maturing the intellects co play with our emotions and passions.I have been to communities where this dysfunctional aspect of the human family was blatant.My great dream as far as fulfilling a burning curiosity:If an author writes perhaps one of the finnest peices utilizing  alegorical and anologic thinking as a sine' quo non,then writes another which wins large aclaim(The lathe of heaven),ought it be important to recall how much the psychiatrist in The Lathe of Heaven is a control freak?If we use our senses we know that government and society depends on control freaking at the worst of times(in Toaism this is so).Many people like myself have autistic disorder which has some connection to the mercury forced in to everyone after the war and some claim this was a deliberate necessity to make the dictator political geniuses have a little more mental illness than they can hide.I am not supporting this,but one wonders as Ms Mcguin has always been open about her vocation in a previous life before writing more.I beleive that the lathe of heaven is intricate and complicated blending of a billion strands where as in Those who left Omelas deal with a smaller packet of thoughtful goodies,Both are equally important to me.I can not say enough about how fine a thinker and writer ms Mcguinn is.My life has been vastly different as a result of portions of her books I have memorized by accident.How Ms Mcguinn and Mr P Dick are relegated to the supposedly less critical science fiction is odd.These two authors are perhaps much more important than Fitzgerald or Hemingway.These Ideas came at a good time for society as both authors persuaded us to go through with the syllabus of life.The question posed in the short work is the type of practical philosophe that enriches our lives by showing us to "KNOW THYSELF"!!!!!

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