Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Omelas is a utopian city where the people lead lives that are happy, in the best sense of the word. On the day on which the narrator is focusing, the city’s people are celebrating the summer festival. The children ride willing horses in races and race about the fields in their bare feet. The day is bright and clear, music of all kinds fills the air, bells ring, and the air itself is sweet.
The narrator is conscious of the fact that the idea of happiness, and in particular the happiness of an entire city, may be a suspect concept to others. Happiness implies a kind of innocence and foolishness and lacks the complexities that are most often attributed to pain and evil impulses. However, the narrator insists that the people of Omelas lead complex lives.
The people may lack certain things that others have, but they do not feel that lack as a deprivation. These people have come to an understanding of what is necessary, what is destructive, and what is both or neither. Those things that are necessary, they have. Those luxuries that are neither necessary nor destructive, they also have. Omelas is a joyful city inhabited by mature, intelligent, passionate adults. Their lives are not wretched, nor are they puritanical.
This picture of Omelas is not the whole story. There is something that makes the city special in another way. The city has a guarantee of happiness; it has struck a bargain, although how and with whom it is not clear. The...
(The entire section is 497 words.)
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