Style and Technique (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” won the Hugo Award for best short story in 1974. Although the Hugo is an award for science fiction, this story may more accurately be called a fantasy: Science fiction discusses the improbable; fantasy examines the impossible. First published in New Dimensions 3, the story has been widely anthologized since then, notably in Le Guin’s own The Wind’s Twelve Quarters (1975). Le Guin’s work often has sociological or anthropological elements; this can easily be seen in her novels, including The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) and The Dispossessed (1974).
Reliability is a problem for Le Guin’s narrator in this story. At times the narrator does not know the truth and therefore guesses what could be, presenting these guesses as often essential detail. The narrator says “I think” and “I think there ought to be,” rather than telling the reader what is. Asking if the reader believes what he says about the festival, the city, and the joy, or if the ones who walk away are not more credible, implies that the reader should have doubts. Can the narrator be trusted by a reader who is being asked to approve the details of the story? Such questions raise doubts in the reader’s mind about what the narrator is conveying. Only the description of the child itself lacks asides.
The narrator of “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” cannot tell a straightforward tale. The...
(The entire section is 420 words.)
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Compare and Contrast
Topics for Discussion
Ideas for Reports and Papers
Topics for Further Study
What Do I Read Next?
For Further Reference
Bibliography and Further Reading
Bibliography (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Bittner, James W. Approaches to the Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Research Press, 1984.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Views: Ursula K. Le Guin. New York: Chelsea House, 1986.
Cadden, Michael. Ursula K. Le Guin Beyond Genre: Fiction for Children and Adults. New York: Routledge, 2005.
Davis, Laurence, and Peter G. Stillman. The New Utopian Politics of Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Dispossessed.” Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2005.
Reid, Suzanne Elizabeth. Presenting Ursula K. Le Guin. New...
(The entire section is 160 words.)