What do you think that author is saying about modern society in "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas"? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With its alternate title of "Variations on a Theme by William James," LeGuin's story challenges the sophistry of Pragmatism. In other words, this story of LeGuin explores how people interpret reality to fit their own needs, rationalizing their selection of a truth that is convenient for them. Omelas reflects a modern society which arranges a reality to fit its desires and needs.

"The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" presents, at first, an idyllic society in which the innocent children play, "naked in the bright air," as, apparently, there is nothing to hide; "all smiles have become archaic" as everyone is always content. The narrator intrudes, "One thing I know there is none of in Omelas is guilt." However, this perfection has been fashioned by man, who is, himself, imperfect. Therefore, the utopian life is false because it is predicated upon an artificial arrangement that has been made to absorb all the negative elements of life. 

The secret of this arrangement is finally revealed as a horrific situation for one child who is "degraded" to imbecility in absorbing all the negativity of society in order to provide happiness for all others. Thus, in their "pragmatism" some reconcile this situation as necessary for the greater good. Others cannot rationalize such cruelty, and they "walk away"; yet, they, too, evade the problem as they find a way to fit reality to their desires.

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The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

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