Discuss the symbolism in The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that the symbolism present in the short story is meant for the reader to reflect on what is in the text and what is in their world.  I think that the obvious symbol becomes the child.  The paradigm is that the citizens of Omelas are only happy through the misery of the child.  This is where the symbolism becomes apparent, in that it represents any historical or social dynamic whereby individuals that are enjoying the trappings of power and reveling in control do so at the cost of others who lack such autonomy.  I think that this is where the symbolism of the short story is plentiful.  The fact that the happiness of one group is dependent on the suffering and oppression of another is telling, and is Le Guin's way of bringing out a symbolic situation in the text to social and historical relevance.  Another symbol resides in the title.  Those who "walk away from Omelas" are representative of different elements.  On one hand, the ones who leave the town after seeing the condition of the child might be doing so to assuage their own guilt or might be leaving because they no longer want to be a part of such a configuration.  It is here where another symbolic connection between text and consciousness is formed, as individuals recognize their own potential for culpability in the manner in which society is formed.  It is here where I think that another symbolic representation is present.  The fundamental idea of being able to assess the dynamic in the story and see its symbolic representation to what is being endured in real time is where there lies a certain amount of strength in application in the story.

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