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The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

by Ursula K. Le Guin

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Do you think the action of walking away from Omelas in "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" represents integrity or failure? Explain.

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In Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel, the action of walking away from Omelas may represent integrity for some characters but failure for others. Each character has different reasons for taking such a drastic step. In addition, one might argue that the author has represented failure but that what has failed is the society as a whole. The apparent happiness and well-being is a façade based in hypocrisy, oppression, and cruelty. Some individuals conclude that the damage to the society is so severe that they cannot repair it and have no choice but to leave.

In one sense, the society is a success rather than a failure because the inhabitants accept its existence as fixed and unchangeable; the narrator implies that it will continue because the majority support it. Those who oppose it feel powerless: they do not imagine modifying it through reform or transforming it through revolution. Their individual integrity consists in refusing to participate. Self-exile—even to an unknown location—has come to seem their only option.

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