What does "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" tell us about how we make decisions in our own society and how our metanarratives function?
"The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" describes what appears at first to be a perfect society, a shining city of great beauty, in which everyone is happy. However, the author goes on to relate that one of its citizens, a child, is kept in perpetual misery and filth, and the other citizens are all aware of this situation and are taught that their own prosperity depends on it. The story, therefore, highlights the cruelty, injustice, and irrationality on which advanced societies can rest. The people of Omelas have no reason to believe that their prosperity is made possible by their use of the child as a scapegoat. It is merely a traditional belief. Even if it were true, no theory of justice could possibly endorse such entrenched unfairness.
The greatest crimes in American history have often been excused by metanarratives about the importance of maintaining a civilization based, ironically, on justice and brotherhood. In this story, Le Guin reduces the many who have suffered in order to support a civilization whose benefits they do not share to the smallest possible number. In doing so, she shows that, for those with a sense of justice, advanced civilizations which depend on exploitation will always inevitably rest on an intolerable basis. She also shows the selfishness displayed by those who do not have to pay the price of social injustice.