Explain the significance of the impact that the tormented child has on the citizens in "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas."

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In "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," LeGuin attacks the philosophy of utilitarianism, which argues that society should pursue the greatest good for the greatest number.

Omelas has reduced suffering to one person, an innocent child who is kept in misery so that everyone else can live...

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In "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," LeGuin attacks the philosophy of utilitarianism, which argues that society should pursue the greatest good for the greatest number.

Omelas has reduced suffering to one person, an innocent child who is kept in misery so that everyone else can live the good life. Everyone in Omelas knows about this child.

The existence of the child makes people uncomfortable and uneasy. Most in the society rationalize away the child's suffering, saying she must get used to it, so it is not so bad, or that it is not so high a price to pay for everyone else to live in comfort, or that it is wrong to get too sentimental about the child. Some people, however, refuse to live in this society, knowing that their own pleasure is the result of someone else's pain. They are the ones who walk away.

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I think that the impact the child has on the citizens of Omelas becomes one of the defining elements of participation in the community.  In the end, the fundamental reaction that the citizens have to the tormented child determines if they remain in Omelas or walk away from it.  If the citizens are content with their happiness coming at the cost of the child, they can remain in the community.  Their participation in Omelas and the joy that comes from it is one that they can rationalize at having come at the cost of the child's suffering and state of torment.  Essentially, if the citizens of Omelas cannot accept that their happiness comes at the cost of the child's pain and suffering, they leave it.  This is significant because it shows in clear terms how remaining in the community is something that must be understood based on the reactions one has to the child.  It is here where I think that the role that the tormented child plays and its impact on the citizens bears importance.  Participation in the community is directly related to how its citizens perceive the suffering of the child as something that they find acceptable or something that is deemed unacceptable.

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