Are the Omelas still human despite what goes on in the story?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ursula LeGuin's short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" is an allegory that takes William James's theory of pragmatism to great lengths in order to put it into question. As such, then, the residents of Omelas are, perhaps, inhumane in their acceptance of the miserable child as necessary for the greater good.  Certainly, to be truly humane, the residents cannot accept happiness at the cost of another's torture and misery.

While LeGuin's story is morally ambiguous at best as the ones who stay have

their tears at the bitter injustice dry when they begin to perceive the terrible justice of reality, and to accept it

while the ones who do walk away from Omelas yet leave the miserable scapegoat in its pitiable state, there lies the writer's truth that a moral choice should be made regarding a person's life regardless of the consequences or the "greater good."  Unless this choice is made, none of the residents of Omelas are truly human.  LeGuin's intrusive narrator invites the reader to participate in this moral responsibility as she sends this message:  Is the welfare of many worth the unjust misery of the individual.

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The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

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